Social Development in Nepal
Center for development studies
First Published: 1999 (In Nepali)
Revised English Edition: 2011 (Net/Blog Edition)
Note: In Nepal, the Bikram calendar is in use instead of Gregorian calendar. Therefore, in this book, particularly in the publication date of the references, the Vikram Sambat (V.S.) is quoted. The difference between V.S. and A.D. is 56 year 7 month and 17 days in ordinary year and 56 year 7 month and 18 days in leap year. Therefore, the calculation is – A.D. + 56 year 7 month and 17 days = V.S. in ordinary A.D. and + 1 day in leap year. All dates used in this book without mentioning V.S. are in A.D.
Table of Content
- Chaptter One
Nepal and Social Development: An Overview 04
- Chapter Two
Economic and Social Forces 09
- Classes 09
- Nationalities 12
- Special Social Sections 13
- Chapter Three
Fundamental Issues of Social Development 18
- Poverty Alleviation 18
- Social Justice 23
- Sonscientization and Enlightenment 28
- Participation 31
- Empowerment 34
- Cultural Diversity and Partnership Building 38
- Social Services 43
- Chapter Four
Goals, Approaches and Methods 46
- Chapter Five
Institutional Roles and Relationships 51
- Civil Society Organizations 51
- INGOs and development assistance programs 56
- Private Sector 58
- Political Parties 61
- Government 63
- Relationships among Agencies 65
- Chapter Six
Vision, Agenda and Policy Themes 67
Positive political and social environment 67
Creation of prosperity and introduction
of just distribution system 68
Physical infrastructure 70
Harmonious nature-human relationship 71
Reorganization of social relationships 70
Concluding comment 72
- Bibliography 73
Social Development in Nepal
Nepal and Social Development: An Overview
The majestic mountain peaks on the northern landmass and a golden bread basket on the southern plains make Nepal a unique paradise bringing natural panorama and plenty of natural wealth together. The history of several annexations, mergers and separations of many principalities mostly ended in 1768 when the Gorkha rulers defeated them and unified all the territories as Nepal. After 1768 too, expansions and mergers continued particularly in the western side. The ever fluid boarders of the country were finally demarcated after the Treaty of Sugauli of 1815 and return of the part of land form the British in 1860 (Sharma, 1951: 273-305, Pandey, 1995: 20-21).
The world knows Nepal mostly due to the four factors mentioned below:
- The majestic peaks including the Everest and the natural panorama.
- Simple natured, hospitable, respectful, brave and honest people.
- Messenger of peace, Gautam Buddha and his birth place – Lumbini.
- The ancient heritages, which include arts, artifacts and architectures in Kathmandu valley.
In 1991, the population of Nepal had reached 18,491,097 (CBS, 1998:5). In 1995, the life expectancy was 55.9 years and the per capita income was US $ 206. Nepal was placed at 152nd position in a comprehensive list of countries studied to determine their level of development (UNDP, 1998). In 1996, the adult literacy rate was 36.72 (UNDP/NSAC, 1998). All these indicators provide the evidences that Nepal is one among the least developed countries.
The capitalist mode of production appeared in Nepal after the establishment of the industrial enterprises such as Biratnagar Jute Mills and the financial institutions like Nepal Bank Ltd in 1937. However, the pace of industrialization was very slow. Hence, the dependence of workforce in traditional agriculture was 81% in 1991 (CBS, 1998: 35-36). Therefore, even today, agriculture is the main stay of economy and the production relations based on agriculture dominate the sources of livelihood and production relations of a large majority of people.
Between 1768 and 1815, Nepal was passing through a phase of state building. Overall, this was the progressive endeavor but the united Nepal was no different fundamentally than the former princely states in regard to production relations, civic life, social uplift and infrastructure building. After a short period of transition, Rana dynasty captured power and ruled for another 104 years making the Shah Kings as golden dolls. By a popular uprising of 1951, the people overthrew the Rana regime but the power was once again captured by the Shah Kings. In I961, they ceased power and introduced a polity called Panchayat. The new system was brought to camouflage king’s direct rule and also to employ political converts into the service of the monarchy. The Rana regime and the Shah King’s direct rule called Panchayat, both, were regressive rules and they created obstacles for change in the society. The society had been accumulating anger and frustrations and the rebellions against the system gave birth to defining moments to show people’s power. Therefore, the 1990 democracy movement brought people on the street and the popular movement compelled the king to relinquish the absolute power. However, this mass movement too failed to transform the society and it succeeded only to change the political superstructure.
The people of Aryan and Mongol races have been cohabiting in Nepal for more than two thousand years. Although, religious tolerance is one of the much talked issues, it has been just seen at the surface. The non-Khasa and non-Hindus feel the suffocation. The society has been experiencing Hindu orthodoxy and Khas domination for a long time. The Hindu caste system has brought miseries, inequalities and emotional divisions in the society. Fatalism, one of the core philosophical components of Hinduism, has been obstructing the progress, in both, intellectual attainment and collective material prosperity.
Nepal is located between 26° 20″ and 30° 10″ northern latitude and between 80° 15″ and 88° – 01″ eastern longitude. It has four distinct geographical regions – mountain, hill, inner Tarai (plain) and southern plain. The majestic peaks and the natural panorama reflect the bravery and kind heartedness of the people respectively. Indeed, Nepal presents a unique combination of abundance of natural beauty and profound humility of its people.
Social work has been a tradition in Nepal since the beginning of the society. The voluntary spirit could be found in several mentions in the stories in Purans and Mundhums. But the historical evidence could only be traced that of a land donation to a temple by the Lichchivi king Mandeva in 464 AD (Regmi, 1993: 14). During the initial stage of civilization, the people had some sort of social organizations which were called “Guthi”, “Sithi”, “Nangkhur”, “Chumlung”, “Noghar”, “Khel”, etc. They mobilized masses in civic tasks and also accomplished the preliminary functions for social development. These were the initial organized interventions that the social development today has had the foundation. Not necessarily all of them might have played positive role, but at least they initiated the process.
Arya Samaj, established in Pokhara in 1895 was the first organization which talked about social development in the modern sense. Madhavraj Joshi was its leader. The organization shifted its area of work to Kathamandu in 1996. The founder of Arya Samaj movement in Nepal had been influenced by Indian Arya Samaj movement which was launched by Swami Dayananda (Chand, 1991: 27). Arya Samaj was a religious and social reform movement. “Mahila Samiti” (Women’s Committee) was established in 1918. Dibya Koirala had initiated the process to organize women to fight against the autocratic Rana rule (Subedi, 2048 v.s.: 21). Yogmaya Koirala was the coordinator of the committee (Pradhan, 2052 v.s.: 53-57). “Gorkha League” was established in 1921 in Dehradun in India. Thakurchandan Singh had taken the initiative to establish the League and was its leader. The League had no clear political motivation and its objective was to organize the Nepalese people in the area. The League published a magazine called “Gorkha Sansar” (Nepal academy, 1960: 14, Gupta, 1964: 28). Tulsimeher Shrestha, a noted Gandhian, established “Nepal Charkha Pracharak Gandhi Smarak Mahaguthi” (Gandhi Memorial Trust for Propagating Spinning in Nepal) popularly known as “Mahaguthi”. The objectives of the trust included to promote cottage industry and to serve the humanity in need. Tulsimeher, the founder of the Trust was also a member of the Arya Samaj. He was also imprisoned by the Ranas in 1920. The social activists and religious reformers like Shukraraj Shastri, Muralidhar Bhattarai, Kedarman Byathit established “Nepal Nagarik Adhikar Samiti: (Committee for Civil Rights in Nepal) in 1920. Some educated youths of Kathmandu, in 1937, dared to run a school called “Mahavir School” to provide modern education. The Rana rulers arrested Chaitanya Mishra and his colleagues who were running the school. The school was closed and 28 youths were arrested and imprisoned (Sharma 1951:391, Gupta, 1964: 23-27). First time in the history of Nepal, a social welfare institute called “Paropakar Aushadhalaya (Welfare Dispensary) was allowed to establish in 1947. After the extension of services and addition of other welfare issues, “Paropakar Aushadhalaya was renamed as “Paropakar Sanstha” (Welfare Association) in 1952 (Chand, 1991: 17-18).
Prior to the political change of 1950, the organizations and movements which contributed to the social development process were as mentioned below.
|Sl. no||Organization||Date Established||Area of work|
|1||Arya Samaj||1895||Social, religious reform/awareness raising|
|2||Mahila Samiti||1918||Raising awareness/women’s issues|
|3||Gorkha League||1921||Community organizing/unity|
|4||Mahaguthi||1926||Promotion of cottage industry/ welfare|
|5||Nepal Nagarik||1930’s||Social, religious reform/awareness raising/|
|Adhikar Samiti||civil rights|
The above table gives some idea about the priority issues on social change during the period covering between the last decade of 19th century and mid 20th century. Social reform, awareness raising, women’s welfare, community organizing, skill development, education and health services and welfare were the priority issues. Hence, the major thematic areas of social development had been ignited during that period. Immediately after the devastating earthquake in Kathmandu in 1934, social workers formed voluntary welfare organizations such as “Bhukamp Seva Dal” (Relief Team for Earthquake Affected People) and “Maharaja Sevak Samaj” (Society of King’s Servants) and collected and distributed relief materials and mobilized services (Chand, 1991: 17).
Due to the liberal political atmosphere that was available after the 1950 mass movement and its partial success, nearly all social activists moved to politics. This move somehow limited the tempo of social change process. Instead of the social forces committed to change, the professional service delivery organizations invaded the social development area. Therefore, the list of the organizations established after 1950 is quite different. The list of organizations presented below validates the observation made above.
|Sl. no||Organization||Date Established||Area of work|
|Planning Association||1959||Population education/Health|
|3||Nepal Red Cross Society||1963||Welfare/Relief|
|4||Nepal Children’s Organization||1964||Child welfare|
|6||Mother’s Club||1975||Skill development/welfare|
|7||Nepal Cancer||1982||Health awareness|
It has provided a clear evidence that professional social welfare replaced the earlier movements initiated for social change. Social awareness processes were put in the backburner. More particularly, after the Royal takeover of 1960 compelled slowing down the social change activities as they were considered hostile political acts by the new repressive regime. The high society ladies, mostly from the royalties, took charge of welfare activities. From this period, social welfare became a play ground of royalties, big businessmen, high level government officials and retired political collaborators and henchmen of the king. Thus, social development got a new dominion confined to satisfying the emotional need of prestige of the royalties and their courtiers. The main features during this period include the leadership of the royalties, availability of resources, emphasis on service delivery and expansion of services.
The ban on all organizations, which had a mission of socio-political change, gave birth to organizations that strengthened the hands of the government in the name of social service. The umbrella organization for such initiatives was “Social Service National Coordination Council (SSNCC)”, which entertained the queen as its chairperson. One of the most powerful royal as its chairperson, SSNCC played the role of a bulldozer and mobilized state and private resources including the foreign development assistance to meet the needs of the collaborators of the royals. In exception, a few organizations played some service delivery, welfare or relief and rehabilitation roles. Among these a few ones include Nepal Red Cross Society and Nepal Family Planning association.
Outside the SSNCC and in defiance of the government prohibition some organization initiated their functions, though with a limited impact. Society for Community Development Professionals (SOCODEP) was one among them. A few other agencies started their work getting registered as consultancy business. Informal Center Service Center (INSEC) was one among them. These organizations, irrespective of their legal status, revived the social change agenda, which was otherwise unnoticed. One of the most important developments of this period was the establishment of human rights organizations such as Nepal Human Rights Organization and Forum for the Protection of Human rights.
After the democracy movement of 1990, social development trends included both social change and service delivery. But, except in four areas – human rights, environment, women’s awareness and child labor; service delivery trend continued to dominate. These two trends are not alternatives to each other and also do not contradict between them. Effective expansion of services provides fertile ground for the initiatives such as awareness, organization and empowerment undertaken for social change. Only the confusion among the professionals or armatures that are in the field of service delivery that they are the vehicle and vanguard for social change, has added complication. They are not playing the roles of a vanguard; rather they are supplying some useful services.
The organizations of the professionals such as Nepal Medical Association, Nepal University Teacher’s Association, Nepal Bar Association, Nepal School Teacher’s Associations, etc played very important roles during the democracy movement of 1990. They had come together under an umbrella called “Professional Solidarity Group”. Although, their contributions after the movement did not continue, it could be highly effective had they sustained their network and the roles they played.
According to an estimate by National Planning Commission, now, the number of Nepalese non-government organizations (NGO) has reached to 15000 and the number of international non-government organizations (INGO) are 81 (NPC, 2055 v.s.: 699 – 700). Although, the critical review will be presented in Chapter Three for the flooding of the NGOs, here it should be noted that among them a large number is that of local self-help organizations.
After the 1990 democracy movement, the understanding of responsibilities related to social development has been full of confusion. Many think that this is the responsibility of the non-government organizations. Social change is neither confined to the endeavors of NGOs nor are they excluded. All the actors – government, NGOs, local self-help groups, private sector, civil society organizations, media, etc have roles to play. It should be noted that in developing countries like Nepal, the role of the government is very important.
During the dark days of Rana rule, a few positive steps had been taken. Abolishing Sati system, freeing of bonded laborers, establishing Bir hospital, publication of Gorkhapatra and establishing Durbar school, etc are among the important ones.
During the period of the king’s direct rule (called Panchayat), expansion of social services took place. According to Christine Abel, in 1960 the numbers of health posts and hospitals were 9 and 36 respectively, whereas in 1990 the same had reached to 816 and 123 (RECHPHEC, 1991:33). Similarly, the number of schools also had reached to 22218 in 1996 (NPC, 2055 v.s.: 23).
First time in Nepal, planned local development was started with the initiation of “Tribhuvan rural development program” in 1951. The program was designed and implemented with US government assistance. US government had provided US $ 22,000 under “Point IV program”. As the first planned development activity was carried out with foreign assistance, the understanding of development distorted and many people started to believe that “development” will be attained by implementing foreign funded projects. The first five year plan implemented in 1956 emphasized on integrated rural development projects. Production Credit for Rural Women (PCRW) was designed and implemented to enhance opportunities and income for rural women. Similarly, Small Farmers’ Development Program (SFDP) and Rural Banks were initiated to support the farmers and small rural producers. However, the outcome of all these initiatives was not encouraging.
The Nepalese private sector feels that donating a small amount of money to some service delivery institutions or agencies accomplishes its social responsibility. After the wind of privatization and globalization touching Nepal, a few education institutions and health facilities are established in towns and cities as businesses and the private sector milks money also pretending that it has been doing social services. Similarly, the media limits its role to publish a few news items or articles on social issues.
Economic and Social Forces
The understanding of the roles of different economic classes, nationalities and social sections contributes to have a reality check of the society in analyzing the social processes which determine the forward movement of a society. The analysis will help to find out the discriminatory social behavior, cultural context and the relationships among different social and economic forces. Hence, a brief review on classes, nationalities and social sections is presented here.
The Nepalese rural society is primarily an agricultural society. And, the prevailing relation of production is dominated by semi-feudal practices. The capitalist mode of production has been dominating the urban production relations. The polarization of the society on the basis of class interest has been continuing to its final phase with politically aware class forces making the pace faster. As agriculture is still the main source of income for livelihood for a large majority of people (81% in 1991 – CBS, 1998: 35-36). However, the class composition of Nepalese society has not been studied scientifically. The Nepalese Marxist talk loud about class, but have not gone beyond repeating ritualistically Mao Zedong’s analysis of the Chinese society, more particularly the classes he referred to after his critical analysis of Hunan peasant movement. Hence, there has been no serious attempt to analyze the class composition of Nepalese society (Bhattarai, 2046 v.s.: 98-904).
Before, venturing into the analysis of classes and production relations among them, it would be necessary to briefly revisit the composition of Nepalese rural society. The presence of the “landlords” in Nepal has been an issue of debate. The Nepalese communists simply borrowed the analysis of Chinese rural society. The mechanical approach of the Nepalese communists oversimplified the social analysis. Nepalese society is neither like that of 1920’s China nor is even it same to the Nepalese society that existed 20 years ago.
There are two paths of capitalist development of agriculture. By charting through the first path, the Junker landlord system replaces the feudal land lord system. The new system preserves the slavery of peasants to a certain extent by rationalizing them through capitalist relation of production. The second path would transform the production relations through revolutionary actions and feudal land lord system breaks down. The large estates of the land lords would be confiscated and the land redistribution establishes new socio-political relations. The new peasant transforms him or her into an agrarian capitalist (Lenin, 1908: 229-244). Goran Djurfeld has clarified the process of transformation of the agriculture society through these two paths in the following diagram (Djurfeldt, 1982: 149).
Point of Departure Transformation Destination
- Feudal Lad Lords Junker Land Lords Agrarian Capitalists
- Undifferentiated Peasantry Rich Peasants
Middle Peasants Agrarian Proletariats
The Process of Differentiation Transformation into new classes
The Nepalese society is not at the starting phase as described by Lenin. It is in the state of transformation into a capitalist society. Therefore, the rural society is passing through a process of the emergence of agrarian capitalists in an unprecedented speed. The general trend has been suggesting that the land lords and their estates have been disappearing. Although, the agrarian proletariats are continuing their feudal practices and lack the new sense of organized power as in the case of industrial proletariat, they are very much in a position to establish capitalist production relation.
The patterns of economic behaviors in the rural society also provide further justification that the society is fast moving toward capitalist mode. The Birta Unmulan Ain (Abolition of Birta System Act – 1959) initiated the process of creating a single system of land ownership. Although, the abolition of the Birta system did not change the ownership over land plots and estates owned by Bahun families, but it had tremendous psychological impact. The “Birtawar Bahuns” (the Bahuns who had got land gift from the rulers in the past) who had a higher position, now remained no more than that of other land owners. They had to pay tax and other obligations also were employed. Furthermore, the land reform introduced in 1964 gave impetus to new ideas and provided space for debate for new kind of relationships over the land. The land Reform Act – 1964 had the following main characteristics.
- Introduction of land ceiling and tenancy right
- Redistribution of confiscated land, which exceeded the ceiling
- Assessment and fixation of agriculture credit 
- Compulsory saving
The new initiative of the introduction of the land reform also failed to bring major change. The law provided some loopholes for the landed gentry. They utilized the provision in the act that if a landlord has been using the land for industrial purpose, the land ceiling had been increased by 20 times. The landlords produced false documents that the land is used for tea plantation, pineapple cultivation in a commercial scale etc. and escaped the ceiling. But on the long run they felt safe if they convert their rice fields into tea estates or fruit plantations. As a result, the tea estates of eastern Nepal came into existence. The law provided another loophole that they were given opportunity to declare their land plots and sizes and that was accepted as final if there were no disputes over ownership. The landlords kept the land in the name of imaginary land owners and escaped confiscation. However, on the long run, they sold the pieces of land even at a lower price. Through this process, the land ownership pattern got changed. The land lords from Tarai, mostly from the Madhesi nationality, who were not better familiar with the loopholes, had to surrender their excess land. That type of confiscated land was distributed to cleaver civil servants, mostly Khasa from the hills. In this way, the land supposed to be redistributed among the landless peasants was grabbed by cunning Khasa civil servants. Another important factor was that for the first time in Nepal the tenancy right was recognized and to some extent, it was also established. The land reform, introduced by the government was neither intended to radical change nor it did so, but it changed the whole perspectives about the land ownership in regard to its attraction over any other form of wealth. Even the small landlords and rich peasants started to diversify their wealth base. Therefore, different situations arise in the agrarian relations, whether it was production, production relations, size of land holding and the contradictions. The Nepalese peasantry and the rural society had not been the focus of discussion in the past. Also, on the theoretical side, only a few attempts have been made there to generate the debate (Bhattarai, 2046: 98-104). There are several volumes available which talk about peasantry, but they lack critical appraisal done objectively. These volumes talk basically about the experiences of other countries or tell stories or put forward the author’s imaginations not supported by any research. So, these volumes may not be helpful to accelerate the process of socio-economic transformation.
A study with a limited scope and size conducted by the author in a few hill districts (Bhojpur and Salyan) and some Tarai districts (Morang and Banke) by using the method of participatory appraisal, it was found the people use the following criteria while leveling the wellbeing of a family in their villages.
- the size and type of land holdings the family own
- Animal wealth
- Skills which could help in gainful employment
- Employment with government and non government sector, trade and other services
By applying the criteria mentioned above, it is quite difficult to classify the haves and have not’s. Also, sometimes, it is not possible to reach to conclusions. Hence, the people consider more practical factors such as the comparison between total productions of goods and services on one side and food security and labor inputs on the other. This process sounds complicated for the outsiders, however, the peasants calculate it quite easily. They simply add the incomes from the four sources mentioned above and calculate the expenditure needs of a certain family. And, they decide if the family could manage its needs just comfortably or it has to live in shortage or if it could save. Finally, they calculate if the family has to sale its labor or it needs to buy or just does okay with a little bit barter in sometimes. By going through such process, they classify the families in a village in three categories – rich, middle income and poor. As class, the rich may include a small number of landlords and the rest are the rich peasants. The middle income may include middle peasants and a few petty bourgeoisie families. The poor category includes poor and landless peasants and agriculture laborers.
A rich peasant in Nepal snatches the surplus value produced by the agriculture laborers. The rich peasants depend in market for procurement of several agriculture inputs including chemical fertilizer, pesticides, insecticides and seeds. They sale their surplus produces in the market, particularly in the southern plains. The same is true for hills where the towns or the highways are close by. They, recently, have started diversifying their productions and have been producing vegetables, grain, honey, butter and spices. Traditionally, they keep cattle and raise chickens. Off season vegetable farming and multi-cropping are introduced recently. Hence, the rich peasant in Nepali villages has not been a “rich peasant” as described in Marxist classics, but is”agriculture capitalist” in transition. The agriculture capitalist exploits the rural agriculture laborer not only by the means of offering much lower rate of wages, but also by compelling them to work for long hours.
Therefore, there are three major factors to address to transform the rural society. These factors are – implementing the policy of “land to the tillers”, fixing the rate of minimum wage and deciding the working hours for the agriculture workers. Redistribution of land if that is available there is one more vital issue without which no rural society could be transformed.
Unlike in other many predominantly agricultural countries, Nepal has been facing another problem. The problem is that of squatters. The squatters are a section people that include the migrated rural elites and landless agriculture laborers. The squatter’s problem is more a political issue that has been used to sideline the major issue of the peasants’ problems. The Panchayati rulers in the past gave unnatural credence and set priority to address this problem using this as a pretext to transfer the ownership of public land in the name of their relatives and henchmen. They cleared thousands of hectors of dense forest in the southern plain and resettled their families and friends.
The urban areas are better off in comparison to rural areas in general look. The high rise buildings that belong to urban super Richs and higher middle class families and the infrastructure made available compatible to their need of luxury and their show of wealth and style camouflages the hardships faced by the urban poor. The urban poor have lost their land and the means of livelihood other than their labor. They virtually have become semi-proletariats. Their number has been increasing continuously. Moreover, there are several thousands of child laborers. The urban semi-proletariats have been surrounded by all deficiencies including the base of livelihood, socialization and future prospects. Hence, they are surviving in a very hostile physical and socio-political environment.
Hierarchical caste system among the Hindu Aryans has been continuing for centuries. In the beginning, it was started as a primitive form of division of labor, however, a Hindu king Manu changed it as a social system giving the hierarchical order permanency based it on the basis of birth. The hierarchical system had four divisions – Bahun, Chhetri, Baishya and Sidra. The Bahuns were placed at the highest level, whereas the Sudras were considered the lowest. The Sudras had to serve the other castes and they were considered as untouchables.
The Oxford concise dictionary provides appropriate definition of a caste. It states that the caste is an Indian hierarchical class where the members of a particular caste are considered equal; they practice the same religion and generally they might have the same occupation. They refrain from intermingling with other castes.
The main features of caste system are as mentioned below.
- Their social position has been determined by birth.
- They limit their matrimonial relations within their own caste.
- They practice particular dietary codes. They have ‘holy’ and ‘unholy’ food items.
- Generally, they have well defined occupations for a particular caste.
- They practice the system of untouchability.
(Sharma, 2039 v. s.: 58 – 67, Bista, 1991: 29 – 59)
The medieval ruling Lichchhivi dynasty had considered itself as Chhetri and the kings of this dynasty had appointed the Bahun from south India as their priests (Bista, 1991: 35). This provision had been in practice since 7th century. This practice reveals that the caste system in Nepal had started since fourth or fifth century. In Kathmandu valley, King Jayasthiti Malla (1417 – 52 v. s.) introduced the strict caste system among Newars. Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana implemented the caste based socio-legal system all over unified Nepal in 1854 (Bista, 1991: 39 – 58). He introduced a penal code where punishment was different for people of different castes for the same of crime. While implementing this penal code, Tanka Prasad Acharya and other Bahuns got life imprisonment whereas Gangalal and other 3 non-Bahuns were executed for their ‘crime’ of organizing people to overthrow Rana rule. Tanka Prasad Acharya became Nepal’s prime Minister after the Rana rule was overthrown. By inserting the clause that accepted, in principle, everybody will be treated equally as per the law in the “Nepal Government Legal Code – 2004 V. S., the unequal caste based provisions of punishment started to crumble down. However, in practice, such equal treatment got legal acceptance through the declaration of “New Civil Code – 2020 V.S.” in 1963. Although, now the state discontinued discriminating on the basis of caste, legally and otherwise, in the society still such practice are common. In rural areas it is still widely followed and urban areas too and even among educated middle class people, caste based customs, values, behaviors and practices have just decreased but not discontinued.
The people of non-Aryan origins had inhabited in Nepal much before the arrival of the people of Aryan origin. They had their own dialects, cultures and economic relationships. In several places, and among several nationalities, these languages, cultures and relationships are still very much in practice. However, these nationalities have been pushed backward by the practitioners of Hindu caste system, particularly, by the Khasa nationality. Bahun, Chhetri, Thakuri and Sanyasi belong to this nationality. The reasons for the backwardness of non-Khasa nationalities are mentioned below.
- Khasa was the ruling nationality.
- Khasa’s mother language Khasakura (Nepali) was made the national language of Nepal (Bista, 1991:59).
- Starting from 1852, for more than a century, Hindu caste system was the basis of the law.
- The Khasa cultural values and belief systems had got superior and civilized status.
- Hinduism was state religion.
- The state provided free land to Khasalords under different land tenure systems such as Jagir, Birta, Guthi, Ukhada and Mahajani Pratha. In this way, Khasa became economically powerful nationality.
- The opportunities in education and development were made favorable for the Khasas.
- Fatalism played significant role in building a psychological makeup that enhanced superiority among Khasa and inferiority among non-Khasas.
The reasons mentioned above prevented progress of Dalits and other oppressed nationalities. Although, some of the obstacles have been cleared now, the orthodox thinking, behaviors and social practices are limiting the tempo of the process of change.
The Bahunbad based on fatalism influenced the social practices of not only among Hindus who practice caste system, but also it affected the others in the society. The fatalistic philosophy of “we could simply attain what is there in our luck” created formidable blocks in finding out reasons objectively of any happenings. Instead, it motivated people to look to supra-natural being for finding solutions of their problems. Fatalism influenced heavily in all areas including the motivation for achievements, accepting responsibility, knowing one’s capacity and social relationships (Bista,1991: 77-83). Fatalism has penetrated deep down in both, individuals conscience and social practice. Hence, it is too difficult to be free from it in simple way and through short cuts. Not only are the peasantry in the rural areas who are outside of new knowledge and technology, but also a large majority of the educated urbanites are engulfed by fatalistic beliefs and behaviors. A few among them may be free from its prejudiced viewpoint, but they too are again enslaved by its value system. Therefore, a corrupt person reads the act of corruption not as crime committed, but as pre-destined reward, which was possible as it was in his luck. Also, others in the society wish to have the luxuries lifestyles as that of that corrupt person. Due to the fatalistic beliefs, a poor person accepts as quite normal, the most difficult circumstances he/she is in. In this way, the movement and progress of the society have been negatively affected.
The intellectuals who claim themselves as progressives including the Marxists have not raised the issues of caste system in a comprehensive way. Sometimes, they have raised the issue in very superficial manner by just linking it with the class factor. The Dalits and other oppressed nationalities have their own aspirations, wishes and understandings. Just talking about class will not help to understand this complex social phenomenon.
The above analysis depicts the prevailing social reality where the Khasa beliefs, values, traditions and practices dominate. Some of the Khasa beliefs and practices have got the state sanction as “national”. A few examples include the dress code of “Daura Suruwal” and also considering cow as “national animal”. The entire society has been suffering with the ill effects of their fatalistic philosophy. It is quite difficult to rectify the social ills, but without rectifying the ill effects of fatalism, there is no future.
Special Social Sections
Class, nationalities and castes are very important factors to study the Nepali society. Keeping in consideration, the marginalization and vulnerability of other special sections in the society, it is important to study the situation of the women and children.
Hunting and gathering were the most important occupations of the human being before venturing into agriculture. The men folks usually were involved in hunting whereas women folks gathered eatable roots, fruits and other wild edible items. This was the most primitive form of division of labor. This division was not created for any other form of discriminations. After the ancient communal society discovered agriculture, the system of private property rights had been introduced as individuals and families started to claim their rights over a plot of land they cleared or cattle heads they raised. The new production system discontinued the works of gathering as one of the primary occupations. The economic and social roles had gone through a radical transformative process. The men folks had taken the responsibility of protecting their settlements and their cattle heads and often had to fight against invading tribes. The women folks gradually started to take the responsibility of taking care of children, household chores and agriculture activities. In this way, the roles changed drastically that established ownership of men over their land and cattle (Folbre 1994: 96). The new social arrangements created situation where women were pushed to men’s control and in the society, the patriarchal system of family governance become prominent. The patriarchal system introduced gender discrimination in the social psychology, practices and customs. Women not only lost their equal position in the family and society, they were forced to accept the inferior status and behave accordingly. When the society was progressing to new stage of feudalism, the new social attitudes and norms made women’s lives more difficult. In this new social system, women were also considered as means of luxury and comfort for the kings, their courtiers and warlords. In history, the kings and warlords fought several wars to get control over a certain beautiful lady or ladies. The class factor also played significant role in the lives of women. The women from laboring classes had to work hard to ensure the minimum survival of their families.
The many women of defeated states had been raped and enslaved. As a consequence of such phenomenon, the infamous “Sati Pratha” (the system when a living woman was thrown at the funeral pyre of her husband and was killed) came into existence in South Asia. Boswell states that in Western Europe, more than two hundred people were killed between 1450 and 1700 A. D. in suspicion of being witches and 80% among them were women (in Folbre 1994: 138).
With the beginning of capitalism, a new debate about women’s plight drew attention. Mary Wollstonecraft published “The Declaration of Women’s Rights” in 1792. Around 1800, Jeremy Bentham and other likeminded economists put forward the issues of women’s rights particularly in areas of employment, voting and birth control. The women’s movement took organized form after the aristocratic women of England established “Ladies of Langham Place” in 1856. The women’s circle started to publish “English Women’s Journal” after three years of its establishment. In 1848, the conference of feminists in Seneca Falls made public its “Declaration of Sentiments”. In this document, it is stated that men compelled women to obey laws where there was no role of women in the formulation of those laws (in Rendell 1997:8). The women of New York City came out in the street demanding their rights in 1908. After two years of this protest event, the very first and historic “International Women’s Conference” was held in Copenhagen (Subedi 2048: 14).
The women got voting right in Finland in 1906, in Norway in 1913, in Denmark in 1915, in Britain in 1918 (initially this right was allowed to exercise to women above 30 years of age which brought down to 18 years in 1928), in America in 1921 and in France in 1945. First time in the world, in Cuba in 1975, a legal provision came into existence where it was stated that household chore is the responsibility of men and women equally (Folbre 1994: 243).
The situation of Nepalese women has been determined by their position in the family and society and the treatment they get from the state. The other critical factors include class, nationality and caste. Generally, the upper class men consider women as objects for their use and machines that produce children. In case of working class, the lower class men consider the women of their class also as silent instruments of production and services. The women of MangolKirats have much better status in the family and community in comparison to Khasa and Madhesis. However, the state had discriminated against women equally irrespective of their nationality. The women had no right in areas of making decisions regarding future preparations of the children and taking decisions on owning or selling property. Although, the Khasa literatures are full of praises of women, but these empty phrases do not reflect the reality. The Khasa Hindu belief that if there is no son, the door of heaven will not open for them for ever had influenced the attitudes including that of the women and the larger society. Therefore, if a girl was born, the women themselves started to feel bad. The fatalistic beliefs that existed in society had profound influence on them too.
Nepalese women’s awareness movement has its roots on “Stree Shiksha (Women’s Education), a booklet written by Durga Devi Acharya Dixit in 1897. The “Mahila Samitee” (Women’s Committee) established in 1918 was the first organized effort. Dibya Devi Koirala has taken the initiative to establish this organization, whereas Yogmaya Koirala was its coordinator. During this period, Sati Pratha was legally abolished from Nepal. The girl’s education got institutional boost when “Padma Kanya School” was established in 1945. “Nepal Women’s Association” was established in 1947. Mangala Devi Singh was its chairperson. Under the chairpersonship of Kamakshya Devi, the women influenced by communism established “Nepal Women’s Organization” in 1950. During the same period, “All Nepal Women’s organization” led by Punnya Prabha Devi Dhungana, “Women Volunteer Services” led by Kamal Rana and “Birangana Dal” (Heroic Women’s Organization) led by Rohini Shah came into existence. In 1980, the Nepal Women’s Organization established in 1950 was renamed as “All Nepal Women’s Association” and also was reorganized (Pradhan 1995: 53-57, Subedi 1991: 21-22).
Nepalese women started the journey getting equal status legally, in principle, in 1946. The “Nepal Government’s Constitutional Law – 2004” accepted that “every citizen is equal as per law”. The Interim Constitution of Nepal – 2007 had a provision that clearly states that “Men and women have equal rights”. This was the first time in Nepal, Nepalese women were considered equal in respect to their legal status (Sangraula 1995: 75-91). The constitutions promulgated thereafter continued this provision. The Nepalese women got voting right in 1947. They got the voting right when Nepal Women’s Association demanded such right during the election of Kathmandu Municipality (Subedi 1991: 21). In 1953, a woman got elected in the Kathmandu Municipality. The Congress government formed after the first general election in 1959 had a women minister. However, the awareness movement was not effective irrespective of these small but important gains. The women’s organizations had party affiliations. Their main role was to gather women around their respective mother parties. They were not primarily committed to the cause of women’s emancipation. However, even in 1998, these women’s organizations were not fundamentally different as they were 40 years ago.
When the political parties and their sister women’s organizations failed to address the issues of women’s initiatives, opportunities and emancipation; the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been propagating that they are the champions of women’s advancement. The NGOs which are far better than dogs in smelling donor’s money, took this incarnation fully knowing the donor’s priority on women’s issues in Nepal. The NGOs are in this business as some of them are committed on the issue; some of them have been attracted due to good amount of fund and opportunities available and some among them wish to be popular so as to build their constituency with much investment of time, resources and energy. These campaigners of ‘women’s emancipation’ are more in the acts of propaganda and less on transformational role. “Women development”, “gender equality”, “women’s empowerment” etc. are some of the projects; the NGOs have been reaping the harvest for them. Some NGOs talk about girls trafficking loudly, however, with a few exceptions, many among them have quite a limited role.
The Nepalese women’s movement for equality, equity and justice got impetus due to Nairobi conference, international women’s decade and political change in Nepal. In the same period, the supreme court of Nepal passed a historic judgment and asked the government to nullify all acts and laws, which discriminate against women. The new debate centered on inherence of parental property offered new avenues to explore for gender equality. Unfortunately, this great debate could not go behind the conference rooms of big hotels, where the educated urban women were graciously present together with the donors. The ‘workshop culture’ of Kathmandu spoiled the opportunity. The classical Marxist simply related the issue of women’s emancipation together with the problems and prospects of class struggle in the society. On the other side, the conventional parliamentary political forces have a tunnel vision and they see only the problems and prospects of educated urban women is the real issue of women.
The women’s movement in Nepal should aim to empower women in areas of political, social and economic spheres. The most deprived women of marginalized social groups and economically deprived rural and urban women’s situation and the change therein should be at the focus of such movements. The ‘kitchen gardens’ planted by NGOs simply are failures to empower women. These NGOs could help a little in creating the environment; however, women’s empowerment is too big piece of meat to swallow for them. Therefore, they should accept such reality and should refrain from talking loud as liberators of women in Nepal.
First time in Nepal, the village workers and women village workers were hired to help villagers to implement development projects and activities. This provision had been inserted in “Village Panchayat Act” introduced in 1957. This was the first effort of the government that brought the issue of women’s mobilization at the front. These workers were trained in the training centers at Kathmandu, Birgunj and Nepalgunj. Altogether 250 or close to that number of women workers had received training from these three training centers (Chand 1991: 19-20). As a government policy, increasing participation of women in development was stated in the sixth five year plan of the government (RAYOAA 2037 V.S.: 212). As a result of this policy women development officers were hired and women development sections were established at district level. The women development ministry was established in 1994. However, there was not much political will and commitment from the side of the government. The government escaped from the positive impact created by Nairobi conference by performing some rituals.
In the ninth five year plan, the government put forward some policy initiatives to “mainstreaming women”, “to remove gender inequalities” and “to empower women” (RAYOAA 2055 V.S.: 671). However, the programmatic response had nothing to mach to these commitments. The Planning Commission stated that women are a “target group for development (RAYAAA 2055 V.S.: 670).” This is not true. Women are planners, organizers and implementers of development programs and also, they are the good managers of family and community affairs. They have imaginations and high potentials for creation. They should be seen as participants and managers, not simply as target for development.
Generally, the Nepalese society has seen women as weaker section or as anti-men. These both types of social attitudes do not reflect the reality. Women neither are weaker section nor are they anti-men. The women’s emancipation movement is primarily against the individual, family, social and governmental attitudes, behaviors, practices, laws and psychology that consider women inferior to men. This is a social emancipation movement (South Commission 1992: 131). To attain success in this endeavor; there is the need of participation of men too. Hence, their awareness and cooperation also play significant role.
The needs and development potentials of infants, younger children and adolescents are deferent (Dainow 1991: 12-13). However, their protection and development depends on the family as well as social environment and the responsibility for creating conducive environment is the responsibility of their families and respective societies. In the Article 3.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child; it has been stated that any activities, which has its concern with children, the best interests of the children should get attention wherever the activity has been carried out by the social welfare organizations or courts or administration or legislatures. According to Philip Alston, the Convention had been ratified by 155 countries till December 1993 (in UNICEF 1994: 2).
In 1998, the projected under 18 population in Nepal was 11,047,000, which is 52 % of the total projected population (RAYOAA 2055 V.S.: 630). The Infant Mortality Rate and Under 5 Child Mortality Rate were 82 and 116 respectively in 1998 (UNDP 1998). The enrollment of primary school age (2-10) was 69.4% and the same for secondary school age children was 34.7%. According to the Child Labor Study – 2054 V.S., 26% children had not attended school due to household work or due to employment to earn something for the survival of the family (RAYAAA 2055 V.S: 632). According to another estimate, the number of child workers was 570,000 (CWIN 1991: 3). Similarly, the percentage of child labor of the age group 10-14 had jumped to 58 in 1981 from 28 in 1952. The number of child workers in carpet industry was around 200,000 (Stein 1995: 60). The number of street children in Kathmandu alone was 500 and the number of domestic help was 10,652 (CWIN 1990, 1, SIWIN 2050 V.S.: 4-5). From 5 to 7 thousand teen age girls were trafficked into India alone every year (Subedi, 2045: 25). The facts related to education and health and presence of a large number of children in labor work presents the gloomy picture of Nepali children. Moreover, the trafficked girls and children working under slavery like situations, particularly in carpet industries could make any sensible person emotional. The commitments of the civil, social and governmental agencies seem just cosmetic seeing the condition of children as mentioned above.
The children’s future depends on the economic condition of the family, awareness level of their parents, social responses and the facilities and the environment the government could provide. The percentage of families, who survive under US$ 1 per day income is 72.2% and the below poverty line families are 59% (UNDP 1998). In such situation, many children are suffering from malnutrition and ill health. They are deprived of educational opportunities. They are surviving under quite difficult conditions including that of child labor.
Recently, many NGOs have been raising the issues of opportunities for child development and child labor. However, they have many limitations and their influence is insignificant. First, their presence is primarily confined to urban centers. Second, their programs are driven by donor’s agenda. Third, for many among them these issues are that of propaganda value rather than a movement to create change. Forth, children are the objects for fund raising for many INGOs and hence, Nepali NGOs are also partnering with them. Therefore, with a few exceptions, particularly the good attempts of the NGOs in areas of stopping girl trafficking and child labor, other NGOs are simply either cosmetics or are managing their own employment or even luxuries. The issue of child labor too has been raised at superficial level. The fundamental reason of child labor is economic and till the income level of families does not go up, the child labor issue will continue in one or the other forms. The propaganda could not offer food and cloth for a child from below poverty line families. Hence, without transformational socio-economic achievement, the remedy for child labor in a sustainable way is not possible. The intention here is not to oppose the efforts for eradicating child labor; it is to bring to attention that child labor should be seen in a larger socio-economic context. The easy way out prescribed by northern NGOs and accepted by Nepalese NGOs may help them to raise funds; however, the aim of solving the problem of child labor is unattainable.
In a situation where 59% population has been surviving below poverty line, it is too difficult to ensure the fundamental rights of children to provide them enough food and needful dresses. The provision mentioned in the Nepal Government Constitutional Law – 2004 that “free and compulsory primary education” (Sangraula 2052 V.S.: 75-91) and the commitment that the government will “provide free and compulsory primary education within a certain period” (Nepal Academy 1960: 54) have not been implemented for a long time, at least till 1998. The gloomy scenario created by the high rate of malnourishment among children (47%) speaks volumes and presents question marks on the tall claims of child rights and child labor free Nepal as meaningless. These phrases used by the lofty NGOs and government agencies carry no meaning. Only, the real socio-economic justice and progress could address the critical issues of children’s survival and their development. The solution of such major and important issue is possible through political intervention, and hence, the roles of the government and that of political parties are crucial.
The government sounds highly satisfied by merely ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Ninth Five Year Plan has stated its sole objective as poverty alleviation. The objective is appropriate, if policies and programs match its operational requirements. However, the attitudes and values inserted in the socio-economic policies do not express any possibility that leads to societal transformation. These policies do not address the fundamental rights of the children. Neither has it ensured availability of enough food, shelter and dresses for them. Moreover, there is no guaranty of free and compulsory primary or secondary level education and there is no commitment to provide basic health services to children and their families. The political parties and leaders in Nepal do not invest time, energy and resources to know Nepal better, to understand the issues of societal transformation and to develop capacities to change the living standard of people. Therefore, they do not understand the problems the Nepalese children have been facing. Moreover, they are too preoccupied in power politics. In such context, if the political parties and the leaders from the mainstream fail to behave responsibly, it is only natural that the people will start supporting alternative political forces for change.
Fundamental Issues of Social Development
The analysis of social composition, development challenges and problems and prospects of Nepalese society highlights the need for further studies on fundamental issues of social development. These issues are as mentioned below.
- Poverty Alleviation
- Social Justice
- Awareness, Conscientization and Enlightenment
- People’s Participation
- Cultural Sensitivity, Adjustments and Partnerships
- Social Services
- Poverty Alleviation
According to the World Bank, “Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.” (World Bank: Poverty and Inequality Analysis, http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:22569747~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992,00.html)
Meghnad Desai has defined that poverty is a state, where the people fail to meet their one or two basic needs. Amartya Sen brings the capability factor and says this is a condition of deprivation where someone survives with limitations in areas of literacy, travel, longevity etc. Kith Griffin looks into social deprivation to judge the state of poverty. (Griffin 1996: 28-29). International Labor Organization (ILO) has stated in its Philadelphia Declaration that the poverty of one place could affect the prosperity of another place (ILO 1944).
Not only poverty limits someone’s capacity to meet the basic needs and develop capabilities, it sows the seeds of certain stereotyped thinking such as fatalism. It makes the poor accustomed to poverty and helps poverty continuing as a normal phenomenon (Abercrombie et al 1994). The feeling of being in poverty makes someone hopeless and powerless and the confidence that could generate hope of coming out of poverty and bring change in life goes away (Crofton 1995: 23).
Poverty has its two foundations such as the poverty that has its base on total underdevelopment and the poverty that has its base on inequality. The first type of poverty could be seen in remote parts of Nepal. In these areas, with a few exceptions, everybody is surviving under the influence of poverty. The villages have no classless societies, nor are they socially egalitarian. However, the gap between rich and poor is that of different type. Some among them, the rich in these villages, might have comparatively larger sheep herds or harvest some more grains and enjoy a bit better social status and privileges. But, they face the same difficulties in absence of common facilities such as roads, schools, hospitals etc. The economists residing in Kathmandu and busy playing with meaningless statistics may classify them as rich peasants or even as landlords looking at the size of their unproductive land holding. If the classical exercise to find out landlords in such villages could be ignored, generally poverty has its all pervading presence in these villages that engulfs all inhabitants in all critical areas including but not limited to income, capabilities and social exclusion. However, the poverty that has been affecting a large majority of people in Nepal is not that has its base in total underdevelopment, but the poverty which has its base in inequality. The poverty of first type is an exception, whereas the poverty of second type is the most common phenomenon. Hence, to understand the relationship between inequality and poverty, one has to understand the importance of equality.
Equality is one among the most controversial terminologies used in politics and development, presently. Strangely, everybody feels free to define equality in a way that suits the definer’s interest. The term “equality” has been misunderstood by many as it has been glossed either with “relative reference value” or with “absolute reference value.” It is impossible to attain absolute equality. If that could be attained somewhere in a particular time, it is simply a temporary phenomenon for a short period. Therefore, in social development arena, relative equality has generally been accepted with several inequalities attached with. If defined in absolute term that phenomenon could be described as no equality at all. Equality in its relative sense does not investigate social reality in absolute term but analyses the discrimination on the basis of class, nationalities, castes and gender; and finds the fundamentals that govern the social structure that either supports positive changes or preserves status quo. Equality has been misunderstood as a goal of social change endeavors, whereas this is a process that includes attitudes, behaviors and practices, which helps transform the outlooks, viewpoints and paradigms and upgrades the collective understanding to a higher spiral. When equality is defined not in absolute term and not as a goal, it has very clear relationship with radical social change. This accepts its limitations including its relative nature and plays vital role in the process of transformation of the society. In this context, there could be seen its clear relationship with poverty alleviation endeavors including the change in the ownership over means of production, access to opportunities and power to make decisions. To understand the process and relationship better, it is absolutely necessary to explain, though briefly, about the ownership over natural resources such as land, energy and water; nature of skills and employment, and community political participation and leadership.
The fundamental relationship between equality and poverty reveals the existence of certain patterns. For example, the poor families’ relationship with land is as means of production as labors. The rich is the owner and controls production costs, processes and distribution as the producer. The agrarian culture of the Nepalese society considers land not just as source of income but also as insurance against emergency needs, pension for retired life and material basis for social status. Analysis of land ownership by size of holding, productivity (barren slopes, fertile plains) and location (New Road in Kathmandu or Dungma in Bhojpur) provide most useful information, if the studies are conducted by segregating the indicators mentioned here. This could help understanding the social processes far better. However, it could reveal scientific information, if studied in relation to many other social indicators. Even if other information is not available, this indicator alone could give critical information on level of poverty and its nature and extent and intensity of class struggle in an area. The land indicator may reveal the ownership pattern over large size of land, prime plots and productive patches that could be of landlords or rich peasants or the capitalists in case of urban areas. The opposite may be true for the working class, farm laborers and poor peasants.
Similarly, access to water resource also tells a lot. The irrigation channels irrigate the paddy fields of the rich, the piped water systems mostly serves the water needs of the rich. Even the public taps serve the as the place the taps closer to their houses. When the water reaches urban centers, it goes directly to the kitchens, washrooms and swimming pools of the rich. The villagers may not get any compensation for the resources in all practical sense that belongs to them.
The energy utilization analysis also reveals the deprivation of strange type among low income families and communities. The forest mostly belongs to the government or community associations formed by and for rural rich or some forests are directly under individual ownership of the rich. The poor are in extremely difficult situation as they are not able to get firewood or fodder. The government controlled national parks have made their lives more miserable. The conservation policy is based on ‘conservation’ by restricting entry into the forest of the people around. Conservation could be best possible when the forest resources could be utilized in a sustainable way. However, the national parks have become restricted zones for the people and they are angry. In one fine morning, if the angry people will start killing animals, attacking forest officials and putting the entire parks on flames that would not be an unexpected phenomenon (Ghimire 1994: 226).
The skills and jobs are evaluated and placed in some sort of hierarchy not on their merit on productivity or value addition but on the social attitudes attached to certain skills or jobs. This particular type of evaluation and acceptance has created vast gap between blue color and white color jobs in both areas – social respectability and remunerations. Availability of opportunities is extremely unequal. Many poor peasants in the rural areas are either unemployed or only semi-employed.
The people from disadvantaged social sections and lower economic class have either no or nominal representation in community as well as political leadership in their respective areas.
The above analysis makes it clear that control over natural resources, access to better remunerative skills and jobs and occupancy of political as well as community leadership positions are the rights and privileges of higher economic class and chauvinistic social sections. This situation has limited the scope of justice and equality.
Poverty is not a technical condition of being deprived of resources and opportunities; this is the end result of discriminatory political, economic and social acts. This is the reflection of social reality. Therefore, alleviation of poverty is not simple and could not be attained through shortcuts. In absence of such understanding, poverty becomes easy to eradicate. Many NGOs and INGOS have been suffering with such misunderstanding and are busy propagating that poverty could be done away by raising a few chicken birds. Raising chicken is not a bad idea but it may not alleviate poverty. Poverty is a complex socio-economic realm and it needs transformational actions that encompass social, political and economic redistribution of power, wealth and opportunities. Thus, the propaganda that it is possible without addressing structural issues is untrue. The NGOs or INGOs or governmental agencies or the United Nations system agencies, if present the issue as cosmetics, their understanding should be challenged and their claims should be contested. These agencies should contribute to create environment. The larger issues that have created and sustained poverty could be rectified only through radical and transformative societal change. The agencies mentioned above should not create false expectations among people.
The Nepalese government and the NGOs have taken the issue of poverty alleviation as a popular issue of propaganda value. Poverty alleviation has become one of largest employment generating issue in Nepal, where many bureaucrats and NGO employees have got employment by utilizing opportunities around this issue. Hence, their responsibility and commitment has limited meaning as it revolves around their employment. Due to this fact, they travel any distance where local or foreign assistance or even soft loan is available for their projects. Hence, their “alms pots” are ready 24 hours, 7 days a week (24/7). Such acts may not address the issue of poverty. Therefore, after implementing eight plans (one for three years and rest five years each), the National Planning Commission has stated that “due to unemployment and failure in bringing down inequality, the problem of poverty could be addressed well” (RAAAYO 2055 V.S.: 1). However, the admission of failure alone will not be enough.
Robert McNamara’s speech in Nairobi in 1973 initiated some programmatic responses with objectives that addressed fulfillment of basic human needs and had focus on poverty reduction (Escobar 1995: 70). After its president’s speech at Nairobi, the World Bank put forward the idea of Integrated Rural Development (IRD). To improve the economic and social condition of people residing in rural areas, the IRD was developed as a strategy (World Bank: 1975). The United Nations, which was under the strong influence of America and the World Bank, which was under the de facto control of America came forward to support rural development programs. In 1977, International Labor Organization (ILO) also supported IRD initiative but raised some critical questions too. The ILO asked to look into the need of redistribution of land and other related resources to start with. Only after addressing the critical land issues, it could be possible to move forward to bring a large section of rural population to prosperity. Julius Nyerere was supportive to the idea of rural development. He shared his observation that IRD could best express and include all aspects of the concepts and priorities of the governmental and social activities (Bhasin et al 1980: 55, 10).
Immediately after discovering the strategy to eliminate poverty, the Breton Woods system institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) jumped to experiment in the field. One of the first seeds of this jump was sowed in Nepal. In 1973, the World Food Program and the United Nations Development Program together started a regional project. The new born child was “Asian Survey on Agriculture Improvement and Rural Development”. The project had included 9 countries – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Nepal was ‘fortunate’ as it was selected as the very first country to start to. Initially, a “Small Farmers Development Project (SFDP)” was designed and implemented covering 6,000 families. The Agriculture Development Bank implemented the project in Nuwakot and Janakpur (Bhasin et al 1980: 222-229). In 1978, the project was extended in 15 new districts. The Asian Development Bank, International Agriculture Development Fund, World Bank and some other agencies also provided assistance. However, the result reveled that SFDP failed to bring change on the condition of extremely poor families in the project areas (Mosley 1991: 74).
The SFDP experiment encouraged World Bank to open the flood gates of Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs). Rashuwa-Nuwakot IRDP was the first IRD projects. The World Bank and United Nations Development Program had supported the project. Koshi Hills Rural Development Project, Sagarmatha IRDP, Mahakali IRDP, IRDP (Dolakha-Nuwakot), Karnali-Bheri IRD, Mechi IRD, Dhading IRD, Rapti IRD, Seti IRD and Karnali Local Development Project have been implemented. All together, Nepalese Rupees 1.47 billion had been spent till 1991 (Chand 1991: 62, NEKAPA Mashal 2046 V. S.: 124). After 2 decades of enthusiastically starting the IRDPs, one of the proponents of IRDs, the United Nations Development Program revealed the statistics that 59% people were living under poverty line in 1995 in Nepal (UNDP, 1998). Although, the government said that there were only 42% people under poverty line, it agreed that there was no significant progress in reducing poverty (RAYOAA: 2055 V.S.: 182). These facts make it clear that the strategy of poverty alleviation and distributing fruits of development among poor failed.
The government has targeted to bring down the below poverty line population to less than 10% in twenty years i.e. 2018 (RAYOAA 2055: 61-62). In its ninth Five Year Plan, the government has proposed to establish Poverty Alleviation Commission and Poverty Alleviation Fund. Although, these are good proposals, but the past experiences suggest that these institutions will be utilized just to provided employment to some party cadres. The bitter experiences of Small Farmers Development Program, Production Credit for Rural Women and Rural Development Banks validate this conclusion. Moreover, the outcomes of the large scale IRDPs also were not different. In absence of political will and in an environment of corruption and wrong priorities, only there is space to realize personal interests of political leaders and government officials, whereas social and national interests are forgotten altogether.
As already stated, poverty could not be eradicated without radical change in the society. The governmental as well as non-governmental agencies’ focus is on adding up services. They did not create environment that could help transforming the society. They did not listen in the advice of International Labor Organization related to redistribution of wealth and resources. In the present context, only redistribution of land may not address the deep rooted problem of inequality. Pertaining to this resource, size of the plot of land, its productivity and location make big difference. Therefore, it is important to increase opportunities in off farm activities. “Right to Work” as a constitutional guarantee may be the long term objective to address poverty, which could significantly reduce hunger. Everybody has the right to get minimum wages and equal access to opportunities. Therefore, a favorable socio-economic environment must be availed.
- Social Justice
Society has been divided on the basis of class, caste, nationalities and gender. There are contradictions in the society due to several differences that originated from discriminatory social attitudes and state’s unfair treatment. Hence, several sections of the society are deprived of justice. Primarily, social justice is the major issue that could address the prevailing injustices, inequalities and discriminations. Because of its importance and popularity, the Marxists relate it with classes, the pro-reservationists in India establish its harmony with backward castes, the feminists project it as “cure of all” to correct the gender stereotypes and oppressed nationalities consider it as one of the best ideology that could help bring them to mainstream with dignity and pride. Many, who support the idea of social justice, have motivations that originate either from commitment to cause or its popularity as a political slogan. The Indian constitution in its Article number 341 has provisioned for reservation for backward (scheduled) castes and backward (scheduled) tribes. The Article has been active since 1950; however it has failed to transform the social structure except elevating a few Harijans (backward castes) into privileged as Brahmins. The so-called lower castes and backward tribes have been surviving in a very hostile political as well as socio-economic environment similar to pre-1950 situation. The fact here explains that the slogan of social justice will not change anything fundamentally, if there is no commitment and political will. It should be noted that if there is no economic justice and a revolution therein to change their condition radically, the exploited classes will continue to survive in a hopeless condition, and in absence of social justice, the marginalized sections of the society will have not any sunny day in their lives. For any kind of progressive management of a society, there must be social and economic justice, and their political environment must support the progressive management of the society.
Some scholars put social justice and social development in the same basket, whereas others argue that these are two separate subjects. However, all of them emphasize to look into its content. The Copenhagen Conference on Social Development has clearly spelt out that social development is inter linked with social justice and it could not be attained in absence of respect to human rights and commitment to fundamental freedom (UN 1995). Social justice is a complex social process. It assigns roles to individuals, classes, groups and nationalities according to their place in the society and determines their relations with others. Social justice includes human rights, civil rights, peace and security that ensures harmonious social environment, just protections and issues of natural justice. Hence, social justice pleads for affirmative action in areas of services, opportunities and supports. When, the state makes investments on services, corrective measures and motivational acts such as reservations in jobs, positions and opportunities, it has to take into consideration the need for affirmative action. For example, there could be provision of free education for children of marginalized people and reservation of certain percentage for them in the administrative, military and political positions. These actions could correct socio-economic discriminations that the marginalized sections, nationalities and classes are subjected to. Therefore, social justice is to be seen as the progressive socio-political value of a state system, corrective approach towards justice and the yardstick to judge the progressive orientation of a given society.
The application of social justice is not that simple. There should be appropriate policy responses. These policies certainly discriminate positively. In Nepal, when the state formulated a policy for providing old age allowance, when a citizen reaches 75 years of age sounded good in first look, but it doesn’t do justice as there could be rich pensioners or millionaires at that age. Hence, there should be socio-economic criteria to make it more inclined towards social justice. The bottom line is that the support should go to them who need and deserve. The Nepalese leaders did not utilized their common sense neither they applied any sensible decision making process. They were after vote and they simply go by the logic of vote bank politics. Anarchy and irresponsible acts have become the general trend in Nepalese politics.
Affirmative action no longer need provided the society has entered into egalitarian mode, where prosperity, peace, justice and social harmony are basically ensured. Such society has been named “Ramrajya” (God’s realm) by the Gandhians, “Swarga” (heaven) by the religious believers and “Communism” by the Marxists. However, such state of a society has not been seen yet even in the developed western world.
Many among the supporters of social justice simply interpret it as distribution of resources and opportunities. However, social justice has been related to, both, bridging the socio-economic and political gap and eradicating inequalities in the society. Therefore, social justice should address, both issues – justice and equality. Hence, the aim should be to realize these two critical goals.
The start point of social justice in modern time in Nepal was 1925 when the slavery system was legally abolished and the former slaves were rehabilitated by clearing the forest in Bhikshakhori in Amalekhgunj. The declaration was historic in the sense that it abolished one of the most inhuman as well as criminal acts. The freedom enjoyed by the freed slave families had great value. Moreover, change of psychological and social attitudes of these families and the larger communities had great significance. During the same period, “Sati Pratha” (the wife was sacrificed by throwing in the same funeral pyre of the dead husband) was abolished. This abolition was one of the epoch making event in the lives of Nepalese women. The society in general and the state in particular started to review the injustices to women. In the process, a girl’s school – Padma Kanya School was established in 1945.
Social justice made its presence in the first constitutional act of Nepal that was promulgated in 1947. The crude form of social just could be seen in the article where it has been stated that “the law considers all (citizens) as equal”. The Interim Constitution of 1951 clearly mentioned that men and women have equal rights and both will get same remuneration for similar work. There were provisions for affirmative action in favor of women and children (Sangraula 2052: 79-91). The first two provisions above ensured equality whereas the third provision promotes social justice. The Constitution of Nepal – 1959 has made slavery, human trafficking and forced labor illegal. Moreover, the land tenure system called “Birta” (government or communal land donated to Brahmins by the state) was abolished. A Common Criminal Code was promulgated in 1963. This code declared illegal all previous legal provisions, which had discriminated on the basis of caste, gender and nationalities. A Land Reform Act also came into existence in 1964. The new constitution of 1990 abolished untouchability.
Woman started getting attention in the government programs since 1951 when the government employed male and female separately as “village Development Workers” (Chand 1991: 19). Not only employment, but also, first time, women got recognition. This act opened up the opportunities for unlocking women’s rightful place in the society. This initiative could be seen as first step in a long journey of equality and justice the women deserved. The government initiated scholarship programs for deserving students from low income families, provided incentives to girl students, and offered old age allowance to senior citizens and widows, established council for indigenous nationalities etc. to help mainstream marginalized groups, sections and nationalities. The other initiatives such as Production Credit for Rural Women (PCRW), Small Farmers Development Program, and Rural Development Banks etc. helped low income families and marginalized groups to a certain extent to progress. In the 9th Five Year plan of the government, “development of backward areas”, “gender equality”, “poverty alleviation”, “indigenous nationalities in development works”, “Dalits and marginalized sections in development works”, “Program for senior citizens, helpless and physically challenged”, “Children’s development” etc (RAYOAA 2055 V.s.: 182, 238, 630, 651-673) had been included, which could address the issues of social justice and could promote equality. However, the government did not show any sign of its commitment to establish social justice or to bring equality. Both, political will and commitment had not been seen in practice. The 30 years autocratic rule of the king camouflaged as Panchayat and the ever anarchic parliamentary regime that followed Panchayat in 1990 obstructed the process of substantial social change.
During their inception stage in early years of anti-Rana movement, the non-governmental social organizations played somewhat positive role in introducing social justice and the concept of equality in Nepal. Some of them raised the issue of civil rights, some others propagated for women’s awareness. When Sukraraj Shastri was hanged and his three other friends were executed in 1941 as they had raised the banner of revolt against the autocratic Rana rule, the organization they established – “Committee for Civil Rights, Nepal” became defunct. Gradually, the issues of socio-political awareness were put on the back burner and the NGOs took the new path of service delivery and welfare. However, after forty years, “Human Rights Organization of Nepal” and “Forum for Protection of Human Rights in Nepal” were established with the same objective with a bit fine tuning as that of “Committee for Civil Rights”. Besides these human rights agencies, there were a few other NGOs in areas of child labor and girls trafficking active to address the issues.
After the political change of 1990, the flood gate was opened for NGOs. The types of NOGs included philanthropic, welfare, reform oriented, activist and professional. All of the NGOs irrespective of their nature were busy talking about social justice. They used the terms either social justice or close words such as empowerment, civil rights, social peace, equality, mainstreaming etc. and stay very close to the fundamental concept of social justice. Interestingly, the trustees or the core leaders of the NGOs in Nepal are educated from urban centers as well as from higher castes (Pant 2051: 6). They might have come from upper class and their origin may suggest they are in no need of affirmative support mechanisms. Generally, the donor agencies have become the life-line of Nepali NGOs. Many donors themselves are just the intermediaries of the services they claim they provide. Therefore, the donors are project oriented, strive for success to show even at superficial way and they harbor illusion that they have the remedy of social ills or at least they could deliver quality services. The NGOs operating through the donations of such donors, when talk about “social justice” forget that such abstract issues, which needs to pass through a strategic process is unattainable for them as their goal. Therefore, these NGOs should understand that social justice is not simply a social phenomenon; it has strong linkage with politics. As far as it has a relation with politics, if the foreigners stay out that would be better. Here it should be made clear that the donor driven NGOs are fundamentally different from activist movements and organizations. The second types are people’s initiatives and people’s movements but such types of organization in Nepal are only a few.
Social justice demands three basic functions to significantly influence the process of societal transformation. They include creating conducive environment, social actions and movements and management as well as institutionalization of change.
Together, the local voluntary organizations, NGOs, class organizations, political parties and the government, could work in creating conducive environment. All of them could work on spreading technical information and enhancing skills, helping to establish organizations and promoting organized behaviors and identifying problems and exploring possibilities. They could inform people on issues of human rights, civil rights, promotion of peaceful living and social security. In this way they could support people.
The local voluntary organizations, activist NGOs, trade unions, and other class organizations, and political parties could involve themselves in activities that promote social actions. They could lunch movements.
The class organizations, political parties and the government could manage and institutionalize change.
The local voluntary organizations or the community based organizations may organize people and motivate them. They even could lunch movements and provide leadership at local level. They may play major roles in empowering people and igniting immense desire for liberating themselves from injustices. However they have some limitations such as being small in size and confined to small locations. Hence, they have to operate with limited information and management skills. Therefore, the participation of activist NGOs and political parties could make big difference. They could provide much better leadership. When the political parties or the government accepts the importance of issues raised or they are forced under the strength of the movement, governments would formulate policies, laws and bylaw. It could introduce programs and implement. The challenges of proper implementation and sustenance of the institutionalized change should be addressed appropriately.
Although, the nature of movements that are lunched to establish social justice is the same but while launching such movements, the organizing approach may differ. The concerned people, class, section, community, caste or nationality may lunch these movements themselves. These movements may be of social or political nature. Some examples include the anti-untouchability movement of the Dalits and the movement for getting equal right over parental property of women. These are the issue based movements and such movements have great meaning in the larger movements that are launched for social justice. In the second category, there are the movements for larger issues in broader areas that need to correct socio-political anomalies by addressing the structural adjustments. Examples include the larger movement for establishing the “Autonomous State of Limbuwan” movement. The Jhapa movement of 1970-77 launched for emancipation of people in general and peasants in particular is another example. Although, primarily the Jhapa movement was a political movement but it had great social impact and this could be taken as one good example.
The difference between social action and movement is difficult to identify in terms of issues. Generally, social actions revolve around one or a few specific issues for comparatively a shorter period of time, whereas the movements include larger issues and take a longer period of time to come to any meaningful conclusion either in the form of success or failure or in-between. Both, social action and movement target unjust traditional practices, insensitive customs and cultures, restrictions on fundamental rights and regressive political systems, which obstruct the transformation of the society. Social justice focuses primarily on the fundamental societal transformation. This fact alone makes it clear that the political parties are the most important instrument. The political party, which is committed to bring substantial change in the society could work on making people aware and organize them. Such party or parties could also lead people’s spontaneous movements. Also, the people should march through the main road of movement to get away with their own unscientific beliefs and value systems and to acquire new perspectives and develop scientific outlook. The subjective attributes of social justice such as progressive values and beliefs, sense of collective and individual responsibility etc could not be imposed from outside. These characters should be formed through the experience they get from participating in the movements. Social justice could be attained by combining both – subjective and objective behaviors.
Many individuals and agencies, which are involved in social development over simplify social justice issues. This phenomenon creates illusionary approaches and helps to generate unrealistic understanding. In fact, Social justice is a very complex social behavior and could be attained in a long period of time through robust actions of the people themselves by passing through highly complicated processes. People’s organizations and political parties could lead such activities and processes. The list of people’s organizations may include community associations, activist NGOs and class organizations.
In summary, Social justice accepts and strives for affirmative action that could be discriminatory in favor of oppressed sections, nationalities, classes and marginalized sections of people. It is directly related to both equality and justice. The stages of initiatives to attain social justice start from creation of positive environment, social actions and movements and management and institutionalization of change. Professional development NGOs could provide support in creation of positive environment whereas community associations, activist NGOs, class organizations and political parties could launch social actions and movements and also could manage and institutionalize changes. The government should ensure implementation of the institutionalized changes and should help sustaining them.
- Conscientization and Enlightenment
During the decade of 1970, a reproductive health survey was carried out in Nepal. The findings highlighted the limited information on family planning. The researchers recommended the need of basic information on the subject. Another survey was conducted including the respondent who had said in the previous survey that they have no idea about family planning. The second survey findings showed that a much larger percentage of people have information on family planning. Also, it was discovered that the people did not understand the highly Sanskritized Nepali language used in the first survey. Moreover, sensitiveness of the subject and the environment during the interview also made big difference. From this illustration, it became amply clear that the ignorance of the outsiders was imposed on the villagers (Chambers 1983: 56). Also, this illustration revels that ignorance is not the absence of literacy or degree, but it is the absence of information, common sense and sensitivity.
Many Nepalese leaders and development professionals believe that education is to obtain certificate and the certificate equals consciousness. They believe that literacy is the start point of knowledge, consciousness and Conscientization. Therefore, they think that literacy classes and schools are essential for education. These activities are useful and positive; however, the fundamental proposition that these activities could educate the participants is wrong. Those who equate the technical skill of literacy with education are unaware and educated. Generally, illiterate persons know that they are illiterate, but many literate leaders and development professionals do not know that they are uneducated in thousands of subjects and issues. The problems start from this departure point and many wrong conclusions and remedies crop up.
Several people in the villages are educated. The peasants in agricultural activities, women in the management of household activities, the children in eco-friendly rural sports, the Ayurveda practitioners in herbal medicine and healing etc are highly educated in their respective areas of expertise. The level of their education could be just basic, that may be that of weak foundation and sometimes that may not work. However, it is equally applicable to the so-called educated persons. Only because they are illiterate; to believe that the people are foolish, ignorant, unaware and incapable is completely wrong. Similarly, it is not true that literacy offers heaven. The people have their own attitudes, knowledge and skills. And, the so-called educated persons also have their own attitudes, knowledge and skills. Therefore, the process of Conscientization does not start from zero. This is equally true to small children.
Some development professionals and government agencies also propagate that Conscientization starts from the literacy skills for the people between 15 and 35 years of age. Many people attend literacy classes and that is good. However, just teaching technical skills that makes reading and writing in the name of Paulo Freire, who championed the cause of human emancipation is somewhat strange. Conscientization could be classified into two categories depending on its outcome and prospects. The first is technical awareness and the second type is socio-political consciousness. Technical awareness includes information and understanding of opportunities, prospects related to growth, productive technical know-how and vocational as well as other technical skills. The socio-political Conscientization is related to much abstract factors such as the causes, reasons, processes that bring substantial social change and greater societal transformation. The process and movement of societal transformation also deal with and transform the values, belief systems and social attitudes.
Conscientization is a continuous process of knowledge building that had started centuries ago and will continue to centuries to come. It starts from information. Information is not simply collection of facts and statistics, but also the result of the processing of both of them (Shallie 1985: 151-53). The processing technique, capacity of the processing and the practice make it easier to reach to information. This whole act creates new knowledge and brings to new level of awareness. The source of information could be individuals, events, articles and experiences. The meaning of Conscientization is the capacity to understand the complexities and to enable someone to decide his or her values, thoughts, behaviors and practices independently. The highest stage of Conscientization is enlightenment. Enlightenment is a level of super-consciousness where it would be possible for a person to see long-term prospects, larger responsibilities, human dignity and liberty, social emancipation, etc in strategically broader context. Enlightenment enables them to understand critical processes that ensure their involvement in that great movement of radical change.
The analysis above states that technical awareness and socio-political consciousness start with information, moves to Conscientization and finally reaches to the highest level called enlightenment. This process of transformation could be generic and gradual or that could be special and revolutionary. This could have a visible or tangible outcome or that could be more abstract and intangible.
The Nepali development community uses the terms “Conscientization”, “change in attitude”, “attitude building” etc. more often. The user of these terms might have information about the meaning they carry, they might have conscious level of understanding or even they could have reached the level of enlightenment related to the meaning, their worth and outcome of these terms. Alternatively, they might have been using these terms ritualistically. It would be relevant to tell a Philippine story.
In one family, a newly-wed woman cooked meat in two pots and when it was ready she was mixing both items in one large bowl. From that bowl, every member of the family was served the mutton curry. She was continuing this practice, when meat was cooked. The husband of the woman observed this strange cooking system for some times and once asked to his wife why she was cooking in two different pots and mixing in one bowl. The wife replied that her mother was doing the same and she simply repeated. The husband went to talk to his mother-in-law. The mother-in-law replied that it was not she who started that practice but her mother. And, the man went to ask his grand-mother-in-law the reason behind this strange way of cooking meat. The grand old lady, the grand-mother-in-law of the man was surprised knowing what her daughter and grand-daughter were doing. She told that when she was young, her family was not that well off. So, she had no large pot to cook the meat for a large family. So, she was cooking in two pots. She was mixing the mutton curry in one bowl as she had that large bowl and the mixing was for preventing children from quarrelling on the issue of taste if served from different pots. But, her daughter and grand-daughter were rich enough and they had no need of doing that. The man, a conscientized person came back home and told the story to her wife. She was awakened. However, the scientific behavior of the grand old lady became a taboo for the coming generations.
Similarly, many development workers use lofty terms as part of their superstitious beliefs. This is no different than the “meat cooking technology” of the Philippine daughter and grand-daughter. Many among these development workers, be they from government agencies or the employees of NGOs, do not know that everybody is ignorant, with one deference that the ignorance is in different subjects (Will Rogers, in Chambers, 1983: 168).
In this context, where everyone could be ignorant but in different subjects, an overview to understand among the development communities who could give what from others and what could get from others would help to have some useful insights.
- Grassroots people and organizations (Community Based Organizations or CBOs):
Could give to others:
- Information on actual leaving conditions,
- Importance of fundamental human values,
- Experiences of struggle and enhanced understanding of issues,
- Traditional knowledge,
- Useful appropriate technologies, and
- Cultural riches and specialties.
Could get from others:
- New technologies and skills,
- New values that help to come out of fatalistic beliefs,
- New information and processing methodologies,
- Theoretical basis for socio-political change and organized endeavors.
Could give to others:
- Information, facts and statistics,
- Professional and management skills,
- Sharing conclusions of participatory research, and
- Conscientization (applicable only for activist NGOs).
Could get from others:
- Get help to find out limitations of NGOs,
- Democratic management and transparency in works and records,
- Emancipation from the habit of making tall claims and too high ambitions.
- Political Parties:
Could give to others:
- Awareness, organization and leadership,
- Development of new social values,
- Understanding of development potentials, and
- People’s empowerment, struggle and movements.
Could get from others:
- Popular grassroots politics, people friendly political lines,
- Departure from power centered politics to people centered politics, and
- Refraining from misleading people and creating “utopian optimism” among them.
- d) Government:
Could give to others:
- Development approaches and priorities, and
- Social security and services delivery mechanisms and infrastructures.
Could get from others:
- Accountable governance,
- Committed management of development endeavors, and
- Understanding of popular sentiments, expectations and needs.
The issues mentioned above are some of the examples. The purpose here is to make it clear that Conscientization is a multi-way process. The other two actors also have important role in Conscientization. These actors are the private sector and media.
In summary, what the Nepali NGOs propagate as Conscientization is something different. The political parties and governments also believe that this is the area of core responsibility of the NGOs. Hence, the NGOs boast that they are the wholesome deliverers of Conscientization. Therefore, it should be well understood that Conscientization has two primary components – technical and socio-political. It has three stages – information, Conscientization and enlightenment. Also, it has multiple deliverers such as political parties, civil societies, private sector, NGOs, media and people. This is a complex process and goes through complicated mechanism and takes longer time than usually anticipated. Over simplification of this most important strategic variable of transformation will derail the movement for radical socio-political change.
History is full of events and stories where large mass of people have come together to change the society. It is full of liberation movements and independence struggles. Now, the situation is no different. If somebody says that the people coming together in such a large mass are there due to crowd mentality, it is clear that that person has no understanding of people or that person is not ready to accept the truth. It is possible that there could be difference between the plans of the organizers of the movement and the dreams of people. However, there are always some dreams that make people participating in the movements.
Many civil society entities such as community organizations, local user groups, NGOs, class as well as professional organizations, media, etc. have contributed in the process of societal transformation. However, they could not bring the tempest of transformation; neither have they had the requisite strength for this stormy act of radical change. Sometimes, they feel that they are the champions of such movements for change. This is their innocent or cultivated illusion. Therefore, they need to understand their roles properly and should limit their tall-talking.
The private sector works for profit. This is just natural. However, they also contribute in social change and development. They offer services, though at a cost, provide employment and contribute for welfare activities. They have also played important roles in providing relief assistance during the time of natural disasters.
The government and the political parties have played vital roles in activities of social development. They not only provide services but also support the process of Conscientization, though most occasionally.
The analysis above makes it clear that there is the need of defining participation. Generally, participation has been immortalized as a medicine of all diseases. The term has been used meaninglessly in a very abstract way and also with no commitment attached with. The term has been glamorized. Therefore, defining participation has become an important task. Participation is the purposeful presence of any individual, group, section, organization or state in any specific subject, event or process. This could be in the form of involvement or collaboration or leadership. Participation brings into play four factors together – the actors, issues, value adding presence and purposes.
Paulo Freire has provided the context for defining participation. According to him, the world has been advancing through the process of reconstruction and transformation. In this process, both play important roles – the people and leaders as well as the teachers and students. In retrospect, it could be seen that the knowledge gets accumulated through their collective endeavors. In this way, the oppressed will participate in their liberation movements, not as fake presence but as committed involvement (Freire 1970: 51, 79-80).
There are different levels of value adding presence. This is about some sort of degree of contribution and roles certain individuals or groups play. In any activity or plan or movement, someone either becomes involved or collaborates or provides leadership. The level of participation depends on level of awareness, socio-political environment and the roles an individual or group is capable to play.
Participation has become a catch word today in all discussions and actions in the realm of social development. All of them who have heard the name of Robert Chambers and know a little about Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) by attending a few workshops have become the masters of the ritual called ‘participation’. However, they fail to understand that in absence of information and critical understanding of the issues, this would be a futile exercise. According to Judith Tedler the people assembled on the call of an NGO had become bewildered, when they were asked to find out solutions by analyzing their problems (in Vivian 1994: 184-85). Hence, it should be noted that participation has its direct relationship with awareness, environment and capabilities.
The study of social mobilization and participation in Nepal could be possible if researchers could reflect on the cultural practices and indigenous institutions. The mother of Nepalese indigenous local organization is the “Panchali” that was responsible in resolving local disputes. Moreover, it had to ensure observation of local festivals and construction and maintenance of local development infrastructures such as foot trails and irrigation channels. They also had major roles in communicating government decisions at local level. The “Panchalis” were the local instruments of social mobilization during Lichhivi period (250 – 750 AD). “Sithis” and “Guthis” followed “Panchalis”. The ethnic cultural organizations such as “Bheja” (Magars), Chumling (Limbus), “Nangkhur” (Tamangs), “Nogar” (Gurung) etc. were active in the locations predominantly resided by particular ethnic group and nationality (Tuladhar 1997: 31). Analyzing the roles played by these primitive indigenous organizations, it would be quite clear that they were instrumental in providing village or ethnic self-rule, constructing and maintaining village development infrastructures, continuing cultural traditions and practices as well as nationality’s identity and maintaining social unity and harmony at the times of their functional existence. These organizations played effective roles when the centralized state either was weak or the seat of power was far away, geographically. However, the ordinary people had no major say in these organizations as the feudal lords or their agents in the village had established control over the organizations. Only because these organizations were traditional and indigenous, it would be unscientific to project them as wonderful agencies, detaching them from the socio-economic reality they were in. The “village self-rule” of that time was the rule of landlords. Gradually, the centralized feudal state systems became powerful and these organizations become less effective. Ultimately, their roles were limited to cultural arenas particularly after 1768, when a process got acceleration to establish a unified and multi-cultural Nepalese state.
There is need of studying participation of people in the past by differentiating their role in techno-physical area and socio-political area. The modern day ‘development masters’ use to classify people’s role in techno-physical area as contribution. The physical and technical participation could be in the form of money, materials or labor. The people provide labor and this is great participation from them as that is only what they have to spare for the general good of larger community. May it be Lichhivi’s time (Panchali), or Ranas (Jhara system) or Panchayat (Gaon Pharka), the producers of the common social assets including facilities and services are the people and people alone, that too from lower strata of economic hierarchy. Hence, this should be taken as people’s committed participation.
The people’s participation in socio-political decisions was never effective as they were directly or indirectly barred from being present in this critical process. Only in exception in larger political movements, particularly in agitations, people participated. However, when the movement got some sort of conclusion, the same people were thrown into the dust bin.
Who are the people? There is the need of defining them. The word “people” in social development do not include the entire population. The word has contextual meaning depending on time and space. In contemporary Nepal, the term includes oppressed classes, groups, sections including Dalits and women. Therefore, the participation discussed above is primarily the participation of people as mentioned here. Similar to “people”, the word “participation” also has become the victim of ‘intellectual’ distortion. They define participation that includes the mix of Conscientization and empowerment. Conscientization and empowerment are not the branches of participation. However, all these three social processes and individual attainments influence one another and build networks at the higher level of capability spiral. It is absolutely necessary to understand the differences and inter-relations among these three transformational components of the society as well as that of individual.
The government of Nepal has set a long term goal in ninth Five Year Plan and that is poverty alleviation (RAYOAA 2055 v. s.: 62). The goal is important. Around this goal, the government, people and the NGOs could come together. Making their participation most meaningful, it would be necessary to elaborate the types of poverty, the people usually are in. There are three types of poverty – being unable to meet basic human needs, lack of minimum capabilities and social exclusion. However, the political leaders, bureaucrats and NGO professionals over simplify poverty and make it a slogan that suits their proposal to solicit funds.
The mass movements that brought some change in 1950 or in 1979 or in 1990 were participated in by a large number of people and, at least, partial success of such movements was due to their effective presence. This is most unfortunate that when they returned to their respective jobs, the elites either they were politicians, NGO professionals or bureaucrats grabbed the opportunities created by the movements and pocketed all benefits by any means, legal or illegal. The people did not get anything substantial to improve their living conditions.
The sad fact here is that there was no relation between investment and returns. People invested their time, energy, sweats, blood and sometimes their precious lives. However, in return, they got quite insignificant, if any, whereas the creamy layer pocketed the benefits without scarifying anything important and valuable. Hence, when there is no return, the participation becomes meaningless. Here appears the need of establishing relationship between participation and empowerment, so as to bring justice into play.
Empowerment is primarily a feeling that has been based on confidence and capability, which gets expression in dealing with certain situations and conditions. As it is feeling, it has been influenced by the context and intensity. Time and space also play critically important roles. The empowerment exercises differ with any other attempts originated from the contextual behavior in two areas. First, they may be spontaneous responses or planned acts; however, they are genuinely driven by the conscience and decision of the driver. Second, the driver may or may not be that much free to select a course from among many alternatives; however, when he or she selects that particular course, the course will have the power to proceed with full, total and unconditional involvement of the driver. R. Loboute defines empowerment as the capacity of someone to decide on his or her role in life and could make definition, analysis and actions (in Scambler 1993: 252).
Empowerment, whether it is related to consciousness or capacity or practice, deals with the following four factors:
- Access to information and understanding of possibilities and limitations.
- Capacity to analyzing facts, exploring possibilities and ability to select right course from available alternatives.
- Progressive outlook that enables to undertake meaningful efforts to explore and find out the laws of individual or social change.
- Courage as individual, group, class or organization to take responsibility to select future course.
These qualities may not be available simply by “production of services”, “literacy classes” and management of “people’s drinking water projects”, though these are helpful activities. These activities might provide environment for empowerment, but these activities alone may not empower people. Empowerment gets enriched through the process of participation of an individual or people in the movements that are launched against social and political inequalities, injustices, exploitations, oppressions and discriminations. Empowerment could be attained through participatory learning and actions in the process of radical social change and societal transformation. There will have no major impact of said empowerment in absence of organization or intellectual enrichment or prosperity. If all three factors are there, then that is the wholesome empowerment; however, if only is present, still it has the basic requirement for empowered behavior. Hence, discussion on education, organization and prosperity becomes quite necessary.
Empowerment Education: This is a journey, which begins with knowledge generation and helps to understand social, economic, political and scientific qualities of an individual or group or section or class or society. These qualities might have been inherited, acquired or adopted. This enhances capacities to learn from past actions, guides present activities and help finding out appropriate future course. Empowerment education though was there always in an abstract form accelerating the learning process in a spontaneous way, was consciously and overtly initiated by Paulo Frere since the decade of 1950s in South America. The education he taught was the education that promoted people’s liberation and built capacities to analyze the situation objectively and taught laws of change and the process to conduct the movements for social change. This way of educating people had power to change individual as well as social reality. After Frere’s days of active teaching, his devotees and disciples appeared all over the world. In this part of the world devotes dominated disciples.
A bilateral donor provided financial support to an INGO to spread literacy classes in 72 out of 75 districts in Nepal. Many Nepali intellectuals and traditional educationists jumped in this band wagon and started to project this exercise as eradication of ignorance. Afraid of this flood and misinterpretation of empowerment education, some Nepali Frere’s followers started to organize seminars to promote Frerian education. However, these employees of NGOs and INGOs who had no connection with people and had not participated in the people’s movement for social emancipation pretended that they were champions of empowerment education. These 5 star Frerians had been raising the banner in different names to ensure their own employment and to complete their researches. However, those who practice empowerment education do not see themselves as liberator of people; rather they commit themselves to fight for emancipation by being together with the oppressed (Frere 1970: 21).
In Nepal, in retrospection, it has been found that when the movement for social change had been accelerated, the empowerment education had got intensity and expansion. During the period between 1930 and 1950, when there was anti-Rana mass movement at its height, the issue of civil rights had come to the fore front. The awareness on civil rights had been heightened to a high level that created fertile ground for democratic movement. The political parties like Prachanda Gorkha, Praja Parishad, Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party had been involved in the activities that made people politically aware and strengthen their organizations. These parties launched political movements and people who participated in got excitement, ownership and a sense of power. In that initial phase, the parties had not tasted blood of people and were quite empathetic towards people.
Also, during the anti-Panchayat as well as anti-monarchy movement that started in 1960 and continued till 1990, people passed through a critical phase of empowerment education. The leaders and some cadres of Nepali Congress were in exile in India. A few were in jail. The leaders and cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal either were underground or they had hidden their identity as communist and had been active staying over-ground. Some of their leaders and cadres also were in jail. They were quite studious. Particularly, the communists had a reading and debating culture. They were argumentative and logical. In this process both the congress and communists developed critical understanding of the Nepali reality and share their new found wealth of knowledge with people. They launched several movements and the people also got exposed to political reality and gained knowledge through the process of learning by doing. The political cadres, particularly the communists used to analyze the successes and failures of the movements and they used that experience to launch another movement from a higher plain. This way, they passed through a process of gaining empowered education by acquiring critical knowledge.
However, after getting control over the state power, many leaders and cadres of that time utilized their critical knowledge, debating skill and information processing power to get access to ways and means of corruption, to camouflage their illegal financial deals and acquire wealth and capture opportunities. Although the people were more informed and organized, they had to stay on the sidelined, once again.
The empowerment education that advocates for radical social and political change is not possible in absence of the theory and practice of mass movements directed towards human emancipation. In this context, it is only natural that the political or semi political organizations could play vital roles. The class organizations, grassroots level people’s organizations and activist NGOs could support the process of societal transformation. However, the donors either they be multilateral or bilateral or INGOs could only provide effective service extension activities and technical skills such as vocational skills, literacy, etc. They should limit their expectations and should take themselves out from making tall claims such teaching empowerment education, bringing radical change in the society, empowering people, etc. These are too big for their narrow throat passages to swallow.
Prosperity: One of the major obstacles of empowerment is poverty. Fifty-nine percent people in Nepal had been living under poverty line in 1997 (UNDP 1998). Equitable economic development is a precondition of empowerment in countries like Nepal. In response to a field researcher’s question of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), a Zimbabwean woman said, “We do not have anything. We have no money, no equipments and no essential materials. Due to famine this year, we do not have food and drinking water and our cattle are dying. Now, we have just our hands with us. You are telling us to take care of ourselves. We are ready to work whole day. However, without any productive resources, our all efforts would be meaningless. (in Vivian 1994: 185). This illustration reveals the side of the story of the people. This is quite clear that empowerment has direct relationship with economic prosperity. Empowerment will be a hallow slogan where there is no prosperity, social justice and availability of basic services. Poverty blocks the process of empowerment. Basically, poverty is the state of centralization and improper utilization of power and resources. Therefore, sustainable prosperity could be attained by decentralizing power and resources (Korten 1995: 179). How the redistribution could be done? This depends on the existing political environment of a country. Major responsibilities lie on the political will of the system that governs the country and the society. Eighty-one percent Nepali people depend on agriculture (CBS 1998). A large majority of economically poor families live in rural areas. If agricultural land could be redistributed on the principle of “land to the tiller”, minimum wage system and constitutional right to work have been introduced; in that situation, the major issues that surround to rural impoverishment could be addressed. Hence, the movement to empower people in rural areas should take into account these critical issues. The class and communities should come forward to lead such movements that could bring tangible change in their lives.
Those who motivate people and support to raise 10 chicken birds and talk loud that they are empowering people are misleading the people. They should refrain from creating illusions. The activities of some improvement such a keeping a few cattle are not bad at all, but the creation of dreams not attainable through such means is not good at all. The NGOs or INGOs involved in distribution of such dreams should understand that without structural change in the society, no community will be empowered. This task of structural change needs social and political interventions and by participating in such process, particularly in the movement that addresses the change in dynamics of power structure and redistribution of resources, people could be empowered.
Organization: Organization is one of the most important factors for empowerment. Any organization includes three important elements – affiliation, interaction and unity. Organization is a mix of affiliation, interaction and unity for relatively a longer period of time. Organizations play different roles and may have different types of structures (Janvry at el 1995: 4). Their roles make them different and decide their nature accordingly, either as progressive or regressive. The organizations may be official or nonofficial, and legal or non legal or illegal. They could be political or social or militant. However, in the context of empowerment, the organizations stand for social justice, equality, equity, societal transformation and social change. These organizations help people to change for better. The empowerment process starts taking shape together with the movements that people participate in consciously and willingly. The organizations play very important roles as they expand the role of people (Ricker 995: 97), enhance their capacities and develop mechanisms to launch social movements by being together (Korten 1995: 97).
The picture of the organization in context of empowerment in Nepal is gloomy. The much appreciated organizations of the past like Sithis and Guthis were also the instruments of oppressors. Hence, the praise does not go together with their contributions, which hardly was positive.
After the establishment of Arya Samaj, the first generation empowerment organizations came into existence. The social and political organizations gradually started to make people socially and politically aware. They organized them and launched several glorious movements from 1930 to 1950. The political parties and activist social organizations inserted the idea of civil liberty, social dignity and political freedom among the masses and the people revolted against the tyrannical Rana regime. In the process of revolt, they learned many valuable lessons, which created a base for them for going forward in acquiring empowerment education by participating in actions and analyzing the outcomes.
The analysis above brings three factors – critical awareness and education, prosperity and activist organizations, together for empowerment. This is the expression of power, capacity and objectivity in actions. Also, this is a complex political and social process. It is naïve to oversimplify or make it a slogan. In practical term, empowerment could become a reality when the power relationship gets changed radically.
- Cultural Diversity and Partnership Building
Finding out differences between superstitions, unscientific traditional practices, religious beliefs, customs decreed by kings and feudal practices and the culture is complicated, difficult and confusing. Therefore, it is easy to talk about culture; however, it is quite difficult to define. It is equally difficult to understand its diversities and inclusivity so as to build solidarity and partnership among cultures. Hence, in this section, an attempt has been made to define culture, to understand cultural diversity and to examine the process that promotes partnership between and among cultures.
Culture has its primary root in experiences of several generations of a particular nationality. The fountain of culture originates from these experiences, which enriches collective consciousness that breeds collective behavior of a certain pattern, both individually and socially. This process continues through a mechanism of reconstruction and enrichment. The influences of practices and changed social environment create new ground for new customs, belief systems and new sets of collective thinking and behaviors. Through this process of renewal, regeneration, discovery and inclusions, the irrelevant ingredients disappear and relevant ones get entry. South Commission includes values, customs, norms, languages, social attitudes, belief systems and traditions within the broader meaning of culture (South Commission, 1990: 131). Moreover, culture also includes the philosophical aspect of social life.
In traditional societies like that in Nepal, culture has been understood as a mechanical mixture of the core elements as mentioned above and the rituals, feudal codes and middle age practices formulated, introduced and enforced by Brahmin priests, feudal lords including the kings and shamans in the villages with the sole purpose of strengthening the control over the society and maintaining supremacy of their caste, nationality and class and to ensure male domination. Hence, it should be noted here that there are two distinctively different types of components in the mixture. The first type is that which promotes scientific outlook and behaviors and advances social change by supporting progressive values and practices. The second type stands for status quo or even for regression.
The culture, in summary, is the way of life that enriches itself through the process of continued practices that transform consciousness and again that new consciousness translates itself into new practices and the process goes on. The cultural attributes of the old and new cultures are constantly in struggle and the individual or the society or the entire nationality or a nation see regression or transformation, when one set of cultural attributes win.
The culture has been continuing by adopting the changes made suitable to respective societies, communities, nations and classes. The fundamental thought processes and the behavioral response of human being have several similarities, which had been reflected as common themes in their practices. If a person dies, there are differences in final rites. However, there is similarity in paying final respect to the dead person. The methods may differ. Either they cremate, bury or offer the dead body to birds by making it into pieces assuming that the birds would carry the soul from that body to heave. The methods differ according to the places, environment and beliefs systems. When nations and nationalities came into existence, the differences become more and more stark.
The cultural streams that could be found in Nepal also are the successors of different cultural offshoots of different races. The Aryans had started the division of labor and created four Varnas (castes) to put the right person in right place. The people rich in rote power were put at a basket as Brahmin, fighters as Chhetris, occupational experts as Baishya and service deliverers as Sudra. In the beginning, no one was Brahmin or Sudra by birth. The quality of a person and the desire on him was the entry point to train him on that division of work. However, the clever ones changed the rule of the game in due course of time and it became a hierarchical social system attached to somebody’s birth. The son of a Brahmin was a Brahmin and the son of a Sudra was Sudra. The Brahmins were considered most pious and were considered at the top of the caste ladder, whereas Sudras were at the bottom. The Brahmin enjoyed every good thing in life and the Sudras were pushed as untouchables without any right and privileges other than to serve the higher caste and survive on their mercy. This way the Aryans, which means “tiller” got a new meaning and became “aristocrat” or “supreme” (Nehru 1946: 84).
The Aryans considered the other races such as Dravidians and Mongols inferior and discriminated against them. However, they had some interactions among them and they also mutually influenced each others.
The Aryan’s caste system got entry into Nepal together with the invading Lichchhavi kings. However, the Lichchhivis failed to conquer MongolKirat culture prevalent in this part. A two-way process of assimilation helped to develop a new composite culture. The rise of the Newar culture in Kathmandu valley was the product of this assimilation process.
Unity in Diversity
Nepal is a multicultural country. Many scholars have studied about cultural riches of Nepal. However, there are a few comparative studies regarding the relationships among cultures. The cultural nature of Nepali state is very much reflective of Bahunbad, which makes Nepal a Hindu theocratic state. The evidences that led to such conclusion include the constitutional provision that declares Nepal a Hindu kingdom. The Civil Criminal Code has been based on Hindu customs and values. It is strange that in a country where such a large number of indigenous people reside together with Buddhists and Muslims, the state has openly declared itself a Hindu state. There are a few disciples of Swami Prapannacharyas and his Hindu disciples of MangolKirat nationalities, but their number is too small to influence the overall socio-religious composition. Similarly, the state has made Khas dress – Daura-Suruwal for men and Sari-Cholo for women, national dresses. The Khas Kura, later known as Nepali has been made the official language. There are many examples of discrimination against non-Khas nationalities.
While analyzing cultural context in social development, it is not possible to limit itself within the boundaries of cultural characteristics of high castes, high classes and more particularly the Hindu-Aryan culture in Nepal. One should go beyond Khas culture to understand the larger picture.
There are different cultural streams in Nepal. The cultures of higher class and working class; the cultures of high caste and Dalits as well as indigenous people and the cultures of people of Aryan origin and non-Aryan origin have been in constant struggle against each other for centuries. In other words, the ruling elites of high caste Aryan male and large majority of common people of different class, caste, nationality or gender have been involved in a vigorous fight. The comparison of the lives of women of Khas and MangolKirats explains volumes in regard to cultural perceptions of two different nationalities. If a village girl of Khas family goes on her own on a function in a night without getting permission from her parent and returns the next morning; she would be, most probably, charged as characterless, irresponsible, disobedient and many more. If a MongolKirat girl does the same, the next morning she will also face the wrath of her mother and would be scolded. However, she will not be charged as being characterless, disobedient and irresponsible but for her failure to inform that she would not return in the night. The difference in perceptions makes the charges different and the lives of girls also are different. Hence, it is important to understand the cultural difference in perceptions and behaviors so as to understand the differences and possible attributes for adjustments and unity in diversity.
The culture of nationalities differs with the culture of a nation and the culture of nations differs with the culture of the world. The culture of a nationality could be more homogeneous, collectively adhered to in uniformity and practiced with zeal and enthusiasm. The culture of a nation, more particularly in a multicultural state has some common elements, but also there are several differences. The culture of the world is a herbarium of national cultures. Very few are similar and a lot more are different. The nationalities have not much problem to adhere to their cultural codes or practices. The world has also not much problems as it is a very loose network of national cultures. The problem, mostly, lies in a multicultural state.
In a multicultural state, it is necessary to analyze the commonalities and differences between and among cultures. The differences between the culture of a ruling nationality and other nationalities should be studied thoroughly to understand the issues and intensity of social harmony and contradictions. There are different languages, dress codes, customs, food preferences, festivities, etc. The ruling nationality’s culture dominates others’ and places itself as superior and imposes itself to state codes, practices and behaviors. The Nepali dress code during Panchayat era, the Daura-Suruwal and Kot was imposed on all to wear compulsorily if they were civil servants or Panchayati politicians. It was designed by the Khas ancestors for the cold climate. In the southern plain with above 46 degree Celsius temperature, wearing this Khas dress was not less than a punishment. The mass movement of 1990 liberated common civil servants and ordinary politicians from this punishment. After 1990, only the ministers and high level bureaucrats wear Daura-Suruwal-Kot to hide their body nourished with money accumulated through corrupt practices. The same result will come out if “national animal”, “national heroes”, are included in the discussion. The Nepali ‘history’ is the account of the luxury and cruelty of the Kings. If history restudied and rewritten based on evidences, several Khas heroes will disappear and new heroes from several oppressed nationalities may crop up.
With a few exceptions, there are five nationalities in Nepal – Khas, Madhesi, MangolKirat, Dalit and Newar. The Dalits have a common ancestry with Khas, However, the differences between them originated from the differences in their social psychology, social hierarchy and customs made them different nationalities. According to Baburam Acharya, the Newars in the valley came into existence in 15th century by the assimilation of several sects, groups, cultures and languages that were in existence the Kathmandu valley that time (in Bista 1991: 40). MangolKirats are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal and they were here since pre-historical time. Although, they seem divided now in several sub-nationalities such as Limbu, Rai, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Sherpas, etc, they have the same basic cultural foundation. The Madhesis included the people of Tarai origin together with Tharu and Dimal, who have the origin in MangolKirat. Only because there are several languages or because of several cultural branches, it could not be said that there are hundreds of nationalities in Nepal. Such small groups of people could be sub-nationalities or linguistic groups.
Unity in diversity starts from developing and understanding of all five cultures and respecting them as equal. Finding out the binding elements among them, acknowledging differences as normal and natural and promoting dialogue among cultures so as to build unity in diversity or creating a union of cultures are the tasks that need to strengthen a multicultural platform for cohabitation as harmoniously as possible. The state should play a role of harmonizer. Alternatively, if the state sides with a particular culture, the other cultures certainly resist and the animosity increases.
The Nepali language, originally known as Khas Kura, could be another good example. There are more than 100 languages in Nepal. Nepali was the mother language of 48.7% people in 1952 (Nepal Academy, 1960: 9,) whereas in 1991 it increased to 50.31% (CBS, 1998). The percentage of people, who speak Nepali as their mother tongue has increased by 1.61% in 40 years. The data on people using Nepali as medium of communication among different linguistic groups is not available. Some participatory rural appraisal exercises of a very small scale carried out in two villages in Madhes, one village in Kathmandu and one village in Bhojpur revealed that more than 84% people understand Nepali and more than 80% could speak. The results of these exercises could not be constructed as representative data as sample size was tiny, however, it is clear that a large majority of people in Nepal could understand and speak Nepali. The language has three basic functions – exchange of ideas, expression of culture and feeling of pride. If it is possible by speaking in Nepali, this should grasp and internalize the specialties of other languages. This could be done if Nepali gets out of Sanskrit dominion and Khas rule. Tara Nath Sharma and his friends had brought the issues of reform of Nepali grammar and also they advocated for indigenization of it. If the issues could be addressed properly, there is high chance of Nepali language getting acceptance as a common language of Nepal. When Nepali language becomes the medium of common communication, gradually other languages may take rest in history books by completing their historic role.
The international dimension of culture is not much different from the cultural processes of multicultural states. The same example of Nepali language as mentioned above could be applicable for English in international arena. People feel good or bad; English has been expanding its sphere of influence in all parts of the globe. This language has been progressing as the medium of exchange of ideas and communications. The southern provinces in India are in advantageous position in the human resource market in the world. One among the major reason is their better knowledge of English and mathematics. The people who oppose English would not be in a profitable position any more. One fine morning, Nepali language also may take rest in history books when all its functions will be taken over by English.
Here, Vikram Sambat or calandar could be another example. The Vikram calendar was started to celebrate the victory of an Indian King Vikramaditya. Now, it has become Nepal’s ‘National calendar’. It is strange. Moreover, Some Newa organizations in Kathmandu have been raising the banner of ‘Nepal Sambat’. Not only for future, but for today itself it is extremely important to accept the role of Gregorian calendar. Today, the computer applications run on Gregorian calendar and computer application run the lifeline of individuals and nations. In this globalized world, Gregorian calendar has been commonly used by a very large majority of states. Countries like China and India changed to Gregorian calendar from their indigenous calendar. However, the Nepali rulers are happy continuing the futureless Vikram calendar as one of the base of culture and are creating all sorts of difficulties for the citizens.
The leaders, both in culture and politics should have perspectives and vision. Narrow mindedness is always regressive. Also, throwing away the identity is entirely wrong. Therefore, in such issues there is not much place for emotions. One should examine the situation to find out alternative courses. Finally, there should be forward movement so as to create a bright future. If someone uses a telescope, which reaches to 2100 A.D., most likely, there would be no Nepali language in use, forget about Vikram Sambat. The same would be applicable to our several indigenous languages. Most probably, the major languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, French, German, etc also would be at last legs of their historic journey. Our cultural thinking, vision and horizon must be fertile from such prospects and dreams.
In summary, the analysis above refers to three conclusions in regard to culture. First, culture has nationality at its core, but is divided into several classes, genders and groups. Second, respecting cultural diversity and identity is the issue of paramount importance. However, the cultural practices that have no future should be discontinued in a way they disappear as normally and naturally as possible. Third, the cultural specialties at indigenous level, state level and international level might have commonalities and differences. The differences should be respected and should be observed differently by respective nationalities and nations and multicultural states.
Culture not only influences human behavior, but also it affects their fundamental understanding of social relationships. Hence, culture is one of the central elements of development strategy (South Commission 1992: 132). The writers, artists, poets, journalists, media and social workers could play vital role in enriching cultural behaviors and discovering areas of harmonious multicultural cohabitation. The Nepali cultural professionals and activists could immensely contribute to reject Bahunbadi culture based on fatalistic beliefs and values, to promote multiculturalism and to defeat Khas domination in the society and state.
- Social Services
Effectively managed social services are important components in any types of development processes. Social services got recognition as essential ingredients of welfare state. Michael Hill has classified personal care services, education, health services, employment and housing as social services (Hill, 114-201). In Nepal, health services, education, employment and housing are considered as social services.
Health: The health situation in Nepal lacks understanding, infrastructure, resources and skills. Health facilities are generally absent in rural areas. The general health conditions of the people could be summarized in the following tables.
|Description||Situation 1997||Government’s Goal 2003||Government’s goal 2018|
|Infant Mortality Rate||74.7||61.5||34.4|
|Under 5 Mortality Rate||118||102.3||62.5|
|Gross Reproduction Rate (per woman)||4.58||4.2||3.05|
|Maternal Mortality Rate (per 10000 live births)||47.5||40||25|
|Contraceptives Users (%)||30.1||36.6||58.2|
|Delivery by Trained Attendant||31.5||50||95|
|Infants less than 2.5 KG at birth||–||23||12|
|Crude Death Rate (per 1000)||11.5||9.6||6|
|Crude Birth Rate (Per 1000)||35.4||33.1||26.6|
Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 609.
The statistics presented above reflect the sorry situation of the health condition of the people. These are government statistics and the general belief is that government manufactures data so as to make picture rosy. If a rosy picture is this, it could be easily imagined how gloomy the picture could be in reality. Hence, it is not desirable, but absolutely necessary to take corrective measures immediately. These corrective measures may include but not limited to increasing local control over management of primary health care services, improving and expanding service delivery mechanism, building new infrastructure, introducing technologies to enhance capacities and emphasizing on research and development linking these initiatives to local, national as well as scientific needs.
Education: Similarly, education is another critical social service area that needs immediate attention. The situation in this area is not much different than that in health sector. The table below provides information on some critical variables.
|Description||Situation 1997||Government’s Goal 2003||Government’s Goal 2018|
|Enrolment Rate at Primary Level (%)||69.4||90||100|
|Enrolment Rate at Lower Secondary Level (%)||50.3||55||85|
|Enrolment Rate Secondary Level (%)||34.7||45||75|
Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 563, 570, 572, 573.
Social private sector has also been involved in education services for a long time. Recently, private sector also has stepped in. The local control over public educational institutions has been weakened after the introduction of the America-guided and funded new education system. Now, there is a need of reactivating and strengthening local control. The formal education system is based on rote learning. This should be changed and interactive learning from early childhood should be implemented. Higher educational institutions have become production centers for unmarketable graduates. Such situation should be changed radically.
Employment: Employment is the most important base for self reliance. Employment has direct role in reducing poverty and also it plays vital role in socialization and integration. The employment scenario in Nepal could be reflected by the data presented in the table presented below.
|Description||Situation 1997||Government’s Goal 2003||Government’s Goal 2018|
|Total labor Force||11.669 million||–||–|
|Population Below Poverty Line (%)||42||31||10|
|Employment in Agriculture of Total Employed (%)||81||–||–|
|Employment in Industries, Mines, Electricity and Construction of Total Employed (%)||5||–||–|
|Employment in Trade. Tourism, Transport, Finance, Realty Sector Social Services of Total Employed (%)||14||–||–|
Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 66, 188, 195, 197.
One of the critical factors contributing to poverty is semi-employment or under employment or disguised employment. Eighty-one percent of active workforce depends upon agriculture for employment Due to unavailability of water and fertile land, this activity is highly seasonal. Hence, disguised employment becomes equal to semi-employment. Redistribution of land with the policy of “land to the tillers”, increasing labor productivity through education and training, improving management capacity of private and public sector, diversifying manufacturing base, introducing commercial farming and improvement in quality of hospitality businesses are the most important areas for Nepal that could generate employment, rationalize resource ownerships, increase labor productivity and open options for prosperity.
Housing and Settlement Development: Housing as well as human settlement development is one among the priorities as in Nepal a house has an extended meaning that includes shelter, insurance, collateral, social prestige and many more. Planned settlement development could help arranging services cost effectively.
It has been estimated that there are 2.7 million houses, whereas in 1981, there were 3.287 million households. Sixty-one percent of the population has no access to comparatively safe drinking water and 16% of the population has no sanitation facility including toilet (CBS, 1998: 5, RAYOAA, 2055 V.S.: 238, 643).
There is no possibility of extending services to the far away settlements inhabited by 4-5 households; rather it is possible if they are in a reasonably large settlement. It has been estimated that now in Nepal there are more than 64000 human settlements spread over all geographical regions including high altitude areas, remote hills and valleys reachable in two-three days from another cluster. It is possible that in coming 50 years, these settlements could come down to less than 8000. In that case, services could be made available. If the thin population moves to compact settlements, those vacated areas could be once again covered by greeneries. The horticultural farms could come into existence in large scale. If there is good network of transport including roads, ropeways and airports, it is possible that the hills and mountains could bring greenery, serenity and prosperity back. A farmer could have his or her breakfast at his home in Dang in south-western Nepal, could take a cable car to reach to Jumla in north-west, harvest apples and several verities of flowers, puts the harvest in a sack, sends the sacks to Dang through ropeway and comes back home in the evening to his home at Dang using the cable car. This sounds dream now but when it happens, it happens wonderfully. In that case, several cargo planes may be waiting at Nepalgunj airport to transport the fruits and flowers to several South Asian, East Asian, European, American and African destinations.
The recent trend of migration from rural areas to towns would make this possibility a reality. The government and nongovernment agencies see these trends as negative mobility, whereas that is a positive trend. They have to formulate policies that are helpful to support people’s desire for better future. Planned settlement developments, appropriate farm activities for vacated areas and building physical infrastructure should be the policy responses of the government.
In summary, the functional mechanisms and deliverables in regard to social services in Nepal could be best described as unacceptable. The services are either absent or not well managed. People are in desperate need of such services and government responses are none to inadequate. To march to 21st century, there must be better responses both in sensibility and service delivery.
Goals, Approaches and Methods
The most important goal of any social development initiative is to support, accelerate and achieve radical social change that brings equity, equality and justice into full play ensuring their sustenance and continuing to achieve even qualitatively better standards and higher levels. To attain such goal or any other related sub-goals, there are four approaches, which complement each other and align all efforts and energy to one direction. They are as mentioned below.
- Social actions and movements
- Pressure generation, advocacy and positive intervention
- Participation and support
- Community development
- Social Actions and Movements
The social and political organization in Nepal had generally adopted this approach from 1936 to 1959. The examples include the activities of “Arya Samaj”, “Gorkha League”, “Nepali Nagarik Adhikar Samiti” and “Praja Parishad”. The Bara peasant movement of 1953 is one among the shining example of this approach. During that feudal period, the landlords used to call agriculture workers by adding a derogatory term “Re” before calling their names in a distorted form. For example, instead of addressing a certain person as “Mr. Lakhan” or simply “Lakhan”; they used to address him as “Re Lakhania”. The Bara chapter of the peasant association opposed such name calling and asked the landlord to address the peasants and agriculture laborers as “Mr. Lakhan” or “Lakhan ji” in local language. In that feudal social setting, this was a very radical demand and the feudal lords rejected it out right. The peasants of Bara and Rautahat district started protest programs including demonstrations and strikes. This became a fight between the landlords and peasants. The law enforcement authority of the state sided with the landlords and the movement progressed as an anti-government mass movement. The expansion and intensity of the movement was unprecedented. The peasant leaders were arrested, there was blood shed, but finally the movement compelled the landlords to stop using derogatory terms. The landlords signed an agreement accepting that from that date they will address the peasants and agriculture workers respectfully (Jyapu 2046: 19-21). The same year, at Ratmata village in Pyuthan district, the local youths organized under the banner of “Progressive Study Group” had been running a training camp for 150 youths. During their field visit at Narikot village, local peasants shared with the youths the injustices at the hands of the landlords they were suffering from. The youths had some exchanges with the landlords. The landlords were angry against them. The local peasants also got agitated and there was full scale fight between the peasants and the landlords. The fight continued for a week. Finally, the landlords accepted that there was injustice against the peasants and they signed a commitment paper that they will not repeat their mistakes in future. They agreed all other demands too put forward by the peasants (Singh 2046: 9-17).
All movements aiming for emancipation of oppressed classes, nationalities and genders (including the third gender) mobilize people around certain issues. One of the fine examples of such movement is the Chipko movement of north India. In 1921 people of Kumao in the northern state of Uttarakhanda, started a movement to save their forests. To protect their forests from commercial exploitations, the people used protest demonstrations, sit-ins, road blocks, mass arrests, and hunger strikes etc as methods of their struggle. When the contractors used to come too cut down the trees, the local people used to go to the forest and stand with the targeted tree hugging it. This was called “Chipko” meaning hug a tree as tightly as possible. This made the work of contactors impossible. Moreover, the famous environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna covered a foot journey of 4000 kilometers from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in far south in India. During the later years, the “Save Narmada movement”, which had the goal to save Narmada River and protect people residing alongside the river in the Namada valley by opposing the large dam project, also used the Chipko tactics and methods (Gadgil et al 1994: 120-22). These examples make it clear that there are several methods used in social actions and movements.
The above mentioned methods have been in use in Nepal too. One of the most effective movement is the student movement, which has been continuously raising the issues of improvement in education system, quality of teaching and teaching materials as well as curriculum and also change in political system that should upheld democracy, civil liberty, justice and equality. The students played vital roles in organizing mass movements in 1947, 1965, 1979 and 1990. Also, the political parties failed in mobilizing the peasantry, encouraged the youthful students to participate in political movements sometimes at the cost of their study. This act sidelined the need of availing quality education to them.
The method of social action and movement has been utilized for struggles as mentioned below.
- Land redistribution movements targeting “Land to the tiller” and ensuring everyone gets basic minimum wage.
- The ideological and political movements that oppose Bahunbad based on fatalism and promote progressive and egalitarian social values.
- Student’s movements for scientific and affordable education.
- Worker’s movements for reasonable wage, better quality work place and skill improvement.
- Women’s movements for equality and justice.
- Dalit’s movements launched for abolition of cruelty including untouchability and against exclusion, injustices and oppression.
- Nationality’s emancipation struggles launched by Dalits, MangolKirats and Madhesis against the domination of Khas.
Local voluntary organizations including CBOs, class organizations, activist NGOs and political parties could take this approach to attain the social development goals.
- Participation and support
Now, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) has become a ritual for ‘development professionals’. This has become a means for their development. The autocratic managers of the social development agencies have been acting as champions of PRA. The well-known villains, who are notorious for corrupt practices have been projecting themselves as the ‘development catalysts’. PRA has become, somehow, meaningless but quite popular same as Nepalese democracy. It has become wonderful earning means for a good number of high flying intellectuals. The ‘development pundits’ have misused the term for their self-interest.
PRA is a process that empowers people. This is a combination of dialogue, analysis, interaction and reflections. This process could be bilateral or multilateral. This is a serious exercise, which adds value. Also, PRA provides understanding, skills and tools to transform the collective energy into consciousness, organization and practice. However, in Nepal the PRA people talk about and teach is one sided, superficial and value neutral. The common people are spending energy and time in exercises that have no relevance to the reality they are in and the process of change they need to accelerate. The NGOs, researchers and trainers should go through a process of introspection and should objectively evaluate the roles they are playing in relation to social change and PRA.
When the project is under design phase, the people have nominal roles. The NGOs, INGOs or government or semi-government agencies prepare project proposal to get funding from the donors. By the time it gets approved, the goals and objectives are already set, timelines have been determined and the implementation mechanisms finalized. After completing these steps, the ‘development workers’ go to the people asking for their participation. The involvement of people, if any, starts from that point. That involvement too is primarily becomes the involvement of the elites of the villages as they are vocal and smell well.
PRA is not limited to a few meetings neither it is problem identifying technique. This is a continuous process that ensures mutual exchange of ideas, information, and skills and collaboratively develops techniques. The meetings, maps drawn on the ground, dialogues, rankings etc all are flowers, but the PRA is a colorful garland made from all the flowers as mentioned here. Continuity of attempts and exercises and heightened level of mutual understanding that result into empowered feeling and enhanced capacities are the outputs of value adding PRA.
The NGOs and INGOs demand transparency from people whereas they keep secret what they should be sharing with them. They block information, particularly about the financial details of the projects. The people equally deserve to know what level of participation the NGOs and INGOs are ready for. The NGOs and INGOs, hence, should make clear their limitations and level of participation whether it be resources or skills. This proposition refers to mutually agreed upon common rules for all. Hence, the practice of NGOs and INGOs keeping the information related to them under a wet rug and demanding transparency from the side of people that too in the name of ‘people’s participation’ is naturally immoral. Needing all these improvements and overcoming their limitations, the NGOs and INGOs, bilateral and multilateral agencies and social development programs of the government have been utilizing this approach for the following issues.
- Agricultural productivity, diversifications and expansion of market and services
- Skill development and market management
- Project planning, monitoring and evaluation
- Empowerment of community organizations
- Environmental protection at local level
- Evaluation of donor agencies in social services market, etc.
In the context of Nepal, community development is primarily an approach directed to rural development. In urban areas the communities are mainly fragmented already and the large majority of people live in rural areas. Due to these two important reasons, community development is basically understood as rural development in Nepal. The World Bank has defined rural development as a strategy aiming at improving economic and social condition of people in rural areas (in Harriss 1991: 15). Hence, Nepal had introduced several Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs) accepting the World Bank as a specialist of poverty alleviation. Not only large projects funded by bilateral or multilateral donors, but also hundreds of small projects initiated and implemented by INGOs flooded rural Nepal.
Nepal had seen its first foreign assistance project in 1951 when United States Aid provided funds to implement some projects under Tribhuvan Rural Development Program. The IRDP was introduced in 1975 with Swiss development cooperation. However, after 47 years of foreign assistance and after 27 years of IRDP experimentation, the above poverty line population (59% in 1995 UNDP, 1998 and 42% in 1997 RAYOAA 2055) shows that the strategy referred to by the World Bank to alleviate poverty has failed. This strategy neither recognizes the structural issues of the rural societies nor does it accept the prevailing socio-economic contradictions in the society. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to accept this strategy with its limitations.
The strategy and also the approach of community development could be beneficial in creating physical and social infrastructure, in introducing, improving and expanding services and increasing production by using news kills and technologies. Certainly, such activities will help laying foundation for awareness raising and empowerment. However, these activities alone may not empower people or may not produce any change in the power relationships in the society.
The most travelled road of the bilateral and multi lateral agencies and INGOs and NGOS in Nepal is community development. The government development programs also utilize this approach. They may mix some element of participation. However, their catch phrases such as “women’s empowerment”, “social transformation of marginalized people” have nothing to do with what the phrases tell. Ultimately, they are the programs targeted to avail accesses to services. These programs may not bring any fundamental change in power relationships in the society.
The community development approach has been in use for the following issues.
- Building physical infrastructure
- Social services delivery such as education, health, gainful skills and expansions and improvement of human settlements
- Institutional socio-environmental initiatives and management
- Enhancing productivity, etc.
The four approaches mentioned above are useful for the issues as mentioned above. Neither of them is absolutely good or absolutely bad. It depends upon the issues. Also, it is related to the traveler. The approach useful for a political party may not be useful for an INGO. Under the influence of David Korten, some of the service contract agencies talk about societal transformation and bringing change in social structure in the society and that is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to mislead people.
Social development is a multi-dimensional, bio-polar, complex quantitative and qualitative change of society that is both a process and the result par excellence. Every entity has a role to make the difference according to their specific character and nature. Even some actors will play negatively. The confrontation between the negative and positive forces and their opposing actions make the emergence of a new society. The intensity and depth of the struggle sets the impetus of the change process in all areas encompassing values, ethics, attitudes, new relationships and new structural arrangements and the society gets transformed.
Institutional Roles and Relationships
Many institutions are actively involved in the social development arena. Each of them might have different roles and areas of contributions, but their presence is visible. The institutions and agencies that have influenced the social change could be classified in following categories.
- Civil Society organizations
- International non-governmental organizations and development assistance programs
- Private sector
- Political parties
By defining the roles of the institutions and agencies involved not only helps understanding their roles clearly but also makes their contribution focused and meaningful. Hence, it would be quite useful to discuss their roles and relationships.
- Civil Society Organizations
Civil society is a single whole of people’s organizations and movements of diverse nature. It includes local community organizations, NGOs, class organizations, welfare initiatives, professional entities, media and many other non-profits at local level. They get the drive by their own perceptions, collective will, inherent commonalities expressed in their aims and their desire to commit their time, resources and energy for common good. They may differ in size, scope of work, goals, capacities and specialized or general areas of contributions. Civil society is popular politics. However, it is different politics than the power centric nature of general politics. It is not value neutral, non-political or anti-political endeavor. It opposes non-politicization, non-humanization and consumerism in the society (Shrestha 1997: 52). Deference in roles, deference in objectives and difference in their priorities make the civil society organizations different. They could be classified in the following categories.
- Local voluntary community organizations
- Other organizations
Local Voluntary Community Organizations
The voluntary sector is quite complex. The large organizations with thousands of dollar budget to small local community initiatives fall within this sector (Etherington 1996: 7). The modern voluntary sector has been active to bring positive change in the conditions of poor, marginalized and suppressed. Hence, in final analysis, redistribution of power, wealth and position is its goal (Bhatta 1995: 77). In conversational voluntary sector, there are two categories of initiatives. First, the local efforts, organizations and initiatives with their aim to self-help or getting nominal outside help for their betterment, are the core of this sector. Second, they are NGOs that would be discussed after a while.
The local voluntary organizations generally come into existence to manage religious, cultural and social functions and to initiate, expand or maintain local facilities and services. The main strengths of these organizations include being small, transparent and locally controlled. Starting from traditional music band to several types of user groups, they have a large spread and they could be organized, semi-organized or loosely connected issue-based networks. These organizations or networks could be very effective in mobilizing human resources and locally available physical resources. Basically, they are four types of such organizations, which revolve around their work.
- Cultural entities such as Bheja, Guthi, Chumlung, Rodhi, Mankakhala etc.
- Cooperatives such as Dhukuti, Sajha, saving and credit groups etc.
- Religious organizations such as Mahayan Bouddha Samaj, Anjuman Islam, Jusuit society, Shree Pashupati Dharmik Samajik Sangh etc.
- Development organizations such as user groups, consumer groups, service delivery agencies, community associations etc.
Among the initiatives and organizations mentioned above, the large majority is that of development organizations. A large majority of local organizations are called NGOs. Their number was around 15000 in 1999 (RAYOAA V.S. 2053: 699). They are called NGOs because they got registered as NGOs in absence of any laws that governs local community organizations. Moreover, there is no clarity to defining CBOs and NGOs separately. Also, due to desire of prestige, the CBOs call themselves “NGOs”. As a result, many CBOs have become members of NGO Federation Nepal.
The forward movement of social development largely depends on local efforts and initiatives. These efforts could be seen in making services and facilities available and launching movements for social transformation. The local organizations are people’s organizations that have local memberships and leaders need to become accountable to people directly and also generate resources in a self-sustaining way (Korten 1995: 187).
The role the local organizations have played in the social development arena in Nepal is very important. However, after the inception of large scale integrated rural development projects, these organizations were either off-rooted or were converted to parts of the IRDPs’ project implementation mechanisms such as local service contractors, construction committees, user groups etc. These acts influenced negatively to local self-help mechanisms and displaced them. The same situation could be seen in other acts of international development assistant programs including that of INGOs. The foreign funded projects did not bring new morning to Nepali villages rather they destroyed the survival system and coping mechanism of local people. Moreover, the dependency syndrome started taking its shape in rural areas at the cost of self-confidence among local people.
The popular organizations at local levels, either they have been continuing for a long time or are they newly established, have to be cautious to preserve their independence and self-help initiatives. Also, they are at a crossroad from where they have to start a new journey championing the cause of radical social change.
The grassroots level local organizations have to identify their prospects and limitations and have to design roadmaps for their relatively long-term journey. Moreover, they have to mobilize and manage resources. They also have to add facilities or services in a way that is compatible to social justice needs by addressing the emancipation aspirations of oppressed people, class, nationalities (MangolKirat, Madhesi, and Dalit) and gender. Otherwise, the fruits of development, if any, will be harvested by the upper class Khas males. The upper class elite will collect benefits in the name of local development. The cultural activists should play major roles in expositing Khas chauvinism and also could help demystifying fatalism.
There is a big question mark regarding capacity building of such a large number of local community organizations, that too spread all over the country even having diverse nature and areas of work. To accomplish this task, there is a great need of reaching out to them directly at grassroots level. Also, there should be concrete efforts to enhance their participation to strengthen local democracy, independence and nationalities’ emancipation movements. To build capacities and capabilities of these organizations, the foundation, the people at grassroots should have critical awareness, education and skills. Moreover, it should be appreciated that the fountain of strengths includes understanding of organized community behaviors, enriching self-help attitudes and creating favorable economic base. The activist NGOs, class organizations, political parties etc could play active and effective roles in such activities and programs.
The voluntary organizations of the past, particularly of British origin are rechristened as NGOs today. The term “non-government” is the direct translation of the Greek word “anarchist”, meaning “without” or “none”. The British Parliamentary Act of 1601 has mentioned about welfare issues in its preamble. Lord Macnaghten classified “welfare” in four categories such as relief from poverty, educational development, religious uplift and other community welfare measures (Winfield 1996: 128). The UN charter also has made provision for affiliation to NGOs as mentioned in Article 71.
NGOs are the organizations of social workers, community development professionals, welfare workers, human rights workers, environmental activists, who work for others. They could have one or more objectives. They generally get their legal status by registering under acts that are legislated to govern organized social activities. The other common feature is that they are non-profits. These organizations govern themselves according to their own constitutions and are generally accountable to their members. They are primarily managed by their boards or trustees. Generally, the boards of the NGOs are that of four types – family board, invisible board, staff board and professional’s board (Tondon 1996: 42-46). The family boards, staff board and professional’s boards are clear to understand whereas the invisible board needs brief explaining. In the invisible boards, there could be some family members or friends of the main person who runs the NGO. These sleeping board members have no real interest in the functioning of the NGO.
The World Bank, bilateral aid agencies and UN system agencies have projected NGOs as their lovely children. Moreover, they propagate that these NGOs are magic-bullets, whereas there are no proof to justify this proposition (Vivian 1994: 167-191, Eduard et al 1996:5). However, the questions are being raised, today, that how they got legitimacy to represent the people? Is their registration with the state is their basis for representing the people? Are they elected? Or, do they have obtained through mass acceptance resulted by the mass movements they lunched? It is neither moral nor ethical to claim representation simply because they are registered entities. Therefore, in this category there could be service contract agencies (Korten 1995: 185). Many NGOs have been established with the motive of employment or self-employment. These NGOs could play effective roles in delivering services in areas of health, education, building small community facilities and technical skills development at a reasonable service charge. However, they could not bring any desired change in power relationships. Hence, they should refrain from clamming that they are championing the causes of empowerment, Conscientization, sustainable development, social justice or equality. They are the intermediaries between donors and beneficiaries and they should do their jobs as effectively as possible by taking reasonable amount of service charge. It would be most ethical if they become transparent and admit that they are service contract agencies.
Although a large percentage of NGOs in Nepal belong to the nature and character as mentioned in previous paragraphs, there are some NGOs, which have participated in the mass movements for change or even elected by their general members. However, as their membership may be too limited to a few hundred making the election a value-neutral exercise. There are exceptions of such exercises also. The Nepal Red Cross Society, Nepal Jaycees etc are functioning in a more democratic way including electing the executives periodically by ensuring fairness and competition. Many other activists NGOs derive their strengths from the movements they participated. The Chipko and Narbada movements in India, Maiti Nepal’s anti-trafficking movements are a few examples that have their credibility established by their movements and public image.
The history of Nepali non-government initiatives is full of meaningful contributions. The ancient traditional community organizations such as Guthi, Sithi, Chumlung, Nangkhur, Nogar etc played significant roles in organizing traditional communities and managing services, facilities and recreational needs. However, the open environment that was there after the mass movement of 1990 provided opportunity to NGOs to establish and expand. Hence, the number of NGOs mushroomed. The inefficiency and corruption in governmental mechanism and frustrations among people provided fertile ground for the intellectuals who were waiting for opportune moment for self-employment and NGOs made them available such outlets. The donors also stepped in with cash and opportunities. The clever politicians doubled themselves as NGO professionals and put colorful hats on their heads. All these factors contributed immensely in increasing the number of NGOs. Hence, religion, culture, welfare, social justice etc did not remain the source of inspiration of NGOs rather self-employment, service contract and imitation became the driving factors. A large majority among the newly emerged NGOs is neither mass membership organizations nor are they voluntary in nature. They are managed by a few individuals under the signboard of executive boards, executive committees etc. Another interesting feature in Nepal is that the small businesses, such as consultancy services and service delivery enterprises registered under Company Act are all seen in the queue of NGOs.
The NGOs in Nepal are not transparent particularly in areas of funding support. There is mismatch between what they preach and what they practice. Accountability is generally absent in their glossary when it has to do something with them. They are propagandist in nature and always ready to criticize others. Their leadership style is unique where a leader is an institution on him or her. However, they have strengths too. They have become instrumental in expansion of facilities and have contributed in improving self-employment. A few activist NGOs have also taken the issue of child labor, girls trafficking, women’s rights etc. Also, the human resources involved with NGOs have enhanced their skills and attained better capacities.
Many Nepali NGOs, which are delivering better services, would make positive contribution, if they stay on the course and stop pretending that they are people’s organizations striving for equality, freedom and justice. A few Nepali activist NGOs may raise issues of societal change, social justice and equity and also could contribute in that process as long as they remain free from donor domination, petty interests and slogan mongering. Moreover, they should be transparent, open to mass membership and democratic in their own formation and continuation.
Many analysts believe that many Nepali NGOs compete for profit with private sector in a liberal economic system (Dixit, 2055: 4). The “non-profit” tag they have attached with is simply a cosmetic. Moreover, many NGOs are expert in criticizing others and they fail to manage their own house (Edwards et al, 195: 126-27). The Nepali NGOs should reflect on these observations and should learn lessons. The donors’ darlings, which have left their ground, will become history sooner than later. The agencies like NGO Federation, Nepal could help NGOs to be responsive to criticism, to re-examining their actions realistically and to rectifying them periodically.
The class organizations, professional organizations and media could play vital roles in social development. The workers of Biratnagar Jute Mills had staged the very first industrial strike in Nepal (Gupta 1964: 21). Several political parties organized the workers and the trade union movement started in Nepal. The peasants also followed the foot-steps of the workers and peasant associations came into existence. They tried their level best to address peasant’s problems and organized several movements. The same happened among students and women. However, over politicization of class, professional and community organization derailed them from their novel goals and degenerated many among them as instruments to gather people from their respective constituencies around a certain political party of their affiliation. Despite such serious limitations, the class, professional and community organizations played major roles in mobilizing people. The examples of such endeavors include the peasant movement of Bara and Parsa district (1954-56), the workers’ movement (1981) and the student movement (1965-1990). They played major roles in empowering people in general and their respective classes and sections in particular.
The professional organizations also have played significant roles in movements for socio-political transformation. During the 1990 movement, the contribution of “Professional Solidarity Group”, a loose network of professional organizations such as Nepal Medical Association, Nepal Engineer’s Association, Nepal University Teachers’ Associations etc was historical. The solidarity extended by them provided energy to the democracy movement, which succeeded to overthrow a one party rule imposed by the autocratic monarchy in Nepal.
Media has become an essential part of modern society. The print and electronic media inform people and support creating a critical mass. Their investigation could prove lethal to corrupts and criminals. Educating people and helping them to organize around issues are most important tasks media could make difference. However, lack of professionalism further compounded by inclination towards sensationalizing every issue and events have eroded the credibility of Nepali mass media. Moreover, ideological preferences, glamour and financial considerations have injured their image.
- International non-governmental organizations and development assistance programs
In the globalized world today, many countries have the presence of multilateral as well as bilateral agencies and INGOs. They are involved in the development of socio-economic sectors and in building and expanding facilities including the physical infrastructure. They support the host country government or local NGOs in implementing programs and projects.
Multilateral and Bilateral Agencies
Immediately after the conclusion of the Second World War, the victorious nations in Europe and America called a conference in Bratton Woods in USA in 1945 aiming to reconstruct Europe as it was devastated by the war. The conference decided to establish two financial institutions – International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (popularly known as the World Bank). The conference was followed by introduction of Marshall Plan to check the expansion of communism in France and Italy, stabilize West Germany and free Britain from the attraction of socialist policies. The Point IV program introduced by US President Truman gave continuation to these objectives as mentioned earlier (Griffin 1996: 34). Attracted by the influence America was expanding, the Soviet Union also jumped in the fray. Gradually, France reached out to French speaking African countries and Britain jumped to its former colonies called Commonwealth of Nations. Gradually, the powerful nations including comparatively powerful neighbors of Nepal started to provide assistance to influence the policies of weaker nations including the weaker neighbors. The assistance China and India provided to Nepal is one such example.
Foreign assistance includes both – grant and loan. Such loan could have been provided by commercial banks. The World Bank has said that 45 countries in 1995 have serious problems due to heavy burden of loans (Griffin 1996: 64). Many African countries seen loaded by heavy loan during early 1970s and the World Bank and IMF started to provide some project support from 1974. When Turkey appeared at the verge of loan default, The World Bank devised a “policy based lending” in 1980 and provided assistance to Turkey attaching policy related conditions. Following this act, the World Bank made a firm policy of “structural adjustment loan”, where several policy related conditions were attached. The major conditions include high growth rate, balance of payment in medium term and for this adjusting structural framework of economy. This was non-project loan (World Bank 1982). This module had put emphasis on the following policies.
- Emphasis on export
- Expansion of private sector
- Minimizing state control on economic activities
- Control over inflation and deficit budget
- Decontrol labour market
(Reed 1996: 355)
- Cut down government investment in social sector
- Privatize government corporations and social services.
The policy based lending program got rapid expansion. The program had covered 75 countries in 1975. The World Bank had stated that the program would address poverty and sustainability of development projects (World Bank, 1992). Women and environment also were included in this program. The World Bank started compelling the loan recipient countries to accept provisions that part of the loan amount would be channeled through NGOs.
International Non-Government Organizations
The INGOs are non-government organizations in their countries of origin and are part of civil society there. However, they are the donor agencies in their program countries. These agencies enter into contracts with the host country government and operate within the mandate of such contract. There could be difference between INGOs and bilateral or multilateral donors in areas of procedures, processes, priorities and management styles. However, these differences do not change their basic similarity in their nature as donors in program countries.
An NGO if operates in three or more countries has been considered as INGO. Their number was 176 in 1909. The number continuously increased and there were 28100 INGOs in 1993. The number of INGOs, which had the consultative status with the United Nations, was 1300 in 1994 (Runner 1997: 152). The INGOs have been operating under serious confusions. These confusions have both philosophical and moral dimensions. The trustees of the INGOs are in developed countries and many among them have programs in developing countries. They are responsible to their respective boards. They profess that they are committed to bring changes in the living conditions of the program participants, be it physical, moral or intellectual. They advocate for fundamental change in the society and many among them want to democratize development. However, this needs political education and interventions. The irony for them is that they could not participate in politics (Eduwards et al 1995: 224). Hence, irrespective of what they say, they are simply part of development assistance program. In real functional world, they are managed by bureaucracy in their program countries and operate within the parameter of hundreds of corporate administrative and financial rules and systems.
The INGOs would face difficulties in future. There are four major reasons that could make them worrying. First, they may not implement programs directly in their program countries in future. They should operate within partnership arrangements with NGOs. Second, the economic and financial crisis in the developed world would create situation highly unfavorable for them for fund raising. Third, the questions have also been raised that whom they represent and to whom they are accountable to? Fourth, how they will raise fund if they will move to policy advocacy? (Zadek 1995: 193-94) These factors will affect on their size, operational modalities, nature and relationships.
The United Mission to Nepal, which had started its welfare services in 1950 is the first INGO in Nepal. There were 81 INGOs operating in Nepal in 1994 (RAAYOAA, V.S. 2055: 700). The INGOs which are generally rich in intellectual capabilities, artistic expressions, production of bundles of beautifully prepared documents sound majestic. However, they sound majestic not due to their contributions in making the lives deferent of vulnerable people and marginalized communities. Their characteristics include generalizing the successes in establishing a few kitchen gardens successfully and telling mouth-watering stories. However, despite such serious limitations, the INGOs have brought some foreign fund to Nepal, have created some employment and have expanded some services and build some facilities. These are their contributions. The contribution of INGOs was 5.5% of the total foreign grant assistance in 1992 (UNDP 1993 11-13).
The INGOs in Nepal have followed the following modalities in implementing their programs.
- Supporting the government,
- Working together or in partnership with the NGOs,
- Working in collaboration with local community based organization, clubs, etc.
Supporting the Government
The modality is in full conformity with the modalities of bilateral and multilateral assistance agencies. The major risk of this modality is corruption. The government agencies in the developing world are not only highly corrupt; they could cover corruption by using the power of their positions. The positive factor of this modality is that the mass psychology will not be diverted towards the praise of foreign powers.
Working together or in partnership with the NGOs
The INGOs practicing such modality have adopted three types of operational systems. They include partnership, project contract and single activity grants. The future among these three modalities is that of partnership. The government has stated its policy on that direction as the National Planning Commission in its policy has stated that the INGOs will be asked to help develop capacities of NGOs and the new projects and programs would be implemented through Nepali NGOs (RAYOAA, 2055 V.S.: 701).
Working in collaboration with local community based organization, clubs, etc.
This modality makes INGOs more visible at the grassroots, but the cost of operation goes up. The limitations of this modality include making people more dependent on foreign assistance particularly attitudinally and raise more questions on the sustainability aspect of the program.
The INGOs involved in community development should add value by working with NGOs to expand or start building facilities that could bring some quality addition rather than talking using hallow phrases such as talking about social justice, equality, empowerment etc. However, these phrases have relevance to INGOs involved in policy advocacies in human rights, child rights or environment. The source of fund for many INGOs is bilateral or multilateral agencies. A few exceptions include INGOs which have religious affiliation like UMN and child sponsorships such as PLAN International. The source of their fund is primarily small private donations. The governmental source of funding will gradually dry up as the financial muscle of the developed west has been gradually decreasing.
- Private Sector
The general tendency is that the private sector most often is kept out of social development. In international arena too it has not been discussed thoroughly. The welfare economics has become a major agenda today and it is only natural to review the roles played by the private sector, be it positive or negative. There are two types of wings of private sector. The first and larger one is profit oriented businesses including industries and commerce. The second and smaller is non-profit social sector.
Industry and Commerce
Traditionally, the wealthy industrialists and traders in Nepal are called “social workers”. These wealthy managers of market and players of risk and profits are involved in exploiting ordinary people. From social justice perspective, they belong to non-progressive forces. Hence, their relationship with people and the forces of change is highly complicated. It has been influenced by the contradictory streams of opposition and cooperation. The basis of the roles of profit ventures is primarily economic. Their contributions in the form of teaching skills and offering donations have also some long-term gains for them. With these limitations recorded, they could play the following roles in social development.
- Assistance in relief and rehabilitation during emergencies
- Donations for activities of micro-infrastructure building
- Management of social service activities
- Expanding opportunities for employment
- Sponsoring development of a particular area, event or institution
Nepal has a long history of donations. These donations include cash, materials, land, building, manpower etc. Many names of schools and colleges are strangely long and not so user friendly. Many among these names bear the names of donors who donated either land or even constructed buildings of a particular school or college. The eye hospitals of Biratnagar and Lahan are some examples of such donation. Many institutions working for education, health and welfare services have benefitted from donations.
The private sector has mobilized resources to establish and run social service activities. These activities include hundreds of private boarding schools and colleges and private hospitals. The quality of education and health care offered by private sector has been considered better than the quality of public sector. Hence, the crowd of rich has become their consumers. Now, previously over-crowded public sector institutions are catering services to low income group of service receivers.
The private sector has contributed most meaningfully in providing employment for many. This is not only an economic issue; rather it has an important relation with social development. It offers employees opportunities to arrange means of livelihood and enables them to invest in their future including education of children. However, in regard to its relations with labor forces; injustices and exploitations are rampant. Hence, there is a great need of effective trade union movement. However, either co-opted or overly politicized trade unions in Nepal have not been doing justice to their constituency. It is unfortunate that many trade unions are not trade unions. They have to reinvent themselves so as to maximize the role of private sector for social development and to minimize injustices to workers.
Many private sector institutions sponsor. Their sponsorship is effective in several activities. The example could be their sponsorship of sports events or institutions like football clubs. The sponsorship could be more effective if they are encouraged to sponsor specific activities. Example could include that the Eastern Sugar Mills takes responsibility to making one of the village development committees in Sunsari fully literate. The industry and commerce sector should be sensitive to its social responsibilities and the state should encourage them to go to this direction.
The associations like Nepalese Federation of Industries and Commerce could play vital role in sensitizing and activating businesses to be more socially responsible. Also, inter-sector communication and dialogue between social sector and private sector could help to understand each other better. From now on, not only the feeling of welfare but also partnership building should be the basis for private sector contribution in social development.
Special Social Services Trusts or Social Private Sector
In Dingla, Bhojpur district, a Sanskrit medium school was established in 1875 A.D. The school was second oldest school in Nepal. The first school, Durbar school, was established in 1854 A. D. in Kathmandu.
Sadananda Adhikari, popularly known as Balaguru, had established the Sanskrit school in Bhojpur by collecting donations in the form of grain and land. He had established a trust to manage the donations and to run the school utilizing the donations properly. Dingla had become a center of learning that time due to that school and some sort of preliminary educational awakening movement had taken shape in the entire far-east of Nepal. Several schools were established there. However, the New Education Plan, an American baby, initiated in 1972 A.D. took over the management of schools from local community and established government control. This plan eroded local participation and management control of parents and communities. Now, again, in higher secondary education and also in secondary education, the government has adopted the policy that increases local control.
Social Trusts are not the NGOs, rather they are special service institutions and they provide social services in subsidized rates. These institutions are managed by trustees collectively. They function as private sector but are highly socially responsible. Profit is not their primary motive, though they run on service charges collected from the end users of the services they offer. They try to get support from government or nongovernment entities too. However, they will not die in absence of such assistance.
There is no clear common legal frame in Nepal to govern the institutions run as social private sector. Hence, they are managing their legal registration under five different Acts. First, they are registered as NGOs under Societies Act. Examples include the micro-credit agencies like “Nirdhan’, “Swabalamban Vikash Kendra”, etc. Second, they are getting legal recognition under Company Act. Example is the small technology institute like Centre for Rural Technology. Third, getting registration as NGO and running a separate special service institution under it. Example is Public Health Concern Trust and the Kathmandu Model Hospital under it. Fourth, they are getting recognition from the government ministries and departments including Technical and Vocational Training Council, Higher Education Council, etc. Examples are several higher secondary schools and vocational training centers. And, fifth, they are getting legal recognition under special acts such as Kathmandu University.
The social private sector has been playing important roles in managing services particularly in areas of education, health and vocational skills. It has created employment opportunities too. Their management style and nature is also quite interesting subject to study. They are neither after profit nor dependant on donations. It is primarily striving for cost recovery to sustain and sustain by recovering cost. This could be done by continuous innovation and constructive endeavors.
- Political Parties
Political parties play major roles in social development. As the parties represent a particular class as an institution, they stand for social, political, economic and cultural interests of that class. In their form, the parties have three covers – “party of all people”, “united front of several classes” and “party of a certain class or that of classes of similar nature and interests”. Among them, parties of the third type are more open to their class base and more clearly put forward their socio- political and economic agenda. In their election manifestoes, the parties claim being anything and many things to lure voters; however these claims and offers are simply propaganda pieces for mass consumption. Anyway, these manifestos are the product of fertile imaginations and are interesting to read.
Generally, the parties either govern or stay in opposition or fight being in non-legal or illegal entities. However, they could play vital roles and could influence the course of social development irrespective of their own place. They could effectively influence in setting social agenda and determining priorities. Although, they might have several shortcomings, they are the source of energy and sacrifices. Similarly, they are the parents of hundreds of corruptions and thousands of wrongdoings. Hence, it would be a futile exercise to find out the flow and destination of social development being politically neutral.
The organized political activities started in Nepal since 1931 after the emergence of “Prachanda Gorkha”. The aim of this party was to overthrow the Rana regime and to establish democratic system of governance. However, the party did not tell anything about type and nature of democracy. The founding members of the party were arrested and imprisoned immediately after establishing the party and no work could be carried out. Another party called “Praja Parishad” came into existence in 1935. Its aim was similar to that of Prachanda Gorkha. The Rana government arrested its more than 500 members and supporters in 1940. Due to this mass arrest, Praja Parishad remained inactive till first historic change of 1950. One of the major political parties in Nepal, the Nepali Congress was established in 1950 by the merger of two smaller parties. Among these two, the first was “Nepali Rastriya Congress” established in 1947 and the second was “Nepali Prajatantra Congress” established in 1948. The Communist Party of Nepal came into existence in 1949. Both, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal were anti-Rana parties and were talking vaguely about democracy or socialism or democratic socialism or communism. These four political parties established prior to 1950 had no clarity on agenda and priorities regarding social development, polity, politics, culture and economic policies. Somehow, this was normal in that time.
Considering their size and special interests, “Nepal Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad” (NRGP) and “Nepal Tarai Congress” (NTC) were important parties formed after 1950. The NTC and NRGP were established in 1951 and 1952 respectively. The Rana-led NRGP was the political incarnation of Khukuri Dal, a militant group formed by Ranas in 1950 that had opposed the Delhi Agreement. The NTC was very clear on its agenda. Its agenda included self-rule for Tarai, recognition of Hindi as one of the national languages, more jobs for the people of Tarai origin the government services, etc. The NTC was talking specifically, whereas the Congress, Communist and the NRGP were revolving around some generic politico-ideological terms such as democracy, socialism, communism, nationalism, etc. Between 1950 and 1958, parties were in consolidation phase organizationally and in learning phase politically and ideologically. Hence, they were like talking clubs and talked much about the form of government, rights and duties of citizens, constitution drafting and organizing election. Talking advantage of their immaturity and antagonism among the parties, the notorious king, Mahendra declared a new constitution for Nepal. He had drafted that constitution himself. On the basis of the provisions of that new constitution, he organized election. The Nepali Congress party won the election and formed the government. However, disrespecting his own constitution, Mahendra overthrew the elected government in 1960 and imposed his tyrannical rule giving it a new name – Panchayat. The parties organized popular movements and armed struggles against the monarchy though they were considered outlaw and were underground from 1960 to 1990.
The Nepali Congress initiated armed struggle in 1962 and continued it till 1975, breaking in betweens and keeping it a low intensity affair. Otherwise, it was involved in mass political awareness and periodic popular movements. The Nepal Communist Party launched several popular movements including that of 1954-56 peasants struggles in Jhapa, Bara, Rautahat and Pyuthan and Jhapa armed rebellion of 1972-75 and workers’ movement of 1981. Both parties actively mobilized students and kept themselves alive primarily as students’ protest movement since 1965. Nepal Tarai Congress became “Nepal Sadbhavana Munch” and “Nepal Sadbhavana Party” afterward. It was simply breathing till 1990. The Nepal Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad merged with Panchayat as ideology and with Nepali Congress as organization. It’s all important leaders joined Nepali Congress. After 1990, NRGP was revived as Rastriya Prajatantra Party. The political parties become overly involved in the tasks of changing political structures and hence, gave no attention to social development including the societal transformation through mass awakening and empowerment.
After the defeat of Panchayat in 1990, the parties introduced parliamentary system and joined a race for reaching to the seat of power. They forgot their past glory and constructive imaginations by being blind by the hunger of power. Hence, the issues of radical socio-economic change were put on back burners.
One of the major reasons for failure of the political parties in addressing the social development issues is their lack of understanding and unwillingness to educate them. Rather than being factual, responsible and proactive, they talk in a nonsense way and talk superficially. For example, the Nepal-India Treaty of 1950 could be a fine case. Due to this treaty, thousands of Nepali workers have been in India and some thousand Indian workers work in Nepal. Although, the statistics and estimates contradict in regard to number of Nepalese in India and Indians in Nepal, all accept that the number of Nepalese worker in India is quite large (CSB, 2049-50: 41-42, Nepal Academy, 1960:9, Mishra, 2045 & Jha, 1995: 45). The political parties particularly the communist parties who claim as representatives of the working class raise slogan for abrogation of the Nepal-India treaty of 1950. Are they proposing for introduction of passport and visa system? Or, it is for implementation of work permit? Or, is it something else? Nobody knows. Even, they do not know. Pseudo-nationalism is what they are after. If the treaty would be abrogated how they will manage the work force that returns after the abrogation? Nobody knows. The leaders are completely ignorant, ill prepared and irresponsible. They do not understand the issue. So, they do not work for finding out solutions. This example is neither to support the treaty nor to oppose the same. It is to expose the mentality, horizon, vision, sincerity and stand of the political leaders, that too from the left. The political parties, if continue as an irresponsible lot always, the future looks dark including that of the social change.
Social development is one among the sector that should be the subject of concern, responsibility and commitment of the government. It could not be transferred as the responsibility of local organizations or NGOs or private sector. In modern times, the government has three functions: good governance, redistribution of income and help to produce products and services (Self, 1993: 38). The policies of the government influence redistribution and productions. Primarily, it depends upon the nature of state that determines the quality of products and services.
The role of state was expanded after the October Revolution in Soviet Union in 1917. The state accepted the function of creating environment for social change and for that purpose providing social services to its citizens. As an impact of such functions, non-socialist states also adopted many social services functions as part of the larger role of welfare state. Both, leftist and rightist governments were influenced by this concept after 1945. However, the leftists were more inclined to initiate and implement welfare programs. The role of state increased continuously in areas of education, health, employment and social security (Self, 113-116).
The Soviet Union started to become weak. The cost of welfare services increased many fold. It became difficult for many states to continue social services. In the mean time a new conservative government of Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain and started to cut down social services programs. The Ronald Regan government of United States advocated strongly in favor of privatization of production of products and services and liberalization of economy. The policies of the World Bank and International Monitory Fund got heavily influenced by the American policy. Hence, they devised a program based on privatization and liberalization and named it as “Structural Adjustment Program.” They forced many developing nations to downsize their social services programs. The Structural Adjustment Program impacted highly negatively on social development. As a result, the public opinion has been favorably increasing in developing countries that opposes Structural Adjustment Program and supports states’ role in social services. Example of such increased public pressure could be seen in the Noble Prize awarded to Amartya Sen for economics in 1998.
In Nepal, the role of government in social sector till 1950 was negative. The rulers like Jayasthiti Malla and Jung Bahadur Rana played criminally anti-social roles by dividing society into caste hierarchy and bringing punishment systems not based on crimes committed but according to the caste of the criminals. Before 1950, only a few initiatives were taken for social progress. These include establishing Durbar school, Bir hospital, Tri-Chandra College, publication of a newspaper called “Gorkhapatra” and abolition of slavery and Sati system.
Some efforts on local development had been made after 1950. The first local development institute, Tribhuvan Gram Vikash Centre, was established in 1952. The country was divided into 150 blocks. The first Five Year Plan was implemented in 1956. During this plan period, the budget allocation had included 5.7% in education, 8.15 in health and 8.3% in rural development. The Village Panchayat Act was introduced in 1957. This act, though in limited way, started the process of decentralization of authority at local level.
The first elected government of the Nepali Congress party promised to end feudal land tenure system and to introduce free and compulsory primary education within a reasonable time (Nepal Academy, 1960: 54). These proposals could have a better impact in social development had they been implemented. However, the government did not implement these proposals. One of the major reasons for this failure was that the elected government was thrown out of power due to a coup d’état. Although, not implemented, these proposals questioned, first time, the privileges of the feudal-landlords and gave some food for thought on the need of educating children.
During the period of the Panchayati Raj rather the king’s autocratic rule from 1960 to 1990, the government implemented several integrated rural development projects. Till 1990, nine integrated rural development projects were implemented in 28 districts. The total investment was 14.65 billion Nepali Rupees (Chand, 1991: 62). However, a large part of this money was spent paying salaries, allowances and other benefits to foreign experts and advisors. The administrative expenses were so high of these projects that the government had a policy of not making the expenses public (Chand, 1991: 63). These projects were implemented primarily from bilateral and multilateral foreign aid.
A large part of the money returned back to foreign countries in the form of expatriate expert expenses. The grant was grant anyway, but the loan is still there and that has reached to more than 70 billion Rupees in 1997. Part of the loan is the result of this failed adventure of integrated rural development projects.
Also, in 1964, land reform program was introduced. It had four tasks. One, determine the maximum ceiling of land for families and redistribution of land seized that was above the maximum ceiling. Two, provide tenancy right to the tenants. Three, determine the agriculture loan and free the peasant if he or she had already paid by calculating with 10% annual rate of interest. (In large number of cases the peasants were declared loan-free as the prevailing rate of interest was 36% and by deducting 26% each year, there was no principal amount left to pay.) And, four, start a compulsory saving program. There was no “land to the tiller” issue as it was not the objective of the government. Therefore, the land reform failed to address the core issue of land redistribution. However, it fragmented land holdings, created a psychological foundation for future land reform initiatives, made several peasants free from the oppressive practices of money lenders and provided tenancy rights to several tillers. These activities, certainly, offered some hope for incremental social change.
After the change of 1990, a new development strategy was adopted. The core component of this strategy was to provide fund to local village development committees or municipalities for their development. As a strategy, this was a good initiative. However, the political parties made mockery of this strategy by assembling a crowd of their cadres as technical support personnel to grab the fund. They captured the fund for the benefit of their cadres and supporters and institutionalized corruption at local levels too.
The government included education, health services, drinking water, housing, local development, population, environment, women and social welfare, child development, sports, culture, drug control, etc in social services. It also allocated 33.3% of total budget for these services. The allocation for education and health was 13.8% in the First Five Year Plan, whereas it was 15.2% in the Ninth Five Year Plan (Nepal Academy, 1960: 75, RAYOAA, V. S. 2055: 107). Although, it sounds positive, but it failed to bring desired result due to corruption, weakness in execution of program and irresponsible practices that are common in government system. Hence, the outcomes of the increase in the budgetary provisions were discouraging in tangible terms.
Alleviating poverty is the goal of the government for the Ninth Five year Plan. This could very much address several social development issues. However, the government had failed to work out details and there were no concrete proposals to ensure societal transformation. In absence of the programs that ensure just land distribution, rationalization of wages, end of Khasa supremacy, gender equity and social services targeted to make the quality of lives better for the law income group of people; there would no major leap forward. The government should work on these issues seriously and should make tangible difference.
Relationships among Agencies
The agencies discussed above have to enter into complex relationship while dealing between and among them. These relationships, broadly, could be categorized in six categories – cooperation, collaboration, partnership, competition, opposition and resistance.
The agencies cooperate among each other in formulating policies. Also, they could work together in mobilizing people for better cause. The government could provide environment, legal or otherwise, where other agencies could work in a better environment.
The civil society organizations and the political parties could become more imaginative and could offer new perspectives. The government and the private sector generally refrain from taking risks for social processes that leads to greater change. The NGOs and INGOs prefer to travel through riskless path. Hence, the imaginations of the civil society organizations and political parties, the presence of and resource mobilization from the government and the technical as well as managerial skills and resources from INGOs, bilateral as well as multilateral donors could bring synergy into play and could maximize the impact. Collaboration is important to bring change in the larger society. However, in Nepal that has been seldom happening.
The relationship between and among agencies of diverse make, nature and responsibilities could be best governed by partnership that too where there is acceptance of coexistence. This is the best form of relationship. This relationship provides platforms where agencies could maintain their identity and independence and also could come close to contribute together. If the government is accountable to people and is to provide friendly environment; if the political parties are committed to progress, prosperity, equity and justice; if the socially responsible private sector and civil society organizations are ready to perform respectable roles in changing the society and if form partnership and work together, there is much better chance that the society gets transformed rapidly.
Competition comes into play due to limited resources, lust for glory, desire for social and political positioning, and difference on ideologies and values. Not always completion contributes negatively. It may help improve efficiency, effectiveness and quality. Competition gives birth to debate, dialogue and sometimes divisions. Hence, it inserts life. And, the relationship, which has its base on competition, should be seen as cure of many soft weaknesses that exists in many agencies.
Sometimes, agencies behave against each other as opposition. This is particularly seen in the relationships among political parties. Also, it could be seen among civil society organizations, though to a lesser extent. If the parties or other agencies oppose each other’s initiative and offer better alternative, it could be healthy relationship and that could lead to better understanding and performance. However, in Nepal it has been happening around power and positions. This will lead to severe limitations and would affect the development of the society and the country.
The last but not the least, which governs the relationship is resistance. Any agency, in final analysis, represents certain class, sections, communities, nationalities and so on. Their interests clash and they develop as adversaries or even enemies. Hence, they resist the ides, values, plan, or anything initiated by the other side. The contradiction between them may result in disassociation. However, it is not always counterproductive to resist. If a force creates obstruction for society to move forward, resistance is absolutely necessary.
The agencies involved in social development may not confine to only one type of relationship. There could be a good mix. However, their behaviors are governed by particular type of relationships, though temporarily or depending upon issues.
In the Nepali context, the relations among different agencies have been flooded with distrust and negative criticism. The NGOs have taken lead in attacking local institutions and government initiatives. Many NGOs are just busy in snatching glory from others. They pretend that they are the torch bearers. The NGO professionals who are busy running an NGO with sole intention of creating employment for them are busy projecting them as agents of radical social change. The NGOs are neither bad nor good as such. However, their pretentions are not helping anybody.
The government was busy in controlling and regulating social institutions and NGOs till the people’s movement of 1990, after that it has become not only sympathetic, but also started to become dependent on NGOs. The foreign donors have become the virtual rulers, NGOs are acting as their agents and the government has become a nonentity in areas related to social development. Private sector and civil society organization are staying separately in no communication zones.
Now, the situation demands that their relationships should improve and they have to contribute meaningfully for social development. The six types of relationships as discussed above may help them to understand their roles and may help to enter into productive relationships.
Vision, Agenda and Policy Themes
Social development is an integral part of overall development. Hence, the pace and destination of social development depend on political, economic and environmental development. Keeping these critical factors into consideration, in this chapter, an analysis of priorities agenda and policy themes would be presented together with the proposed vision statement of new Nepal (in 2050).
Vision – A New Nepal in 2050
Nepal has become the glorious landmass in South Asia, where barring a few exceptions, all women and men are healthy, enlightened and prospering. Here, creation and distribution of prosperity has been embedded with social justice. The political behaviors, economic practices and social values of people encompass freedom and justice, mutual respect and collective happiness. The people discover and optimize everybody’s potentials. The urban as well as rural settlements are clean and serene. The greenery has pervaded mountains, hills and plains with all its beauty and delight.
Agenda and Policy Themes
To translate the vision into reality, appropriate agenda, right priorities and suitable policy themes are the most important factors. Hence, here, a set of agenda and policy themes concerning social development are proposed.
- Positive political and social environment
- Creation of prosperity and introduction of just distribution system
- Physical infrastructure
- Harmonious nature-human relationship
- Reorganization of social relationships
Positive political and social environment
It would be wrong to see limited role of state in social development as that is the case in the western countries. Countries like Nepal, which are just coming out of feudal social structures and governance, the state has to play the roles as economic agent, manager of public wellbeing and guarantor of social services (Reed 1996: 35-37). In developing countries, the state has to lead the process of development by formulating appropriate policies, creating positive environment and developing strategic plans. Some NGOs spread pretentions that social development is their business. This propaganda does not reflect the reality. They could be one small partner but they are not the leaders. The development that has its dependence on foreign assistance promotes indifference, attitudinal servitude and decreased capacity in leading a nation to prosperity. Arranging foreign resources is justifiable, but that should be done by creating appropriate environment for foreign investment. India and China may be good investors for Nepal.
Until now, the political debate in Nepal has been cantering around the system of governance, whereas the debate should be revolving around the quality and nature of governance. The difference in nature and quality of governance and the progressive nature of the state make difference in ensuring social justice, equity, social security and rationalization of production relationship. If there is no change in status quo in these areas, there would no forward movement in the society irrespective of the system of governance. Hence, the state could play vitally important role in the process of societal transformation. And, the socially responsible private sector and civil societies, who are crystal clear in their roles, could help most meaningfully in this process of radical change that would be taking place in the society. The creation of positive and social environment is possible, when there is clarity in setting priorities, formulating progressive policies and translating them into practice. Some of the important agenda and policy themes are proposed below.
- Land tenure system based on “land to the tiller”.
- Secondary education, functional literacy and primary health care accepted as part of constitutionally granted fundamental rights of the citizens.
- Clearly defined constitutional provision that guarantees “right to work” for a minimum of 180 days per year for every adult citizens who ask for execution of this right.
- State overtly committed to justice and equality and opposes exploitation and injustices.
- Unconditional support and encouragement to scientific researches, explorations and encouragement to risk taking culture.
There would be fierce struggle between advocates of status quo and progressives in taking decisions, formulating policies and implanting them into programs. The contradictions and resolutions of issues through appropriate conflict resolution mechanisms will ensure the nature of change in the society. If and when the progressive forces prevail, the society would move forward.
Creation of prosperity and introduction of just distribution system
Prosperity is not static; it is rather a dynamic phenomenon. This is the return of investment of physical, mental and intellectual inputs and synergy generated by the combination of resources, technology and skills. Many people misunderstand prosperity as opposite to equality. In fact, when talking about equality, the picture of millions of people surviving under difficult circumstances and hostile environment emerge. Therefore, often it has been misunderstood as a sum of attempts that redistributes poverty. When there are repeated failures in creating prosperity, in this context, this understanding might be correct. However, that may not happen for a long time.
Equality was the major talking point in Eastern Europe for about half a century. However, Eastern Europe failed, both in attaining equality and creating prosperity. More or less, the same happened in East Asian countries, which were idealized by the West as centre of prosperity. They also failed in both fronts – prosperity and equality.
It is needless to stand against equality while talking about prosperity and vice versa. Equality, by nature, is not obstructive of progress and prosperity. Hence, in the production of goods and services, there must not be hundreds of hurdles. These hurdles would discourage initiatives and entrepreneurships. Similarly, there is a greater need of addressing the issue of controlling and centralizing wealth in limited hands. By continuous adjustment of wages, change in tax codes and change in investment of state on social sector the state may act to redistribute wealth and prosperity continuously so as to bring some degree of equality. Inequality would continue as there is no possibility of absolute equality. However, there should be attempts to minimize the prosperity gap. There must not be the situation where a large majority is unable to meet its basic needs and a small minority has been enjoying the pleasure of heavenly abode.
Considering creation of prosperity and attaining relative equality, some agenda and policy themes are proposed below.
- Introducing and continuously rationalizing the range of minimum wages in agriculture, industry and service sector.
- Limiting the role of state in business enterprises except in some strategically important areas.
- Encouragement to private sector.
- Promoting long-term foreign investment and transfer of technologies.
- Focussed development of hydro-power, horticulture and tourism.
- Expansion of social services sector.
The government should formulate policies and provide legal as well as operational framework and the private sector should play important role in creating prosperity. The civil society organizations could facilitate and monitor the arrangements and ensure fairness in implementing policies and programs. The NGOs could play limited roles. Even the most talked about NGO in the world in the sector of prosperity creation, the famous Gramin Bank of Bangladesh had reached a few thousands families in 1995 (Runner 1997: 148). This is the figure of families getting access to a small amount of credit. However, in Bangladesh, there were eight million families surviving under poverty line income. When, the work of Gramin Bank would come under objectively carried out scrutiny on its impact, the hype and acclaim it has generated might not sustain. Such programs simply over simplify fundamental structural change initiatives and create hopes that could not materialize. The state, socially responsible private sector, civil society and the people should not get too much involved in such over hyped initiatives.
Nepal could not do everything and it should not do too. Nepal has to identify its core strength areas where it could be reasonably competitive and should focus on those areas. The available information suggests that the core strength areas where Nepal could develop specialization are hydro-power, horticulture and tourism.
Nepal could sale electricity to South Asian, Chinese and East Asian grids. Internal consumption of electricity in abundance will contribute significantly in creating prosperity and bringing happiness to millions of people. Similarly, our hills and plains could look impressively green with fruit trees growing everywhere. Horticulture could provide unimaginable opportunities, income and employment. People from Dang in the valley in south western Nepal, could go to Jumla in north western Nepal after the delicious breakfast at their home. They could travel by cable cars to Jumla and could come back in the evening to their homes by sending tones of to Nepalgunj airport by ropeway to export to several destinations. There could be queue of cargo planes in the international airports in Biratnagar, Niggard, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj waiting to carry the load full of fruits, flowers and vegetables to Asian, European and American cities. In fifty years from now, it is perfectly achievable. Moreover, the majestic Himalayan picks, Buddha who has been immortalized, the historical, cultural and architectural heritage sites including the famous Kathmandu valley and the greenery that provides freshness, delight and beauty together with the most hospitable culture of Nepali people would increase tourist arrivals several hundred folds.
In brief, Nepal has the capacity to make the country and people prosperous. The raw ingredients are available in abundance. Absolutely, there is no reason to get frustrated, negative and defeatist minded.
In absence of sound physical infrastructure, no development initiatives, processes and achievements could be sustained. Prosperity could be ensured only if there is foundation that supports it and there is possibility and capacity to take it to ever better level. Hence, below, a few agenda and policy themes are proposed.
- Transport network – road, ropeway, cable cars, airports
- Information and communication networks
- Settlement development and concentration of services around them
The ‘environmentalists’ who are vehemently opposing major infrastructural projects in the name of environmental conservation have no vision for a prosperous Nepal. Their petty personal interests have overshadowed their vision, if they have any. They are obstructing building base for prosperity. Until Nepal exploits its hydro-power potentials, it is hard to develop Nepal. These ‘environmental activists’ make excuse sometimes that of a single customer (read India), sometimes talk about bio-diversity and sometimes talk about per unit cost to oppose any hydro-power project, particularly the Arun III. In future, Nepal will remember these so-called environmental activists as anti-prosperity forces, who held Nepal back just to ensure their travel and parade in front of World Bank offices located in faraway places like United States of America and the Philippines.
It is highly unlikely that everything would come out positive. One has to sacrifice something to attain something substantial. One has to get liberated from the prison of today and should peep into the future. After a few decades, it could be quite possible that the long distance buses and trucks in Nepal will run on electric energy. All district Headquarters and cities and towns could be linked by the network of cable cars. All major production centers and major commercial hubs could be linked by ropeways. In such situation, there would be much higher demand of electricity. The so-called environmental activists fail to see such internal consumption and export potential of electricity and advise to generate electricity from tiny streams like Tukucha in Kathmandu. This is simply astonishing.
It is certain that some hills would disappear. People would be affected and large-scale resettlement could be required. The foreign investors also would try to maximize their return on investment. These are the negatives factors, which could be better minimized but could not be avoided. Being imaginative and visionary is more important than being populist and obstructive.
The same logics could be applied in other infrastructures such as roads, ropeways, cable cars, airports, radio and television networks, telephone etc. Also, the settlements development and concentration of services around them will have to go through the same path.
The proposal of constructing the East-West Highway in 1960 sounded not feasible. Many thought that this was too ambitious. However, after 40 years, the highway was ready and has been serving as backbone of Nepali road networks. It contributed immensely in expanding economic activities and cultural bonding among several nationalities. In the beginning, it was planned to construct the highway with donations from people. Several open stage cultural programs were staged in thousands of places to collect donations, but that was too little. Several friendly governments provided supports. Finally, the dream of the highway was translated into reality.
Similarly, it is possible that more than 64000 scattered settlements, many among them in remote areas may disappear in coming 5o years and 8000 or less compact settlements could appear. This statement may astonish some people. However, there is no possibility of availing sound facilities in every scattered settlement, whereas there is possibility of providing such facilities to everybody, if they move to compact settlements. Hence, urbanization has been in acceleration. If this process of urbanization could be carried out with proper planning, the compact settlements could have much better facilities including water, energy, education, and employment and health services. During Panchayati Raj period they had proposed, in vague term, this type of idea in the name of Ilaka Kendras (Area centers). If further refined and properly planned, this could be a solution for availing facilities to a larger size of population in much reasonable cost. Hence, the housing policy should address such potentials and settlement planning should be seen as one among the priority themes.
Harmonious nature-human relationship
The module discussed above suggests that in the mountain region and hills of Nepal, gradually, many scattered settlements would disappear and grain cultivation also will decrease. Instead, these areas would have more forests, large horticulture farms and grass fields, animal farms etc. The cable car, ropeway and road networks will connect these areas with major population centers, business districts and service hubs. The mountains and hills covered with grass, shrubs, plants and trees would have best of their beauties. Moreover, they will be economically beneficial with better productions. The cities and towns will be more livable as the cars and other vehicles will run in the roads using less polluting energy – the electricity. As there would be higher level of awareness and better facilities, waste disposal management will keep the cities, towns and other compact settlements clean. In such situation, nature and human being would align in the same direction complementing each other. To attain the goal of such harmonious nature-human relationship, the agenda and policy themes mentioned below would contribute.
- Promotion of community forests
- Launching horticulture and animal husbandry activities as a movement that brings greenery back, generates employment and enhances income.
- Promoting use of hydro-power in industries and vehicles
- Setting up agro-processing industries and expanding markets
- Creating much better arrangements in harnessing forest products commercially and sustainably and improving people’s access to and rights over several forest products to create a balance between people’s need and environmental conservation
Environment should not be an issue, which makes people’s livelihood more difficult. The national conservation parks in Nepal have been established considering ordinary people as destroyer of environment. The national aim of environmental protection revolves around keeping forests out of reach of people rather than considering them as valuable partners in conservation. Hence, they should be allowed for sustainable use of forest products. However, the national conservation areas have generated lots of social disputes. The angry people may burn some forests some day if their accesses to their forest resources have been continuously denied (Ghimire 1994: 1994). People have to depend on forests for firewood, fodder and herbal produces. When, they are not allowed to utilize such resources, it is only natural to revolt. Hence, the prevailing policy should be changed and people should be taken into confidence and should be accepted as partners in programs and activities of environmental conservation.
Introduction of community forests, promotion of commercially viable several small private forests, and expansion of horticulture activities all over Nepal should be included in the larger environmental regeneration program.
Similarly, use of green energy including hydro-power and solar power may help improve quality of air around. Pollution should be a major area of environmental concern.
The more the relationship between nature and human being becomes harmonious, the environment could be much better and a much better place would be available for human being to live in. Hence, the emphasis should be on better relationship, which addresses concerns including that of the nature and human being, both.
Reorganization of social relationships
The prevailing social relationship in Nepal has three core components – domination of exploitative economic classes, supremacy of Khasa nationality and male chauvinism. Until the social relationship gets radically changed, the society will not move forward. The society which is free of such evil is difficult to build but not impossible to. In a complex socio-economic and political setting, there had been several attempts to radically change the society. However, irrespective of incremental change in several core areas, the qualitative change has not taken place. It could be done more aggressively now and it should be done without further delay. For this purpose, some of the agenda items and policy themes are proposed below.
- Poverty alleviation
- End of fatalism in thinking and behaviour and end of Khasa supremacy
- Empowerment of marginalized sections including women.
Several attempts have been made to alleviate poverty by increasing production. These efforts include micro-credit, production credit for rural women, small farmers’ development programs, rural development banks, etc. However, the problem is not that of low production only but also is that of ownership over means of production and inequitable distribution. Being indifferent on radical social change, exploitative economic practices and change in the ownership over means of production, there is no possibility of alleviating poverty. Hence, poverty alleviation endeavors should include critical awareness on societal values, norms and practices, presence of strong popular as well as class organizations, people’s movements particularly launched and led by oppressed classes and marginalized sections and positive environment that overtly favors grassroots change movements, role reversals and civilized social values that promote equity, equality and justice including inclusiveness. Poverty is not only economic deprivation, but also this is a state where helplessness, feeling of discrimination and fatalistic acceptance of injustices, inequalities and deprivations dominate. Therefore, without fighting against injustices, without opposing fatalism and without raising hopes and feeling of self-respect as well as empowerment, no battle against poverty could be won. Similarly, women also could not get their rightful place if they do not fight against inequalities and could not throw away their inferior, conservative and accepting ‘male superiority’ thinking, practices and behaviors. This is not an act of giving and taking, rather this is a movement of women’s emancipation and empowerment lunched and led primarily by women themselves. This should be an emancipation movement that transforms the women themselves and changes the society radically.
The other factor that has been keeping Nepal as one of the backward country is the supremacy of Khasa nationality in each and every areas of political and social governance. Till the Madhesis, MangolKirats, Dalits and Newars could share the opportunities, resources and socio-political standing equitably, Nepal could not progress. The injustices meted out to oppressed nationalities should be opposed strongly and the process to establish an egalitarian society should get acceleration.
It should be reminded once again that poverty, inequality and injustice are not just technical issues, rather they are complex socio-political issues and these issues could be best addressed by socio-political movements. Such movements will challenge the existing socio-political order and demand for a new order based on radically restructured society including the change in power relationships in the society and state.
During the past fifty years, foundations have been created for several types of movements to replace the old socio-political order with a new one and during the next fifty years, certainly there would be monumental changes. Really, a new Nepal is in making.
The challenges include to have a vision and to have agenda and policy themes, which translate that vision into reality. In a complex phenomenon of rapid change, old state would disappear and a new one would emerge. Old social values will be replaced by new values and entire society will go through a process of transformational upheavals. Finally, the society would be radically restructured. The analysis of the past fifty years makes people hopeful that another tumultuous fifty years would be crucial to reorganize Nepali state politically, to restructure Nepali society socially and discover new heights of prosperity economically. The opposite trends of destructions and constructions, degenerations and regenerations and regression and progress would continuously transform Nepal. The door is open and rays of lights are straight coming in. The next fifty years would be full of exciting events that would open up new possibilities and prospects. The socially responsible, politically enlightened and technologically advance endeavors would be the major thematic areas that Nepali transformative course would revolve around.
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 Under the Birta system the state used to donate or gift entire villages to the Bahuns (so-called high caste Hindu priestly layer). They were exempted from land tax and any other obligations.
 The prevailing practice was that the interest rate was determined by the need of the peasants and agriculture laborers. The money lenders used to charge the interest between 60 and 120% annually. The new law fixed the rate of annual interest at 10% and calculated the interest paid by the barrower retrospectively and deducted the amount paid back as interest exceeding the 10% limit and deducted the exceeded amount from the principal amount. In most of the cases, the repaid amount exceeded the total loan. Hence, that was summarily written off.
 The land ceiling for a family in Tarai was 25 Bigah (16931.75 sq. meters) and 80 Ropani in hills (40697.6 sq. meters).
 Bahunbad is a first coined by Dor Bahadur Bista, a renowned anthropological research scholar. It means unjust but all-pervading dominance of Bahuns in all spheres of society and state. Literally, it means Brahmanism.
 This provision was changed by the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2006, and Nepal was declared a secular state.