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Basic Principles Of Federalism

Issue 34, August 23, 2009

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Nepalis have been talking about federalism in Nepal since the Constituent Assembly ended the monarchy and made Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic in May 2007. A lot of discussions are going on among the Nepalis in private at home, at work, at business and even on the streets. So, let us explain what is federalism.

First of all, the members of Constituent Assembly (CA) divide the current land area of Nepal into as many land areas as they agreed on and then they call each land area by a name: it might be by ethnicity or by geographical names or river names whatever the CA members would decide it unanimously if possible if not then the two-third majority would do it. Each one of them would be a state. Then, they will call the union of all these states a Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal (FDRN).

Each such state would be an independent state. Here, independent means the independent for developing all sorts of things within the states but not independent from the FDRN. Each state would have rights to develop physically, economically, culturally and socially in cooperation with and in competition with all other states.

No state would have rights to break away from the FDRN. The CA members would make it a final decision and no discussion on it anymore. FDRN would be the perpetual union of all states the CA members have created. FDRN would have rights to use forces if any state attempts on breaking away from it.

Each state would have a legislature. Each state would elect such a legislature, which would make its own constitution not conflicting with the Constitution of the FDRN. Accordingly, such a legislature would make state laws for running the state administration again not conflicting with the constitution of the FDRN.

Each state would have an elected chief administrator. S/he might be called governor or chief minister or whatever names the Constitution of Federal Nepal would prescribe for such an administrator. Election for such an administrator would be direct and based on the adult franchise.

Each state would have its own police and civil administration, and its own independent judiciary. Each of them would have power to exercise following the state constitution and the federal constitution.

Each citizen living in any state would have basic rights to run for any elected positions of her/his state and for any elected positions of the FDRN. None could deny any rights to run for such positions to anybody in any pretext no matter in which state s/he resides in.

FDRN would have the federal power to assist the states in enforcing law and order in case if it becomes impossible for any state to enforce law and order. However, the FDRN government would not have power to fire the elected state governor or administrator whatever the name might be given to this position, and would not have rights to dissolve the elected-state legislature.

FDRN would keep the Nepal Army for defending the international border and the borders among the states. FDRN would enforce the federal constitution as well as the state constitutions, and any agreements among the states.

FDRN as well as the states have equal claims on the natural resources. However, the states would have preference to the natural resources of the interest of the state but the FDRN would have the over-ruling claim on the natural resources of the inter-state interests.

Only the FDRN would have the rights to run the foreign policy. The states would have no rights to have any sorts of relationship with foreign nations.

Concerning the language the FDRN would use Nepali as a lingua franca. It is a historical fact that most of the Nepalis understand Nepali. So, the FDRN would use it for official business with other states. The FDRN would honor any languages spoken in each state as the national languages, and encourages every state in developing such languages. In the states, they would use any language or languages for taking the oath of state offices. However, everybody would take the oath of office of the FDRN in Nepali if anybody wants to take it in the language of her/his choice s/he needs to take it again in Nepali.

The states would be able to use any language or languages spoken in a state for official businesses. However, if they use language other than Nepali they need to keep every record in Nepali, too. They need to do the business with the FDRN and other states in Nepali.

Concerning the religion, any state would not attempt on introducing a state religion, as the FDRN has already made Nepal a secular state. So, each state would need to enforce it and let everybody in a state enjoy rights to believe in and practice any religion of her/his choice.

Concerning the inclusiveness, all Nepalis will have equal rights to all state jobs and federal jobs. The state governments and the federal government would insure the representation of ethnic and all other groups in proportion to their population in all state and federal jobs.

If we follow these basic simple principles of federalism then everybody would surely agree on the federalism, as these principles are entirely based on the principles of decentralization for empowering the local people for making decisions on their own destiny. Then, nobody would need to make loud claims on breaking the so small country into again smaller pieces and finally breaking up it into those small pieces, as everybody could see nobody would even dare to break away from the FDRN. In fact, nobody would have even a chance to think of breaking away from the FDRN. So, the CA members need to coolly work together and make as many states they agree on and give them full power to administer such sates for development.

If we make the FDRN based on these principles then we do not need to worry about the names of the states. The names could be Tamsaling, Nevah Rajya, Madheshi Rajya, Tharuhat Rajya or Bheri—Narayani Rajya, Kapilvastu Rajya and any other names you might like to think. It would not make any difference to the FDRN.

So, the so-called leaders need to think in terms of making Nepal a prosperous and integrated FDRN rather than attempting to confuse the innocent Nepalis putting forward various imaginary reasons for not making FDRN a reality.

August 20, 2009.

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