Empowering local bodies

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There is no doubt that sport is relegated to the bottom rung among our priorities. It needs to be inculcated right from the school level progressing along with college and university education. Only then will we be to catch those with high potential so as to encourage them to take sports seriously. Spreading of well-equipped training grounds helps in uplifting of games standard. It also contributes in national well-being and spreading of comradeships. As a by-product, this will help decrease unnecessary interest in each and every political dau-petch.

Politics has kept Nepali society in the state of permanent turmoil by deliberately inciting people to get entangled in the non-essentials. There is excitement all around given that we are finally having local elections after 19 long years. The question is, if the elected leadership will pursue the interest of the people, as anticipated. Or will they continue merely as a tail wagging unit of the party just good at providing lip-service?

It is obligatory on the local body to hold formal or inform get together in different localities at times to read about their feelings. It will be responsibility of the elected local leadership to find ways to get complaints addressed. It would, in essence, be the form of governance that people have long been wishing for. It remains to be seen if things actually “get done” as “written” in related acts.

Given that politics is more than that meets the eye, the question is, will the local body be able to honestly defend larger interest of the people against pressure exerted by vested interest groups? It happens if the line of business becomes the reason for outcry in the locality. It could be loud music played late into the night disturbing the neighbors or regular drunken brawl in the vicinity of dance bars or access blocked by haphazard parking or many other such ills. What if such groups get “blessings” from the top guns in the party? We all know how such blessings are secured though. The coming days will show in which direction this eventually goes.

Nagarpalikas are mandated to collect taxes and one on Land/Building happens to be the major revenue component. It would get even bigger if each and every building/land was taxed as per the “record”. That apart, it brings more in the coffers from taxes on business/commercial establishments as it does from rental properties. While collecting taxes on formally rented ones being near normal, problem lies with those rented informally.

It is common to rent a room or two based on nothing more than a verbal contract. There are two types of owners. There are many who rent legal properties informally and those who rent out illegally built ones. The rental space demand is so much that owners openly flout bylaws by building more number of floors than approved. It is difficult, as it is, to bring both type of owners within the system. This can possibly be done with peer pressure and in tandem with local groups in persuading the owners to bear their societal obligations. Suppose each house “informally” rents at least “half a room” (statistical assumption) the amount for each ward should generally work out big. While they may not be against paying as such but the owners generally fear being taxed for period the property remains vacant. It needs to be doubly ensured that no tax gets levied for such periods. As such maintaining tenant’s records in each ward should be helpful for all purpose including during disaster aftermath.

Coming to illegally built spaces, Nargarpalikas need to deal strictly with all such structures. It is a matter of public safety that no one builds more than that mandated. It is even more important as we saw how bad a M7.8 jolt can be. Scientists, after careful excavations and analysis based on carbon dating have concluded that stress-accumulated spot lies just south of Kathmandu. Since the probable epicenter is much closer, it is equally likely that it will be a much bigger jolt.  

Given that, the question is does any local body or its political patron party has the will to make it mandatory to pull down all such structures? Or will they rather regularize those with little penalty and carry on as usual encouraging others to follow suit? It will be a big misfortune if the second option gets done as suspected. As a principle, issues related to general public safety and those related to common good should always be kept above politics. It is high time all bickering parties, big and small, show magnanimity be unanimously giving such an undertaking. Local bodies will be truly empowered to work for public good if this gets done to start with.

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