Budhalal Joshi with his family members at his house in Jyamirgadhi-2, Jhapa in this recent picture.
JHAPA, March 6: Kushmi Chaudhari of Chandragardi, Jhapa, celebrated her 35th birthday recently. But till now she has not received the opportunity to vote for her desired candidate in the local election. There has been no local election in the country for the last 19 years. On May 14 this year, she is expecting to finally exercise this right. She shared that has been feeling excited as well as strange.
She also has faint apprehension whether ‘political parties will again fight over something and foil the announced elections’.
“Many youths like us are waiting to cast our votes. We are really eager to do that. But we have seen the attitude of politicians for years and we are anxious that some of them might foil it,” said Chaudhari. “We call on them to stop focusing on differences and focus on making these elections huge success,” she added.
Chaudhari further stated that it is people’s most essential right to elect their representatives. And putting this on hold is very undemocratic. Now, she said, the political parties should pay heed to the public sentiment and make honest efforts to hold elections on the said time.
Backing her stress on holding elections at any cost, she cited series of practical inconveniences that she and others from her community have been facing in lack of elected representatives in local bodies. “Even for doing small paper work that could have been done at the local level, we have been going to the headquarters. These visits cost us time, money, and lots of hassles,” she reported. “Recalling all these troubles, I wish election could happen right now. If we have our representatives in the local government offices, we won’t have to go through unnecessary troubles again.”
Among other indigenous groups, Tharus, Rajbanshi and Dhimal, are seen equally interested in local elections. “Earlier, people would think that elections are just for politicians to come into power. Now, they have come to realize how the lack of elections and elected representatives can affect them,” noted Devi Maya Khawas, a social activist from Jyamirgadhi - 7. “So, the news of holding local polls has spread positive waves all around. We need the local bodies to have elected representatives. It should not be foiled just because some oppose it. The government must be very serious and create conducive atmosphere for the elections,” she added.
Khawas stated that people from all walks of life have been breathing a sigh of relief following the news of elections. Peasants, labors, school teachers, businesspersons and housewives, among others, are committed to participate in the polls this time, claimed Budhalal Rajbanshi, a resident of Jyamirgadhi - 2.
“Politicians are not allowed to withhold people’s right to vote. They fight among themselves and have been depriving us of our fundamental right. This is not fair,” Joshi said. “We are hoping that the polls will ensure a better tomorrow,” he added.
Marginalized most hit
Budhlal Rajbanshi feels that it is the marginalized people who have been most hit due to the poor government service. Those who are living in towns with basic facilities and government offices in their vicinity have not yet felt the woes that residents of rural areas have been coping with, he said. “Leaders who won the constituent assembly elections have never returned here since,” he stated.
To reach his village from the district headquarters Joshi has to cross the Mechi River three times. Trip to the headquarters costs him and other villagers dearly. “If we had our own representatives at the local level, we would not have to visit the headquarters. We have suffered for too many years, this should come to an end now,” he said.
Traveling to headquarters for the locals of Bhidanbasti and Gwalbasti, is also very strenuous due to poor transportation facilities. Because of this, few of the residents here have made their legal documents.
Bhudharu Rajbanshi, 56, of Bhidanbasti recalls the ‘happy’ days when there were local representatives that assisted them in doing these works. “Let alone other things, even the free mosquito nets are not provided these days. Our facilities have all been cut off due to the lack of elections,” he said. “When we had our own people as VDC chairperson, vice chairperson, we could tell them of our needs. In the past they had even fixed our tube wells,” he added.
Rajbanshi urged the government to hold elections by fully using every means it has at its disposal. Stating that the marginalized people have been worst hit in lack of elections, he said that ‘privileged’ ones might not feel the pain. “People who have easy access to state facilities may not realize how much the country is affected in lack of elected local bodies. They might be indifferent towards holding local polls. But for the poor and marginalized, like us, it will be a great relief,” he maintained.