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Saturday Apr 20, 2024

Dalit representation executive positions taking back seat

2023 Apr 26, 14:02,
Pic: Google

It has been 14 years since Nepal embarked on a historic transition to switch to a federal democratic republic system. Achievements were possible as a result of people's prolonged and tremendous struggle.
The very first meeting of the Constituent Assembly on May 28, 2008 declared Nepal as a federal democratic republic with the abolishment of a 240-year-old monarchy. Prior to this, Nepal went through significant political transformations at different times such as the revolution of 1951, the 1990 People's Movement, the Maoist war and the 2006-2007 People's Movement II.
Over the course of 14 years since the announcement of the federal democratic republic in Nepal, the country has gone through many political changes, but there is no substantive transformation in the lives of the people. On top of that, the situation of the Dalits, the deprived community, remains as it is. The situation has got to the point that against structural inequalities and caste-based discriminations, the Dalit community has built up agencies to retain and revolt against layers of discrimination against them.
They have a history that they have united for their rights since 2004 BS. Despite their active participation in politics, their economic, social and political issues have not been mainstreamed. When we assess the existing scenario, it is clear that only a handful of the Dalits represent their community in the executive and the parliament (legislature).
In the existing House of Representatives (HoR), Dalits make up just 5.81 percent with 16 members out of which 15 were elected through proportional representation and one through direct election. The Lower House has a total of 275 members.
In the first House of Representatives formed after the promulgation of the Constitution through the historic Constituent Assembly, the Dalit representation was six percent with the presence of 19 Dalit lawmakers. In the first 2008 CA, 51 Dalits (8.48) percent) represented their community in the 601-member assembly, and the figure dropped to 41 (6.82 percent) in the second CA formed following the 2013 elections.
According to Dalit leaders, the data itself is a testimony that the Dalit representation in the legislation is regressive against the anticipations for more participation of the community at the decision-making levels.
In view of Dalit movement leader Padam Sundas," The Dalit representation at the decision-making level has been neglected. Dalits have neither strong involvement in the parliament nor in the government." He accused political parties of discriminating against the Dalit during the ticket allocation in elections. In the recent HoR elections, the Dalit candidacy from the Nepali Congress under the first-post-the-past (FPTP) election was nil.
When we go back to history, there had been a Dalit presence in the State power during the Panchayat era. Hira Lal Bishokarma was the first minister to represent the Dalit in the government, and he was appointed the assistant education minister in 2031 BS. He also served as the assistant minister for education and supplies and as the minister of state fourth time during 2031-2041 BS.
Hiralal Bishwakarma, Prakash Chitrakar, Lal Bahadur Bishwakarma, Hari Shankar Pariyar, Golchhe Sarki, Pratap Lohar and Man Bahadur Bishakarma were inducted into the Cabinet during 2031-2063 BS, but they were not given the portfolios as a full minister.
Khadka Bahadur Bishokarma and Chhabilal Bishokarma are the first full ministers from the Dalit community who took charge at the Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare and the Agriculture and the Cooperatives respectively in the post- 2006/007 movement interim government formed on 25 April, 2006 under the leadership of Girija Prasad Koirala.
Since then, Dalit involvement in the Council of Ministers has been taking place, but not encouraging, it has been said. Some political leaders from the community, Chhabilal Bishokarma, Mahendra Paswan, Khadka Bahadur Bishokarma, Bishendra Paswan, Daljeet Sripaili, Min Bahadur Bishokarma, Jagat Bahadur sunar and Maheshwor Jung Gahatraj were inducted into the governments formed thereafter.
After the People's Movement II, Nabin Kumar Bishwokarma, Jeet Bahadur Darjee (Gautam), Khadka Bahadur Basyal, Kawalati Paswan, Dal Bahadur Sunar, Gopi Achhami, Ramani Ram, Dhanmaya BK, Karna Bahadur BK, Bimala BK and Asha BK were appointed as the Ministers of State.
The incumbent federal government has one minister of state from the Dalit community. The case is enough to say that the Dalit representation in the executive is getting a back seat over the course of time, and it is against the spirit of the Constitution which in its preamble promises to end discriminations relating to class, caste, region, language, religion and gender discrimination including all forms of racial untouchability, in order to protect and promote unity in diversity, social and cultural solidarity, tolerance and harmonious attitudes, expressing determination to create an egalitarian society on the basis of the principles of proportional inclusion and participation, to ensure equitable economy, prosperity and social justice.
The article 40 which talks about the Right of Dalits ensures that the Dalits shall have the right to participate in all agencies of the state based on the principle of proportional inclusion. There shall be special legal provision of empowerment, representation, and participation of the Dalit community in employment opportunities in other streams including the public service (1), and the 42 which is about the Right to social justice states socially backward women, Dalits, Adibasi, Janajati, Adibasi Janajati, Madhesi, Tharu, minority groups, persons with disability, marginalized groups, Muslim, backward classes, gender and sexual minority groups, youths, peasants, laborers, the oppressed and the citizens of backward regions, and economically poor Khas Arya shall have the right to employment in state structures on the basis of the principle of inclusion (1).
But, the main spirit of the Constitution was not reflected during the latest HoR election and during the course of the government formation while the nation is in the course of implementing the federal democratic republic system.
Despite the declaration to ensure equitable economy, prosperity and social justice, the Dalits who make up 14 percent of total populace have remained as a neglected community.
With political transformation at home, the level of awareness has increased among Dalits against centuries-old caste system, untouchability, discrimination and deprivation of opportunities they face since the time of their ancestors.
Representation of the Dalit community that was left far behind for ages in terms of economic, social and political factors has been low in the parliament, a place where laws are made. Political parties in their election manifestos have promised special rights for the community as per the compensation principle and ensure their proportional representation at all federal, provincial and local levels. But, the election manifestos have been limited only on paper.
Out of the total 550 members in the Province Assembly, only 31 are from the Dalit community, which is 5.63 percent. Out of the 31, two were elected under the first-past-the-post system, and other under the proportional representation. Let’s take a look at the figure province-wise. Only four of the total 56 PA members in Koshi Province are from the community, which is 7.14 percent. Likewise, Madhes Province has got seven PA members elected from the community out of the total 64. The number is 10.93 percent.
Bagmati Province has low representation from the community. Only two of the total 66 PA members are from the community. The figure is 3.03 percent. Gandaki Province has the highest number of representation from the community. It has six PA members from the community out of the total 36, which is 16.66 percent. Five of the total 24 PA members in Karnali Province are from the community (one under the FPTP). In Sudurpaschim Province, three of a total of 32 members are from the community, which is 9.37 percent.
The proportional representation system is said to be a special provision for electing the people especially from the backward, suppressed and marginalised communities. But, lately there is a trend that PR seats are distributed to those who have access to power, and those who have money, said the Janata Samajbadi leader Durga Sob.
Seven of the 58 members in the National Assembly (Upper House) are from the community as per the provision that seven each from seven provinces will be elected the NA members. No people from the community have been elected as NA members outside the quota.
CPN (Maoist Centre) leader Parshuram Ramtel blamed factors like the Dalit movements being weakened, Dalit leaders failing to advocate for their cause within the respective party, movements by marginalised people becoming weak, and political parties being apathetic about inclusive issues, for low representation of the Dalit community in the parliament.
Sob has demanded representation of the community in the parliament and the government based on the population of the community. The preamble of the constitution has stated the building of equitable society based on the principle of proportional inclusiveness and participation. But, its effective implementation is still awaited.
Lawmaker Kamala Bishwokarma has accused political parties of failing to ensure representation of the Dalit community in the parliament and the government as per their election manifestos.
(Sushil Darnal) Translated by Pritam Bhattarai


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