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‘It’s really difficult for a Rural Municipality Chair to address all aspirations of all people’

Kamlesh Sharan Chaudhary, Chairperson of Shuddhodhan Rural Municipality (Kapilvastu), says he does the best from his side but the people still think he is not doing enough.

Kapilvastu: Kamlesh Sharan Chaudhary joined politics to address the problems of the people.   Coming from a relatively well-off family, Kamlesh had nothing else in mind but to be able to serve the people to the best of his capabilities. Kamlesh, who rose to fame after the Madhesh Movement in 2007 and who won the local election in 2022 as the chairperson of Shuddhodhan Rural Municipality, has now seen how challenging it is for the chair of a palika to address the problems as per their expectations.

There are four major problems we face, explains Kamlesh. One is that there is a queue of people asking for financial support. “They fall ill, they ask for financial support. They have to build a temple and they ask for a budget.  We do as much as we can for the needy people who cannot pay for their medical treatment but the problem is even those who are capable of affording the hospital bills by themselves look up to the chair for support,” says Chaudhary.

The second problem, according to him, is that nearly every household demands hand-pipes. “I receive a number of calls everyday demanding hand pipes.”  And the third problem is every settlement demands a budget for constructing temples or mosques, while major issues related to health and education remain unaddressed.

 According to him, such demands put him in such a difficult situation that he cannot say ‘no,’ nor can he say ‘yes’ to their demands. “If we say no they will go about saying the chair did not care about our problems. If we say yes, we cannot fulfill every single demand because there are budgetary constraints and procedural issues,” he said.

In that case, why can’t he simply explain to them the limitations?

“If we do, we will become unpopular right from that moment. So even if we know that their demands cannot be fulfilled, we have to mince words and tell them that we will try,” says Kamlesh.

Kamlesh worked for the people of his palika and district during the Covid-19 crisis working for about 18/20 hours a day, taking oxygen cylinders to the needy, providing people masks and other relief materials. “I put my own life at risk during those risky times, even by using my own vehicle,” he said.

“The thing is we work with the best of our side but it pains me to see that people think the mayor is not doing enough,” says.

He has realized that a mayor or the rural municipality chair cannot do much by himself despite his will. “That’s because we have to listen to all sides, sometimes even listen to ill-logic of the people because people are not educated enough,” he says. “And because the municipality does not have a source of revenue, it cannot allocate the budget for all sectors.”

It is true that a palika receives a budget from provincial and federal governments but whether and how much budget you receive from the province or federal government depends on which leader is there in the province and federal government. “If you have a minister there from your party and from your constituencies you are likely to receive more budgetary support, if not, you are less likely to receive such support.” According to Kamlesh, this is a big problem. “A leader has to think beyond his local constituencies, palikas or parties. As a leader you have to think of people as a whole,” he says.  “What happens if I as a chair of this rural municipality put my focus on certain wards and neglect others? I will not become the chair of the whole municipality.  I should not favor one ward over the others. In the same way, a minister or a parliamentarian from province and federal level should also not favor one constituency over another. He has to think of the welfare of all units under his constituencies and treat all municipalities equally.”

Kamlesh says that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has become a hindrance to permanence of local levels.  His municipality tried to purchase a fire brigade with 6000 liter capacity but someone filed a complaint at CIAA and the idea was dropped. “As many as 48 households were gutted in fire this year. If the municipality had a fire brigade, several of these houses could have been saved,” Kamlesh said.