Province 1 government opposes Centre’s move to build roads in stateProvincial, local governments say the federal government’s guideline regarding the construction of connecting road infrastructure infringes upon their rights.
Province 1 government and its local units have opposed the federal government's plan to construct short distance roads in the province. They have termed the centre’s move unconstitutional, saying that the task of constructing roads at the local level falls under the ambit of the Infrastructure Development Office under the provincial government.
Province 1 Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning Indra Bahadur Aangbo accused the federal government of encroaching on the jurisdiction of the provincial and local governments, thereby limiting the rights of the local units.
“The federal ministry should be working on formulating policies and managing government employees,” said Aangbo, “It is against the spirit of the constitution that the ministry is getting involved in small construction works.”
According to the Provincial and Local Road Construction and Upgradation Programme Working Procedure 2019/20, the central government has stopped the conditional aid provided to provincial governments for the construction of roads. This move has not gone well with the local governments.
The new working procedure, introduced by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration on December 7, 2019, envisions the construction of the roads meeting the quality and safety standards.
This, the ministry says, would facilitate the general public in receiving services from the local governments.
The ministry has also formed a programme coordination division under the Local Infrastructure Department to oversee its plan.
The working procedure states that each local unit that is not linked with any national highway must identify one road section that links them to their provincial centre. The identification must come through the decision of the local level executive body which must then be forwarded to the provincial Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development within 30 days, which will then be sent to the division in the next 15 days.
However, following the introduction of the working guideline, local units have expressed their dissatisfaction with the federal government's attempt to infringe upon their rights.
Mayor of Ilam Municipality Mahesh Basnet said that the federal government being involved in small projects by cutting the funds and infringing on the rights of the local levels will be unacceptable.
“It is against the spirit of the constitution for the central government to work at the local level by cutting the conditional funds when it should be increasing it,” said Basnet, “We will not accept the ministry’s diktat and it must correct its course before moving ahead.”
Economist Bed Raj Acharya said that there is no point in the ministry adjusting civil servants, including engineers and chief administrative officers among others, at various local levels only to assign them to work under a separately formed mechanism under the federal government.
"Conducting programmes with the participation of the locals gives them a sense of ownership. However, if the centre intervenes and tries to implement programmes itself, that would be counterproductive,” said Acharya, “This will only add financial burden to the state and will be a waste of human resources.”