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‘No country survives without people. So, everything we do should be for people’s happiness’

Sher Bahadur Shahi, the Chairperson of Shivalaya Rural Municipality in Jajarkot, shares with The DMN News what constraints the functioning of the local government and what the federal government should do about it.

Kathmandu: Sher Bahadur Shahi, 58, is the Chairperson of Shivalaya Rural Municipality of Jajarkot district. He served as a teacher in different schools in Jajarkot for a long time before joining politics.  He was elected the Chair of Shivalaya Rural Municipality in the 2022 local elections.  He believes that the citizens should be led on a positive path, and the state should fulfill their basic needs. Without the direct participation of people, development works will not be effective, says Shahi.  Ram Kumar Shahi of The DMN News caught up with him to find more. 

It has been two years since you were elected the head of a local government. How has your experience been so far?

After the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015, the country moved forward by envisaging a three-tier of government. As envisioned by the Constitution, local governments can make laws and policies and implement them but there is lack of clarity about what kind of laws a local government can make and to ensure that they do not contradict with the provincial and federal laws. People’s concerns are directly related to the local level. Unclear rules and regulations make it difficult for local leaders to deliver. 

Incomplete legislation and law has hampered the work on the ground. Besides, there is no harmony between people’s aspirations and laws. That’s because the lawmaking process seems to be outdated while the situations have completely changed.  Earlier, the gross domestic product of the people depended on traditional animal husbandry. But now things and circumstances have changed. Now at least 70 percent of that has phased out. Now people go abroad looking for employment. The social structure of our country has also changed. 

We have not been able to do things even though we really want to. For instance, we are meant to complete tasks that are budgeted to the amount of 20 lakh rupees. The central government will come and check. But, what about its monitoring? What about the purpose? There has been a lack of coordination between the governments. At times, functions and powers of federal and provincial governments appear to overlap or be confusing.

The local government is known as ‘Singha Durbar’ of the village. It is the government closest to the people. What can a local government do to make the people it is their government at doorstep?

Whatever we have been able to do in the field of education, health, transportation has kept us close to the people. This is something that can bring happiness to people.  They become happy when they have a job, they have work to do,  or when someone speaks politely to them. But, these alone cannot work in the long run.  The state provides an allowance for senior citizens. Every citizen gets it irrespective of being rich or poor. Billions of rupees are spent for the same. It looks good, but is it? There is no access to electricity for people living here. They have no access to motor vehicles either.

The government must at least take charge of the basic needs of the people. We are preparing to get access to electricity in all the wards soon. We are thinking about bringing changes in the education sector but only ‘thinking’ does not work. It has been two or three years since I asked for 150 electric poles. We haven’t got even one yet. Local government cannot keep its people happy if the federal government pays no attention to what people at the grassroots level need.

Can you share with us some of the initiatives you have taken for the people of Shivalaya so far?

Whatever I have done, I have done with honesty. Even when I was a teacher, I did not compromise with my integrity. When I was the Chairman of Nalsingh Gad Hydropower Project Development Committee, I worked with utmost honesty there too. Now, I am working honestly as the chairperson of the rural municipality. There are obstacles but I am confident that I will be able to overcome all these hurdles. My focus is on Shivalaya Ring Road, Shivalaya-Cheda-Kachaali Road apart from education and health which are my priorities now. I am thinking of opening a 10-bed hospital in the village. I am thinking of starting the project this year. People want facilities in education, health, transportation and business. No country survives without people. So, everything we do is for the happiness of people. The government should be for the people and of the people. 

What are some of the major issues you faced with the federal government in recent times?

Mainly, there is confusion about what the needs of the people in the rural areas are. For example, metaphorically speaking, if I ask for medicine for cough and cold, the federal government sends us Cetamol, medicine for fever. Identifying issues is an issue in itself. Leaders should have a clear vision. The quality of leaders matters, not quantity. It is unfortunate that when you go to the higher level of the government asking for development work, you have to know which party you belong to. I don’t understand why the government is neglecting basic issues such as education, health, roads, and bridges.  Several of the cooperatives managers cheated their depositors and ran away. Why has the government not been able to take action against them? Who will give them justice?

How would you like to be remembered by the people of Shivalaya Rural Municipality after your five-year tenure? 

I will never work to be remembered or for fear of being forgotten. I go with the flow of life. Everything is connected to nature. If we do not harmonize with nature, the earth will not exist. Neither will we. All I want is for everyone including Shivalaya Rural Municipality to continue growing till infinity. I will keep my positive thinking as long as I can while embracing a positive path to move forward. Many people are unhappy even after getting wealth. Many people are sad for various reasons. Let the consciousness of people develop. Let us also not sell dreams that cannot be fulfilled.