Resolving issues concerning Madhes; so near and yet so far
Kathmandu: One of the major reasons that CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal gave for a change in the leadership of the government was to address the long-standing issues concerning the Madhesh or the southern plains of the country. And hence, all eyes are on Dahal since he was elected to the post of the Prime Minister on August 3.
The Madhes issues are among the burning issues that are contributing to further deepening the political stalemate at present. And Dahal's coming to power has instilled some hope in the Madhes-based political parties, who are up in arms for almost a year now right after the constitution was promulgated, and who have been claiming that the previous government ignored their concerns of accommodating them by amending the constitution.
As a result, these issues are at the centre of priority to be addressed without further delay. But, the Prime Minister alone cannot sort out these issues, which is a matter of concern.
Unlike his 2008 reign as the PM, the situation is totally different now, and the Maoist Chairman's road ahead seems not to be that easy. He has already suffered a setback inside his own party, with many leaders becoming vocal about the way he has handled selecting members representing the party in the cabinet.
Despite the Nepali Congress being a part of the new coalition in the government, to amend the constitution, two thirds majority in Parliament is needed. And without support of the CPN UML, the constitution cannot be amended. However, the UML is saying that the constitution could not be amended at any cost. Hence, UML's support at this point of time plays a crucial role in making the way easier for Dahal to ensure acceptability of the constitution.
Dahal's foresight as a prudent leader will lie in his capacity to win the confidence of the UML to sort out all these outstanding political problems and ensure acceptability of the constitution, including by the agitating Madhesh centric political parties who have supported him in being elected the Prime Minister for the second time.
Ramifications of the protests in the Tarai
More than making voices of the Tarai people heard, the nearly nine months long Tarai protest has in fact added to the woes of the people in the flatland. Although the Tarai is relatively calm at present, the first hand effects of the protests are being faced by the local people themselves.
According to a report, many industries were shut down during the protests. And many of them are still finding it difficult to resume due to restive environment.
Closure of industries and any other employment providing companies means more unemployment. A report made public by the Department of Foreign Employment last fiscal year said the highest number of workers seeking for foreign employment especially in the Gulf countries is from the Tarai districts. Educational performance from the Tarai districts is also not satisfactory. To add to it, the protests also affected children's education.
Dowry system and untouchability are prevalent in the Tarai. The Tarai is lagging behind in terms of basic human rights and needs. Think about the consequences of only engaging in protest without finding a solution. The responsibility of doing good for Tarai people falls particularly on those political leaders who represent the Tarai.
Perception be changed
People living in the Tarai have equal feeling of nationalism and patriotism. None than the affected people themselves can tell of predicaments Tarai people living in the area bordering the no man's land are undergoing on a daily basis due to 'harassments and tortures' by Indian security personnel.
They have to face such mistreatment for no apparent reason. However, they do not hesitate to protect Nepal's sovereignty when it is needed no matter what befalls them as a result.
They do not need any protest and clash. They only want peace, human rights, development and security. During my visit to Tarai city Biratnagar around nine months ago when the Tarai protest was ongoing, an autorickshaw driver, who operates his vehicle between Biratnagar Bus Park and Jogbani, the bordering town of India, expressed ignorance about the purpose of the protest. "I only focus on how to feed my family. But the protest does not let me as a daily wager to fulfill my responsibility towards my family," he said.
Future course of the Madhes-based political parties
although the Madhes-based political parties have come to rely on Prime Minister Dahal for their demands to be addressed, they are not much sure about it. This is because the UML, which plays a key role in amending the constitution, one of their demands, is opposing the amendment. And in case of a failure to amend the constitution, they already have plans to not let the local body elections from being held. It is because their two rounds of protests first in the Tarai districts and second in the Capital city Kathmandu does not seem to get their demands addressed.
They think that by doing so, the constitution will not be implemented fully and turn invalid. It may be noted that the constitution states that three level elections--local, provincial and federal parliament should be held within 17 months from now or Parliament will dissolve itself in case of a failure to do so.
As for them, as they have already sat for talks with two governments led by the Nepali Congress and CPN UML without results, it is high time to come to the negotiation tables and sort out their issues under the leadership of another major party CPN (Maoist Centre). But it should be done centering the welfare of the nation and entire people.
UML's role as opposition
It is equally imperative for the UML to help ensure acceptability of the constitution and implement it to give the nation a way out of political crisis. Doing so would help heighten the reputation of the UML, the reputation which the UML has managed to gain by sailing the country safely through the bullying blockade imposed recently by India. This means addressing genuine demands of the protesting Madhes-based political parties. If all the major political parties including the opposition UML, which has a major role in helping sort out the Madhes issue, fail to find consensus this time around, the country will plunge into a deeper crisis.