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SOCIETY-What ails Janakpur?

NIRJANA SHARMA

Letter from Mithila

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Mithila culture holds an important place in the Hindu civilization. But anyone who visits Janakpur, the cradle of the Mithila civilization, will be left disheartened to see the crumbling city. Mismanagement of resources coupled with lack of new resources is gradually taking its toll in this once beautiful place.

Heaps of stinking wastes welcome visitors at the southern entrance gate of the Ram Janaki Temple whereas wastes from various temples are disposed of carelessly around the temple premises and sacred ponds. Pigs and piglets roam fearlessly in the heart of the city. Sanitation is almost nil with most of the inner roads as well as other places filled with feces. The stinking drainages add to the town’s list of woes. The situation gets even worse during the rainy months when the water level reaches knee high.
The city today leaves a general impression of dirt like it never did before.

“The Municipality used to mobilize sweepers to clean the town three times a day but this practice gradually vanished over the last 15 years,” says Janhawi Koirala, 62, a resident of Lakshman Akhada.

The former employee of the Custom Office says that the roads, drainage, drinking water and sanitation programs have been almost useless in recent times. “The roads in and around the Municipality were blacktopped 25 years ago and the condition gradually worsened due to lack of management,” says Koirala.

Janakpur once had blacktopped roads. But now potholes and uneven terrain have taken over, making even a short journey a tedious and almost backbreaking task.

The local body is powerless due to the lack of elected representatives for the last 10 years. The major reason behind the inability to elect representatives was the thriving corruption in the sector. Corruption in the local governance of the district came to the limelight when former minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha went on an observation tour of the eight districts of the Tarai last year. Eighteen people were suspended due to corruption charges and their cases are still pending at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

Dhanusha stood last in the list of all the 75 districts of Nepal in the Minimum Condition Performance Measures (MCPM) of the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs (MoFALD). It received just 27 out of 100 points for failing to meet the development criteria. All of its 101 Village Development Committees (VDC) and the Janakpur Municipality failed to meet the targets set by the Ministry.

It also lies along with eight other failed districts whose development budget were reduced by 25% for the running fiscal year as punishment of malfunction. The Red Book, Part 2, released by the National Planning Commission this fiscal year shows that a total Rs 2.56 billion would reach the district from all government and non-government sectors to spend on health, education, social security and development works.

Shailendra Mallik, Secretary of the Consumers Committee at Vidyapati Chowk, presents an example of irregularities in the Municipality. The residents went to the municipality office with requests to get the drainage system improved. But all their attempts for the last three years have fallen on deaf ears.

The Local Development Officer at Dhanusha, Guru Subedi, says that the problem lies with the government’s attitude towards the development sector, citing the transitional phase as the prime reason behind their neglect.

“How can a government expect improvement when it’s sending the worst personnel to the Tarai districts?” questions Subedi when asked why corruption rate is high in the region.

In his term of three and a half months at the District Development Committee (DDC), Subedi says, “The progress is made only on paper. The success rate of public-private partnership is nominal due to the interference of vested groups,” he claimed.

There are 22 political parties in the all-party mechanism of the DDC. Yet its accounts have not been audited for two years.

Meanwhile, there is hope of development from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Ministry of Urban Development on July 15 signed an agreement with the ADB to implement a four-year road project worth Rs 1.6 billion in the district. The project targets to expand and blacktop the major roads and feeder roads of Dhanusha District, said Subedi.

The racial conflict during the Madhesh Movement displaced most of the residents of Janakpur belonging to Pahadi community, but a few families are still living here with the hope that everything will be fine as time passes.

Things have come under control through security personnel and there is a gradual decline in the cases of life threats, murders, kidnapping and forced ‘donations,’ claims Superintendent of Police (SP) Uttam Raj Subedi, Chief of the Dhanusha Police.

Even though the people are living in frustration stemming from the failure to establish a federal state as per their aspiration after the success of the Madhesh Movement, the political parties are still playing the blame game. The local leaders either blame rival parties or the central body for the political situation and the backwardness in development.

“The parties with traditional mentality like the Congress and UML and the Khas Pahade-led bureaucracies are solely responsible for the present mismanagement,” said Dr Bijay Singh, District Coordinator of the Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TaMaLoPa).

But contrary to his allegation, Jhalku Yadav, Acting District Chairperson of UCPN (Maoist), views it as the lack of accountability and sense of responsibility among the leaders elected from Danusha District for the present poor state of affairs.
“Many members in the Constituent Assembly, including President Ram Baran Yadav, were Madhesis. But what they did for the betterment of their respective places is clear to everyone,” he added.

Crisis and youth

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While the government was signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Maoists in 2006, several Madhesi armed groups started violent activities, as a result of which many youths were either forced to join them or leave their localities. The National Census 2011 shows that 43% of the total residents are absent in the district as 60,400 people are recorded not living there. The total population of the district is 138,225.

Lack of employment opportunities in their localities has also misled the youth towards drug abuse. Around 300 youths are found involved in drug abuse and trafficking, according to the data available at the Dhanusha Police Headquarters.

“The security agency is looking forward to establish rehabilitation centers to correct the drug users,” mentioned SP Subedi. “The rising numbers of drug users have also been identified as a new threat to the security of the society and it’s also a cross-border issue.”

The absence of working-age people has resulted in a labor crisis in the district. Though demand has fallen short, people have to wait for their turn to get their works done. The rickshaw pullers are generally old people who are in the profession for generations. Frustration also looms large after the Janakpur Cigarette Factory was shut down recently, leaving hundreds of people jobless.

Rays of hope
Historically, Janakpur is the center of Madhesi politics. All the political parties have decided to put their efforts together to strengthen their position in the Madhes. The announcement of UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to file his candidacy from the district for the upcoming CA elections has generated a ray of hope in the locals.

“We’re hopeful that Janakpur receives national attention if the chief of the major political party gets elected from here,” says Avinash Sajan Karna, Chairperson of Shanti Ra Bikaska Lagi Yuva, a non-government organization. “But again, there will never be any progress if Dahal follows the path of President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav who never paid attention to his people even in his five years of residency at the Shital Niwas.”

nirjanasharma@gmail.com

Source: Republica DailyLink:http://theweek.myrepublica.com/details.php?news_id=60450
Published on 2013-08-30 11:47:25
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About nirjanasharma

Journalist.

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