The Earthquake And Federalism
An Appeal for Decentralization: Nepal’s Earthquake Politics
nothing can really prepare a nation for a disaster of this magnitude. ...... The earthquake gives a whole new meaning to what state restructuring will entail. ...... Nepal has been struggling with what Heather Hindman has termed “long-term provisionality” due to the lack of national political progress and regular turn-over of governments. There have not been local elections since 1997, leaving villages and towns at the mercy of the whims of appointed bureaucrats and, for a time between 2008 and 2012, their local political leaders through “All Party Mechanisms.” Development and resource allocation from the center to the local level has been inconsistent and citizens have few means of accountability. ........ The government plays a minimal role in many people’s lives. Consistent shortages of electricity, water, and fuel have forced communities and families to be creative in building their private infrastructure just to get on with daily life. Many of the Kathmandu valley’s new wells come from communities boring for much needed water and a number of villages have learned if they want a road, they must build it. ....... The largest oversight in the government’s disaster preparedness is the lack of robust, empowered local governance. ....... Nepal’s constituent assembly government needs to stand true to the promises of the 2006 People’s Movement. The underpinning logic for federalism was to devolve power from the center, Kathmandu, and relegate it to the provinces in order to create more regional autonomy. The ongoing debates over the federal state structure and nomenclature have focused on ethnicity and identity-based rights. These issues are central to addressing the many histories of marginalization and healing the wounds of a decade of civil war. However, these disputes obscure the fact that
there is little political will among Nepal’s politicians to decentralize power. All of the parties are stuck in the centralized, top-down mode of governing .....
Imagine if robust local and regional governance had existed when this earthquake hit? Then the relief efforts would not be mimicking the ad hoc approach the central government has taken to governing and state restructuring over the last seven years.