A dilapidated dirt road in Harikatti village in Jhapa. Villagers blamed the sorry state of the road to the lack of people’s representatives in the local bodies.
JHAPA, Feb 16: The last local level elections took place in the country nearly two decades ago. In the absence of the people’s representatives at the local bodies, local development has critically suffered across the country and Madhes is the hardest hit, say the stakeholders. Poor infrastructure development has made the matter even worse for the Madhes society, they lament.
“There is no accountability. Corruption has gone beyond control. Nothing is transparent,” noted Shyam Lama, a local of Dhulabari, Jhapa. “There are several diseases eating up the society. We are becoming poorer and poorer,” he added.
According to Lama, local development projects for which the government allots huge funds are never selected by the people but the political parties. And the parties have their own vested interests. “This has enraged the locals,” he said.
“But this is happening because there are no local representatives in the VDCs and municipalities. Everything is in a mess. We are hardly told where the budget goes or how it is being spent,” Lama stated.
According to Arjun Thapaliya, a civil society leader from Damak, local level elections are essential to bring things back on track. Roads, new tracks, schools, hospitals, irrigation, drinking water and other facilities are pathetic condition in most of the Madhes villages.
Things haven’t improved for a long time because no one is accountable. “This is what happens when local level elections aren’t held for such a long time. Corruption and degradation of moral values are most expected things in such a situation,” he said.
Thapaliya stated that there is only one primary school in Lalpur village. This does not cater to the need of hundreds of kids in the village. However, no new school has been opened.
The primary school in Lalpur does not look attractive either despite being the single primary school in the village. Due to the lack of funds, the school has not been able to upgrade its quality and infrastructure. “Locals are greatly dependent on this school for the primary level education of their children. But the school is in a sorry state,” he said.
Another local of Lalpur village, Rajkumar Mahato meanwhile added that the government fund is spent for haphazard projects and the most-needy areas such as schools have not received the money. “Having or not having local representatives makes all the difference. Funds are being misused. Sectors where there is no need are getting money while the areas which need funds are not getting them,” he added.
Locals are equally disturbed by the condition of the roads. Every year, millions of rupees is spent for opening new tracks and gravelling them. However, nothing is done to ensure quality. “In less than few months, the roads turn into muddy fields,” said Mahato. “Why to waste money for such things which give you nothing but trouble? It is disgusting. But this is what’s been happening here for several years now,” he added.
Mahato further complained that the VDCs and municipalities do not publicize the developmental budget details. People have no access to the accounts. “The same road is repaired every year. Yet we never find it in good condition,” he remarked. Locals of Jhapa urge for local elections at the earliest. They warn that prolonging the messy situation would spoil things beyond repair. Birendra Thakur of Harkatti village said that the political parties must roll up their sleeves for local elections at the earliest. “Local elections are very, very long overdue,” he said
The ward office in Lalpur in Jhapa in this undated photo.