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Seminar: Shifting bureaucratic culture in Nepal

Govinda Chaulagai
Federation of Nepalese Journalists Journalist, Kathmandu and member of Nepal Press Council
There is a solid gathering of prominent journalist in this programme to discuss on the topic and I believe that the prominent personalities of this journalism field should sit down together and discuss the issues and come up with the policies regarding journalists and I believe that this would create an end to the mistakes made here and there by policies handed down by bureaucrats. And this has been felt by the journalist fraternity therefore we journalists should sit down together and come up with ideas and show our concern to all concerned. Although I am deviating from the topic I would like to point out the fact that the national budget is being prepared and the concern of the small journalists should also be highlighted here. We are going to the Finance Minister to bring up this issue and I hope that the Finance Minister also will lend an ear to our problem. I am certain that learned personalities like Dev Raj sir and Kashi Raj sir along with all the experts present here will definitely express their views on this topic of today.

Kashi Raj Dahal ,
Administrative Court
Many things have been covered by the previous speakers however I will add a few pragmatic issues to the ones already expressed and I think that the main reasons for my presence in this very important gathering must be due to two things one is that I have been appointed the chairman of the board for the development of policy for information and communication by the government. The committee has to make policies regarding communication and make strong rules and regulations to bring about improvement to make the communication sector stronger as well as to make the peoples republic strong and we are on the verge of submitting a report and i am sure that the discussion of today’s seminar will definitely influence the contents of the report. Secondly I have also been appointed the chairman of the administrative committee by the Nepal government and this committee has already submitted its report as how the administrative sector can be improved and I have also been appointed the chairman of the monitoring and evaluation committed and I want to request this august gathering to give me the permission to say a few of my ideas so that these ideas can be refined by this august gathering. The basic issue is that if the State is not strong all its policies, strategies rules and regulations cannot be implemented and the second is that there has to be a rationale for the representation of the august population of the society in a democracy and the third is that is that media has to fill the gaps between the political and bureaucratic sector wherever it exists. All the existing experience has shown that to meet this criteria the state has to be strong, there has to be a rule of law, the government has to be accountable, there has to be national unity, culture of peace and if there cooperation between the political sector and the bureaucrats then there will be a formation of a strong state and all else will follow suit. The recent Constitution has four objectives of long term peace, prosperity, good administration and this will certainly be attained if the above mentioned things are in place and here I am just emphasizing on issues already expressed by Mr Dev Raj Dahal. Now I would like to add some of the practical issues to achieve this and the number one issue is regarding administration. Looking at the history of administrative reforms since 2007 there has been countless committees and commissions formed under MR Dhakwa, Dr Bhesh Bahadur Thapa, PM Girija Koirala and the recent one is under my chairmanship to bring about an able and impact and result oriented administration and all these reforms had a few weaknesses and the number one weakness is that there has been a constant change in the administrative structure and this has lead to a failure in bringing about a result oriented impact oriented administration. In my report I have stated that there should be less ministries and the maximum should be 12 while restructuring the administration. Centralization of the workforce in the capital and other centres has to be changed as right now there are more than 46% of the workforce in the centeres. Second aspect of our failure is the administrative aspect due to political and other interference. We have made reforms but have been weak in implementation and due to this there is no efficient administration be it promotion, transfer, number of ministries etc. I have suggested and I believe that there should be change in the administrative thought process and should be based on the work and quality of work of the person and as long as there is no change in this thought process we cannot expect a result oriented d efficient administration. The third and the biggest problem is the change in the ethics and etiquettes and attitude of the administration and most of our failures are due to this reason and this cannot be changed by merely changing the constitution it may be changed only if we begin at the very beginning in the development a person that is right from the school age, from the family and homes. There are plenty of examples in today’s society of corruption unethical practices etc therefore how can we bring about a change can we do it by highlighting issues on ethics, emphasizing on reward and punishment or through trainings. Even after all these if we fail then there will be no rationale for democracy and I would like to site a few examples here on how bad the situation is regarding ethics. I had to handle a case regarding red sandal wood. A truckload of red sandal wood was caught and it came out in the media and media reported it properly later on the forestry officer told that it was not red sandal wood but ‘utish’ because it is of the same size, same colour and same amount so I had to make decision to dismiss the forestry officer because I thought what use is such an officer who does not even know his basics regarding trees or rather how can red sandal wood change to utish. Another example is regarding landownership and there was a petition by a person stating that he is the only grandson of Mr laxmi Narayan and he would like the ownership of 5 ropanis of land to be transferred over to him. After this it came out in the media that the land was a public land and belonged to Laxmi Narayan Temple and we came to know that it really belonged to a temple of Laxmi Narayan. A case was filed and I had to look into the case. If people go to such extent then to what level have our ethics fallen? Will the Constitution change this level of ethics? I have many examples. Recently for social inclusion we made special provision and someone whom I had found to be guilty for being unethical regarding this law and had been given the punishment to be suspend for five years by our court had already gotten promoted as he had taken an alternate route and so he will soon become a secretary of the government. People even go to the extent of increasing their age to 70 years just to get the old age pension and the wife is getting a single woman pension etc and this is the reality which I want to highlight to this august gathering.
We as well as the politicians have done a lot and have given much of our time to bring about this and Constitution but why are we still lost and why are things not happening? It is because this third important factor must have a role and it is affecting at the political, the policy making and the implementation level and also our thinking, methodology and intention as well. Therefore as long as we do not make a change in our thoughts and intention and behaviour then we cannot expect much by the making of a new Constitution as implementing is another big issue. Therefore if we really want an improvement then we have to define the roles of both politics and media and as mentioned have to be unity among the administration and politics and there have been efforts to do this and implement it. As we are talking today we have to get away from the habit of protecting the corrupt as politicization etc are causing a problem and so everyone the political sector, administrative sector and the society also have a role to play and we cannot leave out anyone.
In one meeting the PM asked everyone present form where do we begin the improvement and I had replied the improvement should begin from you yourself, the ministerial level, from the board level and I want to point out to this august gathering this is the right time for improvement in all spheres of our life and all of us should stand together and unite. We have been given a good constitution and of course there has been voices of dissent but the good point of this Constitution is that it is flexible and we can bring about change through the people’s voice but implementing it is difficult. I will give you an example of implementation. There are more than 5 lakhs government service holders right now and I have the job of placing these personnel according to their state, ethnic group etc. No one is ready to accept the fact that he/she is a government personnel and want to be appointed according to their Federal State etc and how can we do this. Is it that we have to make different structure for each of these and even have similar structure in the law sector and we have to make tons of new laws and regulations. We are not as yet certain as how to go about this issue. We still do not have proper federal administrative rules and regulations, demarcation of states the names of state and so on and as long as we do not have proper guidelines from the political sector then we cannot solve this problem by administrative sector alone and I feel that we can implement the Constitution by uniting and working together.
Lastly, I also feel that we have a weak State right now and we have to change it to a strong state and in order to do that we have to make united political decisions, conscientious decision, and during this interim phase have rule of law, strengthen security, economy and have an efficient service delivery system. If we fail in this then the Constitution will not be viable as we have seen all over the world and even in so called people’s democratic countries they have just been mere guinea pigs for constitution reform process and if we do not have this foresight and vision then we too will face the same problem and be caught in the same vicious cycle and the conclusion of my paper is that we have to get out of this cycle and be visionaries if we want to make progress and have a viable Constitution.
There is no dearth of theories regarding administrative process and reforms and we have used and implemented a lot of them and although I am not an expert on these theories but I had to come across them because of my recent position as the chairman of the Administrative reform committee. We have implemented a lot of modern theories including theory of error, democratic theory, classical theory, system theory, diversity and out sourcing theory etc but why are we still where we are and why have not we progressed ahead? I feel that to really make an impact and reform in bureaucracy we have to stick to theories which are not imported but suits our history and thinking of our people and have to stick to these four basic principles of four D which are Decentralization, Democratization, Delegation, and Devotion. These 4 Ds are the way ahead and we have the answer to the queries of Dev Raj sir. The only way to gain back the lack of trust and overcome other deficits that we have is our performance, our performance should be able to change the state of the people of Nepal and we will strengthen the state, have social inclusiveness, social justice will prevail, rule of law will be present and at the end people will prosper. Please give your recommendations and ideas regarding my presentation and I will try to forward it to the right authorities with this I take my leave, thank you.

Mahadev Gurung, formet assistant minister and NC leader:
I know that this program is for journalists. Let me relate to you two incidences regarding news. One morning my close relative called me and told me that all the government officials were corrupt and I asked him why. He told me that Narayan Man Bijukche while addressing a rally in Bhaktapur had stated that twenty two thousand officials were getting paid by the RAW and this had been reported in a newspaper. After the democracy journalists have the rights to print any news, but these news are read by commoner and it makes an impact like the news that I just talked about. Journalists have to be aware of what they write about as it can give a wrong impression to the commoners as the news I mentioned just did to my relative. Similarly I know of an incidence where a faulty news created differences between a husband and wife. There are many such examples to show regarding the impact made by news and I can assure you that news can destroy not only families but improper news can destroy even a country. Similarly we politicians also have to be careful about what we speak as what we speak becomes news and the news makes an impact on the common people be it about religion, foreign relation or our own country.
The public get all their information from the media as an example the recent news that our PM Oli was saved by China etc. Another historical example is the event of 1936 when BP Koirala came back to Nepal and he told that he had come to Nepal to save the nation and on asking from whom he had related that it was from foreign elements. I believe that this is very true even at this moment. Now-a-days patriotic theme is very popular.
What is a patriot? Supporters of India or Anti Indians? Supporters of China or anti Chinese? Same holds true for America, Christians, Hindus etc….Media has reported that the government is made by India but all of us think that we made our own government, our ministers etc but due to the media the people are not ready to believe this. Therefore I believe that unless and until we are united and have uniform reporting and messages then others will find space to play with us and within us and it will affect each and everyone of us be it journalists or politicians. United we stand divided we fall and if we are united then no matter what the people will believe in us. Right now we have a very weak state and it is our duty and responsibility to unite and work together and move ahead. This is what I think.
Lal Babu Yadav, Lecturer and UML MP:
For all this to happen, media should be independent, transparent and truthful. Media should not be afraid to report the truth and one should understand that journalists do get persecuted for writing the truth one example is Mr Goenka from Indian Express when he exposed Bofor’s scam. Similarly our Nepalese media personnel are also not very comfortable right now, as the local influence can be seen in their reporting as the Kathmandu journalists are saying something and when one goes to Tarai they say this Constitution does not have anything for the Tarai people one should join the agitators otherwise one will be left out and when I ask them what’s in the constitution they reply that they do not know anything. I being from Madhesh have been labelled anti Tarai just because the reason with them to tell me what is not in the Constitution and if I feel that it is really absent will raise the issue in the parliament and if it is not addressed then I am ready to agitate. The Tarai people got angry with me and some even labelled me pro-Pahadias but now they have understood and they telephone me and tell me that I was right. This shows the role of media.
As for bureaucracy I feel that there has to be democratic thought process to have a proper bureaucracy. One should help the other for political stability and rule of law. All politicians should stick to their democratic process and not be self-centred and also remember their parliamentarian or ministerial status. The bureaucrats also should know their protocol as I know of an incident where the foreign secretary did not turn up for 5 meetings due to his busy schedule and I had a talk regarding this. I asked him why he was not attending meetings which were very important and made unnecessary excuses and he asked for forgiveness from me. There is a flaw in our system as well and our party people also are at fault as when we come to power we need special favours and bend the laws therefore we have to make changes where necessary. If we do not change ourselves then this will lead to not having rule of law and peace. During our official visit to India I was really impressed by the work ethics and dedication of the Indian bureaucrats and I mentioned this to our chief secretary and he told me that Nepalese also could have been at the same level if there was no interference from the political sector. I told him that we should not only blame the politicians but also do out duty and not run away from our duties like some of our officials are doing right now. I will tell you an example of UK where a politician asks a bureaucrat to do his bidding for a friend of his and the bureaucrat does not do it as it is against the rule of law. We have to learn from this that a bureaucrat has to be ethical and honest to be able to do what the British bureaucrat did. Just look at our bureaucrats of our government they are absent from their office from early morning. Democracy means for the people and it takes a bottom up approach and we are still practicing the age old bureaucratic system in Nepal even after 14 years of Democracy. In Republic we have to go down to the grass root level and we need political stability which is the base for everything and we politicians also should be honest and stay true to the Constitution and stick by it if we have signed for it. We cannot have double standards sign for the constitution and speak against it in public. The truth is that we have to have local elections and this can happen even without the federal structures as we have seen this happen even in the past.
No matter how we look at it we need political honesty, responsibility and morality. Now let us look at our national dress Daura Suruwal. We tend to look down on it and prefer Indian or British dresses where as we should be wearing our Daura Suruwal and not other dresses. We should be one for national interest and rise above other interests. We politicians are elected bodies and so we should be more honest, responsible and ethical. The media should also look at national interest when one uses its pen and be honest and just. They should report both good activities and bad activities of the politicians. If not today then tomorrow the politicians will come on track and we will have good governance. The issues we are raising in this workshop will definitely be included in the programmes and policies in the near future and we will move ahead.
Tej Prasad Pandit, chairman, National Union of Journalists: We tried to organize a workshop on the topic of bureaucracy and politics and just to see what type of relation should there be between these two. I believe that we have to have rule of law and it is up to the bureaucrats to bring that about. We are going through a phase of a federal state with seven states but there a lot of issues that we have to tackle as an example the number of employees in each state etc. Issues like the qualification, development, capability and quality will definitely discussed during this workshop and this august gathering will discuss in detail regarding these and other issues. I would like to highlight a few issues regarding the media policy and specially rule no 106 and 107 which clearly shows that it looks like the media policy is trying to control the media like in the days gone by. One simple example is regarding qualification and we already know what qualification the media person should have but looks like the state want to add other qualification besides the educational qualification as they want all the media persons to undergo an exam held by the Press Council. I do not believe that a media person should not be qualified but is this exam a means for controlling as to who will be a media person or not. Secondly the state is coming up with a code of conducts and I believe that it is not the job of the state to do that. They should be focused on making laws rules and regulations and laws. Code of conducts should come automatically form the media persons and be made by them and in fact I was one of the first ones to organize a seminar in Birgunj regarding code and ethics of the media persons. Third issue is to rank the media houses and i think that it is not the job of the government. There is a committee for the ranking of the media houses and we feel that this should be autonomous and it should be like in all other parts of the world. We do not need to be regulated and monitored by the government and all these issues give an uneasy feeling as to the intention of the state. I hope that the issues that i have raised and all other burning issues will be discussed in this workshop.
(Excerpts of a seminar organised by People’s Review and National Union of Journalists in cooperation with FES on 13 May.)

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