Making Federalism Work: Ram Sharan Mahat: Republica (Part 1, Part 2)
Why Federalism Bothers Ram Sharan Mahat
If you were to believe in what Ram Sharan Mahat is saying then states like Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Gujrat were all bad ideas.
In the earlier restructuring model proposed by the Maoists, the population of the single Janajati did not match the combined population of a Brahman-Chhetri-Thakuri-Dasnami in any of the proposed autonomous regions in the hills. Therefore, the commission went a step further by making artificial divisions of the country to raise demographic profiles of ethnic groups in the proposed provinces, defying other considerations including administrative convenience, socio-economic complementarities, historical continuity and development potential. Identity as defined by the CA is related not just to ethnicity, language and culture, but also to geography and historical continuity as well.
Limbus will account for only 27.4 percent of the population in Limbuwan. The population of Rais, Tamangs, Newars, Gurungs and Magars in Kirat, Tamsaling, Tamuwan, Newa, and Magarat provinces hover around 33 to 35 percent in their respective provinces. The presence of hill Bramin-Chhhetri-Thakuri-Dasnami will be almost equal or even higher in these provinces. ....... about half of Newars and Rais live outside Newa and Kirat Pradeshes; 66 percent of the Magars and 63 percent of Tharus live in areas other than the provinces named after them ....... the geographically scattered and migratory character of Nepali population, making the task of identifying a federal province with one particular ethnic group difficult. Even when we go to basic VDC level, not more than fifty percent of the units will have majority population of one ethnicity. ...... Newars, Magars, and Rais who reside largely outside the provinces named after them can live with communal identity in other regions also. The Dalit community, which represents the most discriminated community and is scattered through the nation, will also get recognition and empowerment in their respective localities.
Ethnicity argument has been dominant in Nepal’s federalization debate, with practically no consideration for financial sustainability, interdependence and developmental potential. Federalism is economically an expensive proposition. Each province will have to maintain a separate civil service, police system, legislature, cabinet and all other trappings of a modern federal state. .... Numerous single ethnicity-based provinces without consideration of revenue capacity can be a financial nightmare. .... Multiplication will create mostly unviable deficit provinces. .... in the proposed model, a couple of surplus provinces will have to perform an impossible task of subsidizing a large number of deficit units. It will soon generate resentment in better-off provinces. .... While ethnicity and language consideration represents an important factor in provincial demarcation, it cannot be the sole consideration in a country which has more than 100 ethnic groups and a similar number of spoken languages.The federal form of government is a more efficient form of government and hence is less expensive. Only states will have police forces for the most part. Several federal ministries will have to be shut down. Those will bring major savings. The monarchy being eliminated alone could pay for the entire thing at all levels. The army will have to be substantially downsized. Let's face it. Nepal is not going to war with any country.
Interestingly, the protagonists of single ethnicity province want to confine this concept to hilly region, and accept only one or two provinces concept in the Madhes region........ it will have ramifications in regional power balance, as more provinces will naturally have larger representation and voices in decision making bodies. ....... The principle of single ethnicity province will not remain confined to the hilly region. This has already led to demand for at least five separate language-based provinces in the Tarai including Tharuwan, Abadh, Bhojpuri, Mithila and Birat regions. The demand may not stop even there, if the experience of other countries is any guide. Nigeria had initially three ethnic provinces; it has 36 at present.Whether there are one or two states in the Terai, it does not really matter. The Terai will have representation in the lower and the upper houses in direct proportion to its population, which is half. If the president is directly elected - my hope - everyone in the Terai will have one vote each just like people in the Hills. For Mahat to say if there are eight or nine states in the hills and only two in the Terai then the hills will have four times as much power is downright dishonest.
At the other end to Nigeria is the Soviet Union. An attempt at a unitary state led to it breaking up into 15 countries. Why look at Nigeria? Why not look at India where federalism works beautifully? Minus federalism India would have broken into pieces a long time ago.
The proposal for Tamuwan-Magarat, Newa-Tamsaling, Kirat-Limbuwan, Mithila-Bhojpura and Avadh-Tharuhat was proposed to ensure sustainability....... rather than fighting over the nomenclature of the provinces at this stage, it would be far better to leave the issue to be decided by the popularly elected representatives at the provincial level. This is the recommendation of the minority view in the State Restructuring Commission.Minority view? This is what is most offensive to me. Mahat and people like him do not believe in the democratic process. They want their views to have deciding power no matter if they are in the majority or the minority. That is the Bahun sense of entitlement that is driving the Janajatis to launch their own political party.
The nation took a decision on a federal state with amendment in the constitution, following the Madhes movement. Except for the Sadvabana party, federalization was not in the agenda of other political parties. The Maoist Party stood for autonomous regions with right to self rule, which is not the same thing as federal units. The nation cannot go back on its commitment on federalism. All major political parties have accepted it.Here Mahat is admitting that he and people like him have not really been for federalism. Not even the Maoists were for federalism. The Madhesi Movement forced their hands. And people like Mahat have been paying lip service to the concept of federalism ever since. But they find ever creative ways to put roadblocks on the way to that federalism. It is like Assad saying he is for free speech as long as people are respectful. Mahat is for federalism like Assad is for free speech.
What Ram Sharan Mahat is saying is this: It is not true we are against federalism even though we are the reason the constituent assembly saw its demise. It is not that we are against federalism, we just are opposed to the wrong kind of federalism. And only we know what that right kind of federalism is. The Madhesis and Janajatis inside the NC and the UML themselves don't know what's good for them. This is not about due process, or you already had a two thirds majority for your map in the last assembly. This is about you finally coming around to my way of thinking. Because I know best. I am a Bahun. Bahuns know best.
Besides, federalism is expensive, he says. Why are you even going for it in the first place? What's wrong with 75 districts, 14 zones and five development regions?
Ram Sharan Mahat comes across as vastly patronizing. For me this is first and foremost about due process.
Personally I said back in April I would be okay with six plus one states - one non geographic state for the Dalits. (6 States: Possible)
Federalism is not a more expensive form of government. The opposite is true. (Does Federalism Lead To A Bigger Government?)
Ram Sharan Mahat is as big a federalist as Gyanendra Shah is a republican. That is the conclusion I draw. Ram Sharan Mahat represents anti federalist forces.
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