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Social Justice, Good Governance, and Development

Khil Raj Regmi

April 15, 2021

25 MIN READ

Social Justice, Good Governance, and Development
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Nepal Development Research Institute (NDRI) aims to contribute to the sustainable development agenda of the government of Nepal through substantive support in policy making.

It believes that sustainable development is possible only through education and research, and hence focuses its research activities on education, health, and other sectors of social development.

Likewise, NDRI believes that its research activities have contributed to national policy-making processes.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve their goals by eradicating poverty from the face of the world by 2030, which is being led by UNDP.

SDGs have determined seventeen priority goals, and quality education has been given due importance in it. In this backdrop, I think the focus and efforts of NDRI in education and research are well versed and relevant.

I spent a long time of my active life in judicial service. I got opportunities to observe closely and resolve many social evils, irregularities, and disputes in my career from as a judge in district courts to the Chief Justice.

The Constitution of Nepal- 2015 in its preamble aims and show full commitment to perpetuate peace, good governance, development, and prosperity.

I believe it’s relevant and important to discuss here how our governance system or constitution has addressed the fundamentals of human development. I know it’s impossible to discuss all the provisions of the constitution in detail here.

So, I would like to reiterate one provision of the constitution while talking about the rights to social justice- citizens who are economically down-trodden and communities on the verge of extinction, shall have the right to special opportunity and facilities in the areas of housing, employment, food and social security.

Moreover, they shall have equal rights to public services and facilities. In addition, the economically poor, physically incapacitated and helpless persons, helpless single women, persons with physical impairment, children, persons unable to look after themselves, and members of the communities on the verge of extinction shall have the right to social security as provisioned in the laws.

The citizens will be benefitted only when these judicial provisions are well executed in practice. Some of these provisions are the continuity those from the previous constitutions.

The uneducated and economically underprivileged groups are not only unable to claim their rights but also are unaware of them. In my experience, justice is not in their access.

Despite having the provision of the paid lawyers to provide free judicial services in all types of courts, many are yet unable to grab that opportunity.

The major causes behind it are poverty and the lack of education, and awareness. On the other hand, they are unaware of the facilities provided by the government.

Moreover, they have not access to the concerned departments to utilize those facilities, nor are they able to go for the follow-up. Today, it has been almost four years that the local government has been established.

I feel that people’s representatives from the local level should play a crucial role to provide those facilities to the underprivileged groups.

As I’m from the judicial service, I would like to add something about it. In order to protect human rights, and to protect people from illegal imprisonment, many verdicts have been made for the protection and freedom of citizens.

For instance, the verdicts to ensure access of economically under-privileged groups to education and health and consumers’ welfare have strengthened the execution of judicial rights.

Efforts and attempts have been made to ensure the stipend to single women, and to provide justice to the people with physical impairment, to resolve the issues of child rights and protection, and the development of justice system for children. I believe these issues are related to the promotion of social justice.

Whatever progresses and achievements have been made so far are fundamentally based on education. It is impossible to develop awareness and self-progress without education.

We cannot expect people to enact their right to self-decision unless and until they are educated. On the other hand, dependency is about seeking refuge with others at the cost of losing one’s self.

Therefore, it’s essential to adopt and implement the education policy that embraces personality development and produces human resources to contribute to national development.

Development calls for technical and professional human resources. Without the educational system to provide both theoretical and hands-on education, we can’t produce and manage creative human resources to meet the goals of sustainable development.

For instance, Singapore and South Korea have made huge changes in their educational policy, prioritizing creativity, and practical education. Moreover, Singapore has made moral education mandatory.

These countries have reached the present height of development and prosperity not only with fantasy but with their policy, leadership and programs with people’s willpower and active participation.

Self-control and self-discipline haven’t received importance. Citizens’ duties and responsibilities haven’t been taught. It is the education policy and practical knowledge which produce good citizens accountable to their nation and society.

However, children in our country are loaded with books in order to replicate the practices from the developed countries.

Our policy falls short of producing creative human resources through real world education. We dropped moral education that had been taught for long.

Sanskrit education and language are confined to Sanskrit University, and its value hasn’t been imparted to others.

We have dropped Sanskrit, falsely dismissing it as a traditional and conservative language. It shows that we are ignoring our own civilization, culture, and identity.

Self-control and self-discipline haven’t received importance. Citizens’ duties and responsibilities haven’t been taught. It is the education policy and practical knowledge which produce good citizens accountable to their nation and society.

To build a prosperous country, we need independent citizens, not dependent ones. The society with justice, equality and prosperity has been the matter of fantasy, and only the matter written in the national policy and other documents.

Therefore, we need to bring a huge change in our educational policy, system, and teaching learning practices.

The crucial aspect of the government today is to ensure good governance. The fundamental principle of good governance is to run the government system as per the expectations of citizens and give satisfaction to them with efficient and effective service delivery.

And one of the indicators of good governance is delivering people-oriented services. In addition, the fundamentals of good governance are accountable government, transparent service delivery, full implementation of laws, anti-corruption policy, and eradication of impunity.

The good governance management and operations act 2007 is in place in Nepal. In its preamble, it mentions to transform the administrative mechanism as a service-providing body and facilitator through the legal provision in order to ensure good governance.

One of the fundamental aspects of good governance is the rule of law, and the rule of law is a pillar of democracy. It is believed that everyone is equal in the eyes of law, and law is applicable to all.

The Constitution of Nepal- 2015 in its preamble aims and show full commitment to perpetuate peace, good governance, development, and prosperity.

Moreover, it is also mentioned to guarantee good governance by ensuring people’s equal and easy access to services provided by the state and by making public administration clean, competent, impartial, transparent, accountable, and participatory.

These are the key provisions related to the goals and objectives of good governance. The legal basis, roadmap and goals of good governance had been set up from 2007 to 2015 but the question is to extent have we been able to execute the good governance in real sense.

To what extent are the citizens satisfied with the actions and service delivery of the government? These questions need to be examined.

It is often complained that there is the prevalence of nepotism, influence, and bribery to get the tasks done in government agencies, and we can’t deny this fact.

When the service receivers are treated differently on the grounds of their political faiths, it promotes avoidance of each other. As a result, our judicial values like equality, and social justice are not truly transformed into practice. It raises the question about the objectives and goals of good governance.

The constitution has envisioned a constitutional body i.e. the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate cases of corruption.

One of the fundamental aspects of good governance is the rule of law, and the rule of law is a pillar of democracy. It is believed that everyone is equal in the eyes of law, and law is applicable to all.

Therefore, the rule of law is considered as the base of a civilized society today. Therefore, it is universally accepted that there should be the rule of law in the country, not the rule of an individual.

This is reflected in our constitution, and we are strong in constitutional and legal aspects. However, people often think that this isn’t reflected in practice, which reveals the inefficiency of the agencies to execute the laws.

People’s trust and faith in government agencies and judicial organs are declining. People don’t trust the performance of these organs.

Their work and performance are being disputed one after another. While telling these things, I’m not being negative towards them.

In some cases, even a few wrongdoings keep other good efforts into shadow because expectations are higher on the part of people.

One of the most integral parts of good governance is impunity. Until and unless good performers are awarded, ill- performers are punished, and non-performers are discouraged, services of all agencies will be of low quality and not up to the level of people’s expectations.

Today there are trade unions affiliated to different political parties in the bureaucracy. The executive committees of these trade unions are dominant at all levels of all sectors. And when there is protection from these unions, we can never end impunity.

When I was the chairperson of the Council of Ministers in 2013, I myself observed and faced these challenges.

Besides the challenges to get through political complexity, to create the environment for the election, I also had to pay attention to address and manage the demands raised by those trade unions. I think these challenges persist even today.

In order to make corruption-free and self-disciplined society, we need to teach and orient students to be good and patriotic citizens, dutiful and responsible with moral values and social feelings. In this regard, the cases of Singapore, Denmark and Finland are sufficient for us.

I believe that we must take hard legal decisions through the mass agreement to overcome such obstacles to move ahead.

As mentioned in the Constitution of Nepal, the government is supposed to adopt effective measures to control the corruption and irregularities in all sectors- political, administrative, judicial, and social- to ensure good governance and corruption-free system.

The government is primarily responsible to execute this policy. The service delivery of government agencies must be transparent, fair, and accessible to the citizens.

The constitution has envisioned a constitutional body i.e. the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate cases of corruption.

All the illegal and unethical activities against the dignity of the public service providers come under the corruption. Moreover, the abuse of authority and power for personal advantages and benefits is also counted as corruption. So is the wrong use of power.

In 2013, when I was the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, the positions of officials in CIAA and attorney general were vacant. Then the officials were appointed in those constitutional bodies and made active.

If we look back to the index of that time, the human development index and corruption were towards improvement.

The new Constitution of Nepal was promulgated in 2015 and constitutional bodies were made active. Even then public accountability and transparency did not improve as expected. It is not pleasant news to have the reports of different non-transparent activities and cases of corruption.

So, the truth is expected to come out after the investigation from the concerned agencies. Some cases of sanctions are also reported in media from time to time.

However, the more the sanctions of corruptions are heard, the more the corruptions are reported to increase. Now, it’s essential to create an environment to investigate the causes behind such cases.

The lavish expenses of election, and low salary and facilities of the employees are said to orient them towards corruption, which is also equated to compulsion.

In some cases, even the multiyear projects are not given priority when there are new officials. Due to the rivalry of initiating new programs and projects, the old and ongoing projects get slugged.

So, before talking about reforms, other factors like person’s character, values, morality and social environment are also to be considered.

Therefore, to make the fundamental reformation in this area, the reformation should be made in education policy and system.

In order to make corruption-free and self-disciplined society, we need to teach and orient students to be good and patriotic citizens, dutiful and responsible with moral values and social feelings. In this regard, the cases of Singapore, Denmark and Finland are sufficient for us.

In fact, the goals, and objectives of all the public services in the nation are to provide comfort and prosperity to its citizens.

The Constitution of Nepal has given a clear direction that the government is responsible to usher the nation in in prosperity.

Likewise, the development policy of the state has also been clearly articulated in the Constitution. It is mentioned that the state is to adopt eight policies of development.

Some of them include inclusive economic development maintaining regional balance, prioritization of the underdeveloped sectors, increment of people’s participation in the development process, encouragement of scientific research, prioritization of the economically under-privileged citizens, equal distribution of development outcomes etc.

Development is a continuous process. Time is dynamic and so is the human life, which is always progress oriented. Humans have been striving for novel ways of research, studies and investigation and exploring potentiality of progress. They wish to acquire new things and get benefitted from them. There is no ending point of development.

In Nepal the planned development began since 1956 and now the fifteenth plan is in progress. When I was the chairperson of the Council of Ministers in 2013, the thirteenth plan was initiated. It is needless to say that development is under progress, yet our focus is away from prioritized sector, sustainable development goals and the area where we can be self- reliant.

It seems it will yet take some more years. It is said that ‘positivity always wins’, so let’s move ahead to execute our tasks with positive thinking.

There is less coordination between budget planning body and the implementing bodies. In some cases, the budget is not allocated even for the prioritized policies and programs. When the budget is scattered in all sectors, the major programs and projects get affected negatively.

Similarly, the ongoing programs and projects remain incomplete due to differences in priority when the government or ministers change.

In some cases, even the multiyear projects are not given priority when there are new officials. Due to the rivalry of initiating new programs and projects, the old and ongoing projects get slugged.

I’m not indicating anyone personally; I just mean to indicate the current situation based on the ongoing practices.

Until and unless we adopt the rigid policy of not starting new projects without completing the ongoing ones, our development process mostly remains dispersed, and publicity oriented rather than outcomes oriented.

It is a paradox that we are unable to spend the development budget, while the progress of the projects is slow. I think only being rigid in contracts and flexible in monitoring and punishment doesn’t work. Therefore, the concerned authorities should pay high attention to these issues.

Development is not limited to economic and physical aspects. It equally stretches to human development. Human development consists of factors like education, health, and social security.

There should be contextual reformation and prioritization in service delivery. Likewise, research and studies play a vital role in the development process.

Some of our own seeds, grains and medicinal herbs are on the verge of extinction. If we could produce them with a different taste and quality through research, we could export them to the world market with our own identity.

It is urgent for the government to come up with clear policy and programs to address this issue. When can we achieve prosperity with remittance and achieve the sustainable development goals?

If we only depend on subsistence farming, how can we graduate Nepal from a least developed country to a developing country and how can we achieve the sustainable development goals?

When I was the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, a concept paper was developed with the goal to graduate Nepal to a developing country by 2022. When will these goals materialize?

It seems it will yet take some more years. It is said that ‘positivity always wins’, so let’s move ahead to execute our tasks with positive thinking.

It seems that activities of SAARC have been slow at the moment. I think we have to utilize this forum to strengthen the brotherhood among each other and look forward to the overall development of this region as per its objectives.

The recruitment of Gorkha soldiers began in India and Britain after the triparty treaty among Nepal, India, and Britain in 1949. Those soldiers are called ‘lahure’.

Youths were attracted to get recruited as soldiers because of soldiers’ better lifestyle. As there was no factory or other means to earn their livelihood except farming, the people started looking for alternative means of their livelihood.

And those who were engaged in other casual works in India also used to behave like soldiers, and they were also called ‘lahure’ in the society.

This was what I saw when I was a child, and today Nepal has been a country to export its human resources all around the world.

There was a time when we used to export our rice to Bangladesh and India but today, we are importing ourselves from them. Why is there a trend of going to Korea to work in the farms, leaving our own farming lands barren here?

The Government has failed to launch concrete programs to stop the outward flow of Nepali youths seeking employment in foreign countries.

Political stability is essential for development, prosperity, peace, good system, and governance. The general election of 2017 gave a strong government of majority and people were hopeful from this government.

It is urgent for the government to come up with clear policy and programs to address this issue. When can we achieve prosperity with remittance and achieve the sustainable development goals?

The development, prosperity and progress of Nepal is so far if the government creates employment opportunities, promotes self-determination of citizens to work hard with innovation, prioritizes community-based development programs, and foster mutual feelings among people.

Swami Vivekananda once said, “A man is not poor without money, but a man is really poor without dreams and ambition.”

So, we Nepalis have to catch our dreams to make progress and bring prosperity to the nation and should move forward with our clear goals. We need to participate in the development works with a strong determination.

Overall, politics is the major policy of all other policies. The people’s participation in policymaking, and inclusion in the governance system and law-making ensure their ownership of democracy. Based on this assumption, the Interim Constitution was our point of departure after the mandate from the Second People’s Movement.

Then, the Constitution was set to be made from the constituent assembly. When the first constituent assembly was dissolved without producing the constitution, then the government was formed under my leadership through the political consensus to fulfill the mission of promulgating new constitution of the nation.

Despite the difficult and challenging situation, the election of the second constituent assembly was held on 19 November 2013.

Then the constitution was promulgated in 2015, which is in execution at the moment. Meanwhile, certain dissatisfaction and disagreements about the constitution are also heard.

The citizens expect their leaders to set exemplary works forward through positive thinking and deeds and usher the nation in growth and prosperity. This is more than enough for the learned. And that’s all for now.

Any disagreement can be resolved through the dialogue and the Constitution should be amended as per the need of time.

Political stability is essential for development, prosperity, peace, good system, and governance. The general election of 2017 gave a strong government of majority and people were hopeful from this government.

However, it is unexpected to have seen uncertainty in national politics and government at present due to internal conflict within the ruling party for the last one year. In our context, it was and is essential to define and practice the interrelation and performance between parties and government in the multiparty system and parliamentary practice with high priority.

It is because the present leaderships have played a crucial role in the making of the constitution. Moreover, it is also their responsibility to guide the future generation by strengthening and promoting the constitution through good constitutional practices and behaviors.

When the public raise questions on the competency and impartiality of most of the government agencies, it doesn’t give a good message about the government. Being unable to get empowered is not a good sign for the rule of law and democracy.

We should always be open to critical analysis and reformation. Dialogues and discussions are the eventual means to resolve the issues and misunderstanding that come on the way in in democratic practice.

It is the responsibility of political leaders to get to the right direction without erasing the road map and destination.

The citizens expect their leaders to set exemplary works forward through positive thinking and deeds and usher the nation in growth and prosperity. This is more than enough for the learned. And that’s all for now.

(Edited form of the speech delivered by former Chairman of the Council of Ministers and former Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi at a function last week in Kathmandu on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of Nepal Development Research Academy — NDRI).

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