Employees oppose ‘haste’ to move Lumbini Province offices to DeukhuriThey submitted a memo to the provincial chief secretary to postpone the decision until physical infrastructure is ready.
The decision of the Lumbini provincial government to move its ministries from Butwal to the provincial capital Deukhuri in Dang has been called into question by government employees citing a lack of infrastructure in Deukhuri to operate government offices.
The provincial assembly on October 6, 2020 decided to shift the provincial capital from Butwal in Rupandehi district to Deukhuri valley in Dang district. But even two years after the decision, the provincial government has not built necessary infrastructure in Deukhuri to move its offices.
The provincial government plans to house its ministries on the premises of the Rapti Technical School in Deukhuri.
But government employees and various organisations they are affiliated to, submitted a joint memorandum to Deepak Kafle, the chief secretary of the Lumbini Province, on Wednesday urging the provincial government to postpone its decision until the physical infrastructures are readied in Deukhuri. The employees have called the decision hasty and threatened to launch protests if the provincial government shifted the ministries without their consent.
“We don’t have any objection to working from Deukhuri, but there should be minimum infrastructure for the ministries and offices to function. Otherwise, the offices will have to operate under the open sky, which is not possible,” said Madan Gautam, the provincial chief of the Nepal Civil Service Employees Union.
A few months after Deukhuri was declared the provincial capital, the provincial government had shifted the Ministry of Tourism, Rural and Urban Development to Deukhuri. Minister Dilli Bahadur Chaudhary also moved to Deukhuri, but the minister soon returned to Butwal saying he could not work effectively due to the lack of infrastructure in the new location. The Office of the Chief Minister also set up a liaison office in Deukhuri a year and a half ago, but the office remains unused.
“The government has been working to implement the decision of the provincial assembly. The provincial offices should be shifted to the new capital as per the mandate of the provincial assembly,” said Tilakram Sharma, provincial minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. “However, we need to first have proper infrastructure in place. The ministers will be shifted only after arranging a building and other necessary infrastructures in Deukhuri,” said Sharma, who is also the spokesperson of the Lumbini Provincial government.
A source at the Office of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers said all provincial ministries would be accommodated on the premises of the Rapti Technical School, while the Office of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers would be set up in the building of the Rapti Rural Municipality. “Preparations are underway to shift the Office of the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers, and the Ministry of Finance and Cooperatives to Deukhuri in the first phase,” said the source.
It is learnt that outgoing chief minister Kul Prasad KC; finance and cooperatives minister Krishna Dhwaj Khadka and outgoing speaker Purna Bahadur Gharti have pressured for moving the offices and ministries at the earliest. Chief Minister KC, a CPN (Maoist Centre) leader, has been criticised within his party allegedly for committing corruption while awarding a contract for the construction of a building for the provincial hospital. A party insider even claimed that KC was denied a ticket in the November 20 elections as a punishment for committing financial irregularities.
Khadka’s wife Rekha Sharma, however, contested for parliament seat from Dang-2 and won. Also during her election campaign, she and her party leaders promised to voters to shift the ministries to Deukhuri.
“The leaders are hastily moving the offices to Deukhuri for political gains,” said a government officer at the Office of Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers, requesting anonymity.