Time for federal Nepal to quicken the pulse of socialism
Ask someone, “Of the six ethos of the Himalayan state ordained in the preamble of new Constitution—sovereign, socialist, secular, federal, democratic and republic—which would you say our polity has most failed to achieve?”
One may respond, “Nepal has begun a journey towards federal destination with installation of seven provincial governments as per the Constitutional mandates.” The 2015 charter has adopted a three-tier structure of the state—viz. federal, provincial and local with enumerated lists in the Schedules concerned, including Concurrent ones, to enact laws at its competence. In this way, it’s certainly a federal state.
Undoubtedly, Nepal is sovereign on both domestic as well as foreign policy. It is unquestionably a republican state having an elected president rather than a monarch. Also, it would be misleading to argue that Nepal is not democratic. Likewise, we have adopted a secular democratic structure which calls for the maintenance of a principled distance between state and religion. And, God remains significantly absent across the Constitution.
At this backdrop, these five basic structures of the Constitution could be seen as positive identifiers of the Republic. Interestingly, the debate would become more breathtaking when we would succeed in realising the goals of socialism.
The agenda of socialism should be placed at the top of the policy. Still, have we succeeded an inch in curbing the moves confronting socialism? Unfortunately, the answer is no!
A section of communist ‘ideologues’ claim that Nepal is already on the silk road of socialism with the landslide victory of Left Alliance (i.e. UML and Maoists) at all the three levels of governance. If historical facts are something to stand by, they (left alliance) were part of government in the past but measurably failed to quicken the pulse of socialism.
So, is ‘socialism’ an unworkable concept?
Importantly, socialism is a system by which social equality can be achieved. A society where there is no room for equality is destined to witness a day when there would be suspension of ‘rule of law’.
Aristotle rightly said that man is a rational animal; man is the best animal when controlled by law and departure from law makes him the worst creature. Yet, “In this broader way of thinking, the concept of socialism could mean any kind of socialistic philosophies, attitudes, tendencies or thought processes that seek to protect ideals like egalitarianism, civil rights, uniform education, environmentalism and prevent the abuse of actors in free market. The notion endeavours to secure social solidarity. It aims to create an atmosphere in society where social interest would always prevail against individual interest,” opines Rajeev Ranjan, a faculty member at Legal Philosophy in Uttaranchal University, Dehradun.
However, the expression “socialism’ ought not to be a scary phrase and should not reflect political opportunism. It does not represent a doctrinaire and theoretical commitment of the state but rather is a part of pragmatic and flexible approach,” says Ranjan.
He adds, “It’s a misconception to treat socialism like an object which ensures an outer beauty to the Constitution that has nothing to do with inner beauty. It’s high time to realise that our inner strength is seen in our inner beauty.”
With big countries pushing for neo-liberal policies, building a socialist society in contemporary Nepal would be a huge challenge. Collective discussions and works are required for building a full-fledged socialist society in Federal Republic of Nepal.
“Socialism is based on the socialisation of the means of production. This will mean ensuring social ownership of industry, agriculture, service, and technology. This social ownership is stepping stone to equality, which envisages for the creation of a society where there would be no difference among citizens along the lines of status, opportunity, or income. Also, it seeks to ensure optimum level of facilities for every person to lead a dignified life,” says Anjum Parvez, a faculty of Constitutional Law at Uttaranchal University, Dehradun. Interestingly, Article 16 of the Constitution expressly provides that the right to life includes right to live with human dignity.
Nevertheless, “Developing countries like India or Nepal are unable to bridge rich/poor divide. States are failing to implement policies at ground level. We are not succeeding to ensure minimum level of amenities (like, education, employment, medical faculties, food, shelter, or clothing) for our people,” added Parvez. Unfortunately, “The concept of socialism remains alive in letters but dead in spirit (esp. in South Asia).”
The preamble of Nepal’s Constitution also speaks of securing its citizens liberty of thoughts, expression, belief, faith and worship. It is nothing more or nothing less than the rallying cry of French Revolution—liberty, equality and fraternity—which is also a facet of socialism.
Social justice gives us a clue that we are a socialistic state and every time the legislature makes laws they will look to the welfare of people generally. “They will look to the directive principles (Part-IV of Constitution) and then frame laws to enforce those provisions so as to ensure the distribution of resources at each level of government. It’s understandable that the Himalayan state has succeeded in establishing nexus with ‘Gandhian model socialism’ by installing fair corpus of Constitutional provisions for three-tier democracy in the country (i.e., federal parliament, state legislature and local self governments). This three-tier system of governance makes consonance with ‘Gandhian model of socialism, which is based on non-violence principle but in contravention to the principles of Karl Marx, wherein there was a place of violence between capitalist on the one hand and labourers on the other,” argues Pramod Tiwari, a faculty of Constitutional Law at Delhi University, India.
He shows satisfaction with the Constitutional arrangements. “It’s high time for the Federal Republic of Nepal to welcome the credentials of socialism which is viable for the country and compatible with nature and respectful for pluralism and diversity. The initial steps taken in developing a federal Constitution is a healthy sign,” adds Tiwari.
The government must set its sight on institutionalising the goals of socialism and it cannot be achieved unless the state thrives to counter privatisation.
“The sooner the government realises that over privatisation kills innovation, the better for nation, citizens and government’s own development goals. The governments in India and Nepal have been unable to support government schools, colleges or hospitals but they are more eager to meddle with private institutions. This calls for a radical change in mindset. The time has come for the provincial governments to break this ill practice,” says Dr Nidhi Saxena, a faculty of International Law at Sikkim Central University, Gangtok, India.
It is also ironical that foreign investments are permitted under the automatic route in education or other business in developing countries like Nepal or India but that investment has to be in not profit entity or serving the interest of foreign players. Nepal is a new federal state and is in need of number of safety nets.
Above all, it’s advisable for the newly formed provincial governments to pay heed to the words of Buddha and Plato.
Buddha said an individual and all other living beings are interconnected and inter-dependent and all human beings should be treated equally with kindness. His vision seeks to nurture the breeds of socialism by creating an atmosphere of equality. The real admiration to the “preambular” object of socialism could be secured only by bridging the gaps lying in Nepali society along the ethnic or cultural lines.
Plato’s Republic articulated the notion of socialist state, a state that aims to solve social problems by government action through taxes and redistribution of resources. The newly installed provincial governments can play a crucial role in interconnecting the citizens of Nepal who often get divided along the lines of Madhes and Hills.
It’s time to realise that capitalism is based on the bedrock of selfishness and produces selfishness. But socialism is based on selflessness and produces selflessness.
The author is student of LLM (Constitutional Laws) at Uttaranchal University, Dehradun, India.
Published on March 1, 2018