Say it may take them another year to understand their work
KATHMANDU, Jan 14: Months after the local unit elections, voters have started questioning the competence of the representatives they elected to those bodies. For many such representatives, the challenges they face have yet to sink in, although they are all earnest about delivering on the promises they made to the voters. Most of them say that understanding the new laws and the policies of the federal government has been a challenge.
Under the previous dispensation, the local representatives were not allowed to take decisions that would breach the laws and policies of the central government. Under the new federal setup, they have to make sure that their decisions don't clash with those of the provincial government either.
Several months after assuming office, Gita Dahal, vice mayor of Bidur Municipality in Nuwakot, realized that handling a local unit was not as easy as they thought. "Many of us were not aware about the technical or legal procedures that have to be followed when taking any decision," she said.
The local representatives admit that they have been sluggish in their work but add that they have no option but to tread gingerly. "We have to meet the legal provisions and take the permission of various other authorities before executing each piece of work. It might take another year for us to become familiar with the rules and regulations of local governance," Dahal added.
Confusion over the division of powers has also been a problem. The local units being partly judicial in their function, the vice mayors and deputy chiefs also have the responsibility of handling and settling legal issues. But currently, everything is done by the mayors and chiefs. As the election of women to one of the two major posts at locals units was made mandatory by the constitution, a large number of women have become vice mayors and deputy chiefs. "If a single person was meant to handle all the work, there would not have been any need to elect the other representatives," said Uma Thapa Magar, vice mayor of Nepalgunj Submetropolitan City.
According to her, the vice mayors and deputy chiefs have been sidelined in decision making. "As of now, the only thing we are doing is signing recommendations," she added.
With more than 15,000 women setting foot in mainstream politics after the local elections, 2017 was really a turning point for the place of women in politics. But many women leaders are worried that they will not be able to live up to the expectations of the people.
"There are so many women representatives who have little education, few skills and zero experience," added Thapa Magar. She stressed that such representatives should strive to develop their skills and seek to better understand their powers so that they won't end up becoming the puppets of others. "If they fail to do so their eligibility will come under question five years from now," she further said.
Some 100 local unit representatives from various parts of the country are in Kathmandu to participate in a three-day program starting Thursday. Conducted by the non-governmental organization Saathi, the program is aimed at informing local leaders about their powers and responsibilities.
Speaking at the program, participants spoke of their confusion while formulating policies and plans. At the end, they urged the government and the other responsible authorities to conduct similar awareness programs at their local units also.