The word federalism comes from the Latin language feds. It literally means ‘pact’, ‘union’, ‘treaty’ and ‘contract’. A state formed by treaty, agreement, contract or unification in the literal sense or origin is called a federal state. There is no universal definition of federalism in the world. There is a practice of defining on the basis of characteristics.
Federalism is the distribution of state power between the national government and the sub-national governments. It is a system of governance that establishes harmony between national unity and provincial autonomy. Federalism is a system that includes the practice of sharing and integrating political power among different levels of government.
In the context of Nepal, federalism is the distribution and integration of state power between the federal government, the state government and the local levels. It can also be called a system of sharing state power, resources and responsibilities at two or more levels.
Federalism is not a political principle, it is not a form of political management or an ideology, it is a political system. There are basically two approaches to federalism:
First, the Coming Together system of independent states. Second, holding together, that is, the system of centralized state power distribution at different levels. This is also called decentralized approach. Nepal has restructured the state according to the holding together system.
Considering the essence of federalism, the reasons why the country should move towards federalism are as follows-
1. To maintain unity in diversity and to address ethnic and linguistic diversity. Such practices are found in countries including Sudan, Ethiopia and Belgium.
2. To cover the vacated state. Such practices are found in the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and other countries.
3. To keep the holiday nation in one place. Such practices are seen in Canada and Brazil.
Similarly, a country can go into the practice of federalism for conflict management, use of local opportunities and political participation and development.
The federal system of government has some basic features. For example, the distribution of power through the constitution, based on the principle of dual governance, states should be accountable to the central government for achieving the same objectives. Similarly, issues applicable across the country remain with the central government and issues of state and local importance remain with the concerned government. Residual rights may be exercised by the Central or State Government as provided in the Constitution. This is a relatively expensive system if it is likely to break down.
Looking at the global practice, it is found that there are two basic bases for restructuring the state while adopting the federal system of government.
Base of strength: Under this, aspects like economic interconnection and capacity, status and potential of infrastructure development, availability of natural resources and means, administrative ease are considered as basic basis.
Basis of identity: Under this, aspects like linguistic, ethnic, cultural, geographical continuity, basis of historical continuity are addressed.
The agenda of republic in Nepal was established by the Maoist movement while the agenda of federalism was established by the Madhes movement. Federalism gained constitutional recognition from the Interim Constitution 2063 (Fifth Amendment).
Important provisions regarding federalism in the constitution
1. The basic structure of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal will have three tiers including federal, state and local level. Section 56 (1)
2. The federal, state and local levels will use the state power of Nepal in accordance with this constitution and law. Section 56 (2)
3. Special, protected or autonomous areas may be established for social, cultural protection or economic development in accordance with federal law. Section 56 (5)
Pursuant to Article 57 of the Constitution, the distribution of state power is as follows:
1. Schedule 5 List of single rights of the Union.
2. Schedule 6 List of single rights of the provinces.
3. Schedule 7 List of Common Rights of Union and State.
4. Schedule 8 List of local level single rights.
5. Schedule 9 List of Common Rights of Union Territories and Local Levels.
Interrelationships between three levels of government
1. The relationship between the federal, state and local levels will be based on the principles of co-operation, co-existence and co-ordination.
2. The guiding principles and policies of the state are linked to the development of harmonious, coordinated relations between the federal units.
3. The President may alert, suspend or dissolve the state.
4. The Union can give directions to the states on matters of national importance.
5. The Government of Nepal itself or through the State Government may give directions to the Village or Municipal Executive.
Dispute Resolution Mechanism
- Antar Pradesh Council: A mechanism for resolving political disputes between the Union and the states and between the states and the states. Section 234 (1)
- Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court: To resolve disputes arising out of jurisdiction between the Union and the States and between the States and the local level. Section 137 (2) (a)
- Dispute Resolution Mechanism arising between the state and local level: To maintain coordination between the states, municipalities and village councils and in case of any political dispute, the state assembly can resolve such disputes by coordinating with the concerned village, municipality and district coordination committee. Section 235 (2)
The benefits that must come from the federal system of government
1. The equation of state power will change.
2. Resources will be allocated on a specified basis.
3. Administrative ease will be maintained.
4. Diversity will be addressed.
5. The chances of selection will increase.
6. Addressing inequality between regions.
7. Quality, prompt and effective service flow.
8. Increase efficiency through healthy competition.
9. Financial autonomy will be maintained.
10. Financial discipline will be maintained.
11. Democracy is being democratized.
12. Administrative autonomy will be maintained.
13. Re-engineering of politics etc.
Based on the suggestions given by the committee formed under the coordination of the then Chief Secretary, the Government of Nepal has elaborated the work approved on 18 January 2073. Accordingly, the federal government has identified 873 tasks to be performed, 567 to be performed by the state government and 355 to be performed at the local level.
The concept of federalism, the need, the constitutional and legal system, the foundations of state restructuring, the distribution of state power and the benefits that must be derived from federalism do not seem very satisfactory considering the six-year period of implementation of federalism in Nepal. This indicates that the framework of federalism we have adopted is not complete in itself. Therefore, it did not give the expected result.
Ignoring capacity and identity, Hachuwa is to restructure the state into seven provinces and 753 local levels and adopt a system of governance and mixed electoral system called ugly representative democracy. The failure to reap the benefits mentioned above from the federal system of government confirms the need for state restructuring. It is necessary to change the form of government and the electoral system.
While restructuring the state, caste, language, religion, culture, geographical continuity and diversity in Nepali society should be addressed. Only then will the common man’s attachment to federalism be maintained. Conflicts between diversity are resolved and mutual harmony is maintained. The high and low sentiments created due to regional inequality are addressed. The door to balanced development opens. Changing the form of government and adopting a directly elected presidential system maintains political stability. Similarly, adopting a fully proportional electoral system develops a healthy political culture. The federal government, with a two-thirds majority, collapsed. Most of the state governments are undergoing reshuffle. The parties seem to be engrossed only in the game of staying in the government and overthrowing the government. The government is playing a game of splitting the ministry. The administration mechanism has been weakened. The government has been seen as irresponsible in the matter of people’s livelihood. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Unemployment problem is plaguing the country. While economic growth has not improved, corruption has become institutionalized. It is being argued that the need and justification of the state government has not been confirmed in practice.
Trade deficit and foreign debt are increasing. In the recent local elections, political parties have largely lost credibility. An unnatural alliance was formed to encircle the sovereign people. Independent candidates won in important municipalities with a predominantly educated population.
Of the three dimensions of federalism, political federalism is considered to have been implemented with the election of three levels. Financial federalism has been controlled by keeping 70 percent of the resources with the federal government and allocating the remaining 30 percent at the state and local levels.
As the Federal Civil Service Act, State Civil Service Act and Local Service Act have not been promulgated yet, the need and justification to change the existing system has been confirmed due to non-implementation of administrative federalism.
It is not possible to get full returns from an incomplete system. Therefore, in all the 761 governments, even if the leaders with different knowledge, experience and ability led, they could not give the expected results. In the last six years, the current system has been proving to be a horn in the head of rabbits. Therefore, let’s not delay in re-engineering the current federal structure.
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