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The path of Madhesh transformation

Chinari of Madhesh province is not only based on Mithila culture, it is also related to the fame of 'Jalakpur fish of Janakpur and Koshi's Jalakpur fish', which has the potential to change the economic face of the entire province.
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Madhesh province is the mother of federalism. Madhesh is also responsible for strengthening it. After the promulgation of the constitution, the government in Madhesh province is led by a party established from the Madhesh movement. This article focuses on how the social, economic, cultural and political backward communities are taking the situation where the parties that have been agitating for equal access of the Madhesi community to identity, representation and state resources are handling the situation and what can be the starting point of the overall transformation of the Madhesh province in this situation.

The path of Madhesh transformation

The basis of social transformation of Madhesh

Most of the social problems of Madhesh are connected with the religious practices and beliefs of the inhabitants. Almost all social issues seem to originate from religious and cultural customs and traditions. Such social problems have been practiced for a long time and are still continuing in various forms.

Among the many issues related to social reform in Madhesh province, caste discrimination is the main one. It has been more than 6 decades since untouchability was declared legally in Nepal. Caste Discrimination and Untouchability (Crimes and Punishments) Act-2068 is in force defining untouchability as a punishable criminal offence. It is guaranteed by the constitution in a more refined form. However, due to lax implementation of the law, discrimination continues.

Even in the twenty-first century, Madhesh is a province where casteism has taken deep roots. Dalits are still forced to face untouchability in private and public places. Moreover, there is a recent incident of caste discrimination against Dalits in the presence of all three levels of government by Chairman of Siraha's Bhagwanpur Rural Municipality, Ugran Narayan Yadav, who is a law enforcement agency. There is a situation where Dalits have to protest even to register complaints of discrimination against them. Yadav, who was elected from a party that has announced the cancellation of party membership of those who commit caste discrimination, has repeatedly beaten people from the Dalit community who have complained against him. But the administration has not taken action against him.

According to the standard of living survey recently released by the National Statistics Office, 20.27 percent of the population in Nepal is below the poverty line. The population below the poverty line is 24.66 percent in rural areas and 18.34 percent in urban areas. This survey does not mention poverty in terms of caste, but a previous similar survey (2066-67) showed that the total poverty in Nepal was 25.2 percent, while Dalit poverty was 42 percent. Despite the grain reserves and geographical accessibility, Madhesh province is even poorer than Karnali province, which is called Bikat. By caste, while Brahmins are 10 percent poor, the poverty rate of Dalit community is 42 percent.

Because of illiteracy, there are many incidents of violence and crime in this province. In the fiscal year 2079/080, 2,387 cases of extortion were registered in the Nepal Police, Madhesh Province is in the second place (316). Out of 52 cases registered all over the country on charges of witchcraft, 32 are from Madhesh. Out of 16 thousand 519 cases of domestic violence registered, the most 4 thousand 923 cases were registered in Madhesh. The fact that four of the 5 districts with the lowest literacy in the country belong to Madhesh also reflects the educational distance here.

According to the National Census, 2078, there are 75 lakh children in the school age group (4-17 years) in the country. Among them, 853,000 children are out of school. That is, 11.3 percent of children have not been able to go to school. 45.8 percent of the total children who did not go to school are from Madhesh province, which is enough to understand the educational situation here. It is true that the Nepal government has launched many programs to eliminate illiteracy, but all of them have been introduced only as a plan to make money by preparing reports on paper.

Child marriage is another pillar that continues to haunt Madhesh. Especially due to the fear of giving dowry, this practice is flourishing. For this reason, female infanticide is also increasing. This practice has become an obstacle even to give education to daughters. Surunga municipality of Saptari has been declared as the first child marriage-free municipality, but although this is a good effort, there are complications in implementation.

Child labor is a global problem. In the context of Madhesh, child labor is also linked to poverty and caste. According to the Nepal Child Labor Report-2021, there are still 1.1 million child laborers across the country. A study conducted by the Central Statistics Department in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that 15.3 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are employed as child labourers. According to the study, the labor prevalence of Dalits is 19.4 percent while the Newar community has the lowest prevalence of child labor at 9.9 percent. Poverty is the main reason why Dalit children are forced to work.

Despite being prohibited by law, agricultural bonded labor still exists in Nepal. In this practice called Hruwa/Charuwa, especially the Dalit community is involved. Under this system, which remains as a remnant of the zamindari system, there are more than 100,000 herdsmen/herdsmen in Madhesh, who do not adhere to the minimum labor standards and are forced to suffer extreme exploitation.

Also, many governmental and non-governmental organizations are working for the improvement of the social sector. But the results are not encouraging. It may be because it is deeply imprinted in the minds of people, especially at the policy-making level, that they consider it 'normal', which prevents the need for change from becoming a priority.

The existing situation cannot be improved without changing wrong beliefs, beliefs and practices. After all, the practice of sati has come to an end. Therefore, to overcome such problems, determination, sacrifice and determination are needed, as was the case with Buddha, Mahavir, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Vinabha Bhave etc. For this, first of all, it is necessary to educate the common people and especially those who are in the upper power structure on social issues.

The basis of Madhesh's political transformation

It has been more than 7 decades since the Madheshis organized an agitation for their rights. After the Madhesh-centric parties came to power, the issues raised by themselves have been forgotten after the Madhesh-centric parties established by the movement for identity, representation and fair distribution of state resources/tools. In the past, Dalits, women, Muslims, tribal tribes and Madheshis of Madhesh jointly protested against the central government, and some leaders are completely unwilling to distribute the opportunity proportionally.

The participation of Madhesi Dalits in the government of Madhesh state is less than half of the population. 17.29 percent Dalit population has less than 7 percent representation in Madhesh government. While 15 percent Yadav's representation is almost double. Moreover, the representation of Madhesi Bhurawal, who are a minority in Madhesh, is more than three times the population ratio. The politics of Madhesh state has not yet reached below Bhurawaal, Yadav, Mandal, Vaishya.

The slow pace of implementation of the Dalit Empowerment Act-2076 brought by the Madhesh government also confirms the weak presence of Dalits in Madhesh politics. The Madhesh movements after 2063 brought the problem to the surface, but it seems that apart from benefiting the limited Madhesi leaders in the previous elections, it promoted casteist politics. Even the resemblance of Bihar's politics is clearly visible. Madhesi leaders have emerged as 'heroes' of the caste. Until the social, economic and political empowerment of the people of Madhesh, then the souls of those who were martyred in the movement after seeing this dream will not find peace. For this, on the one hand, it is necessary for the Madhesh-centric forces to unite and fight with the federal government for rights, and on the other hand, the limited ruling class that is currently in power with the Madhesh should improve.

Madhesh's economic transformation base

Agriculture is the main occupation of 62 percent of the people of Nepal. The contribution of this sector to the gross domestic product is 23.95 percent. This is why agriculture is the backbone of Nepal's economy. Farming is very easy in Madhesh due to its flat terrain. Any crop can thrive here because of the hot weather most of the time. Therefore, agriculture has been the main basis of transformation for Madhesh.

Fish farming can become the main source of economic transformation of Madhesh. The per capita availability of fish in Madhesh province is 5.76 kg per year, which includes 52 thousand metric tons of imports per year. 62 thousand 397 families are involved in the fishing sector. 1 lakh 58 thousand 720 people have got employment. There are 362 thousand 244 people in fishing profession.

According to the National Agricultural Census 2078, the percentage of farmers who say that agricultural work is the main source of income in Madhesh Province is 64.3. Also, Madhesh is seen as the province that produces the most fish in the country. In the financial year 2078/79, the total number of ponds in Nepal was 49 thousand 862, while Madhesh province had 18 thousand 926 (38 percent). In that year, the fish production in the country was 77 thousand 320 metric tons, while in Madhesh province it was only 44 thousand 170 metric tons (57 percent).

The identity of Madhesh province is established as 'fish and makhan'. Madhesh province can advance on the path of prosperity if further development can be done in the fisheries sector. Madhesh's economic problems can be solved to a large extent even if the fish farming business is given priority so that it can meet the internal demand. But the sad aspect is that this sector cannot be given priority by the state government.

The policy and planning commission of the province stated in the first periodical plan (fiscal year 2076/77-2080/81) that the goal of improving the living standards of the people and bringing economic prosperity is to increase fishery production and productivity and make the province self-reliant and promote exports. The province has created the technical standards and operating method of the new pond construction program for fish farming, 2076 and the technical standard operating method of the fish pond maintenance subsidy program, 2076. Point no. of policy and program of the year 2077/078. In 163, it was mentioned that the specific 'Fishery' program of the province will be conducted by giving special priority to commercialization, hatchery improvement, pond promotion and market place construction and freezer transportation. It was mentioned that special subsidy would be given to farmers to dig ponds for fish farming. That year, the provincial government allocated 1.55 billion budget for the beautification of the pond and the construction of the monastery, but only 10.48 million budget was allocated for the construction of new fish ponds and maintenance of the old ones.

The future seen in fish

The Policy and Planning Commission of Madhesh Province stated that the main problem is that the fisheries business is not prioritized as a policy in the first periodic plan (fiscal year 2076/77-2080/81) and the production cannot be increased professionally. Increasing commercial production of fish in traditional ponds and lakes across the state is a major challenge. There are challenges such as fish processing, packaging work and lack of cold storage facilities. It is mentioned that since the necessary facilities are not available from the state to the entrepreneurs producing fish, the cost of production is high and it is difficult to substitute imports.

Most of the 24.6 percent of those who get work permit to go for foreign employment are from Madhesh province, but it seems that the provincial government has given more emphasis to ponds and monasteries than commercial fish farming. In the policy and program of Madhesh province, it was mentioned that the program will be conducted so that the minimum income of 'one family, one thousand per day' from animal husbandry, but there was no budget allocation for that.

Work is also being done with the idea of ​​attracting mass farmers and youth to the field of fish farming/fish seed production management and making it professional and establishing it as an attractive and respected business/profession of the society. In this process, there is also the idea of ​​supporting the economic and social transformation of the country/province through the promotion of self-employment in the country, increasing the income of the farmers by making them self-sufficient and securing the food and nutritional conditions of the common people by commercializing the fisheries sector.

In order to make Madhesh province self-sufficient in quality edible fish/fish seed production management and to encourage the private sector in fish seed supply, new fish hatchery/nursery construction, new pond construction, fishery mechanization, use of new technologies, fish processing, fish And it seems that a special program should be conducted as a priority for the transportation of fish products and fish marketing.

If we increase fish production and productivity through the proper and balanced utilization of the immense natural and water resources in our country and the development and use of professional, intensive and latest technology, employment will also be increased by replacing imports. It is certain that it will help in reducing poverty, improving nutrition and food security.

In this way, Chinari of Madhesh province is not only based on Mithila culture, an integral part of this culture is also related to the fame of 'Jalakpur fish of Janakpur and Koshi's Jalakpur fish', which has the status of changing the economic face of the entire province.

This province is also considered the leader in the production of food grains, livestock, sugarcane, mango, banana, litchi and other fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of opportunities to achieve economic prosperity through the development of the agricultural sector as there are naturally flat and fertile agricultural lands, abundance of biological diversity, young manpower and easy transportation. However, this sector has not been able to contribute significantly due to fragmented and dispersed land, traditional agricultural system and dependence on nature due to diminishing returns due to lack of private sector investment and cooperation at the farmer level and out-migration of the young generation.

If agriculture, which is the main basis of the Madhesi economy, is modernized and commercialized, it will not only be self-sufficient in agriculture, but exports can also be promoted. But for this, long-term thinking and planning is necessary.

Finally, in the budget statement for the year 2080/081, the Madhesh government has mentioned that since the 'culture' of Madhesh is 'agriculture', it will conduct a special program to increase the interest of the Madhesi youth towards agricultural profession and business and to commercialize the capital, labor and skills that come from employment. But out of the 46.92 billion 11 million budget of the entire province, only 2.62 billion 85 million 27 thousand rupees have been allocated for the Ministry of Agriculture, which is only 5.6 percent of the total budget. While 64 percent of the residents are dependent on agriculture.

(Not only politics, but industry, business, agriculture, education, health, tourism, banking, cinema, literature, there is disappointment everywhere now. The country cannot bear the weight of this disappointment for a long time. To promote lively faith, Kantipur has started a series of ideas- A 'starting point' where different experts will write proposals for reform, continuously.)

प्रकाशित : फाल्गुन १७, २०८० ०८:४६
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