Assembly of District Development Council (DDC): Context, Challenges and A Way Forward

Assembly of District Development Council (DDC): Context, Challenges and A Way Forward

by Radha Paudel

21 Assembly, DDC Jumla

Jumla’s overview:
District Development Council (DDC), Jumla conducted its 21th assembly on 13 March 2014 in its premises where four constituent assembly (CA) members, chair of Karnali Development Commission, representatives of the government officials, political parties, village council, I/NGOs, media, women’s network, citizens were gathered. It was looked like a festival and the encouraging mass than International Women’s Day 2014, just five days before. During 2069/2070 (2013/2014), DDC spent the total Nrs 1, 88, 96,60,000 ($1889600). It constituted of DDC’s sole implementation Nrs 41, 07, 81,000, sectoral expenses Nrs 1,09,92,48000 and I/NGO’s contribution Nrs 37,96,31,000. An individual of Jumla secured Nrs 18,896 (the total population 100,000) and it was only 29 % of the expenses against plan.
Jumla is the zonal headquarter of the Karnali which characterized as the most remote, conflict affected, poor region in Nepal. However, Jumla is the most developed and accessible district than other districts (Kalikot, Mugu, Humla, Dolpa) in Karnali. Thus, it is a choice district of all development actors, government personnel and others. After Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) 2006, government and external partners put Karnali as a priority region for poverty alleviation and development. Thus, the volume of the budget is increasing and various forms of development activities are on progress such as suspension bridges, Surkhet-Jumla road, micro irrigation plants, gender, social inclusion and empowerment of women, dalit and marginalized communities.
At the meantime, Jumla has many distinguished features. The Sinja valley is popular for the origin of the Nepali language as well as place for Nepali civilization. Even today the ancient temples and royal palace can be found. Likewise, it has very popular religious places and temples such as Chandanath,Pandav gupha, Mahat etc. Jumla has few hot springs where as only Tatopani hot spring is in use and is in public attention. Jumla is the main entrance to hike Rara lake and Patrashi mountain. It is globally recognized for a place where paddy rice cultivated in the highest altitude. It is also hub for various aromatic and non-aromatic herbs, vegetables, fruits. Many culture, herbs, flora and fauna are yet to explore. Though the few outstanding and historical actions are also implanted unintentionally such as Dor Bhahadur Bista, a first anthropologist and sociologist in Nepal, founded a Karnali Institute in Chaudabis, Dillichaur. Likewise, in order to honor and commemorate people who died during 10 years Maoist insurgency in Jumla, a Miteri Shanti Batika in Bohoragaun, Katikswami is under construction. Further, the Karnali Institute for Health Academy, Jumla and Agriculture research centers in Chhumchaur and Guthichaur are franchise the importance of Jumla by many ways in national economy and development.

Sinja Valley, Jumla 

In this scenario, the expectation of people of Jumla is increasing dramatically. Meantime, the national policy discourse is also pushed to enact at micro to macro level of development in Jumla. It means, people and policy are seeking tangible results against investment from various levels and sectors. The result is more crucial to fill the gaps of about 300 year’s long deprivation, depression and domination of the state in a way and the other way around. It is also more valuable to build culture of peace at large. Despite all good initiatives forwarded by the DDC, the report and presentation is similar as 2001, 13 years back in Jumla. DDC report presented data on input instead of the results and its quality. The report piercing sharply to whom are well known about the ground realities. For instance, here, few cases shared from the grass root to validate the gaps in saying and doing.

The real stories from ground:
Agriculture: the limited cultivated land in headquarter is increasingly occupied by cemented house in disorganized manner. The market is occupied by grains, vegetables and fruits that are imported from the India. The land which is outside of the Surkhet-Jumla road and headquarter are remaining empty, farmers are avoiding to use it due to dependency on donors, migration, no modernization on agriculture, no market etc.

Jumla Bazar

Carpet enterprises owned by Chandra Bdr Rawal, Tatopani

Business and Entrepreneurship: all stakeholders are saying that Jumla is potential for the agro-forestry based business and entrepreneurship everywhere. There are 900 micro enterprises are officially registered in D-Mega association. However, the progress is very slow and sustainability still a big challenge. Many of the herbs collectors don’t know where is the exact cost, destination of the herbs and its purpose/uses. Meantime, some of the herbs is disappearing e.g. Satuwa. The local products such as chips of apples, jam, tea etc are not used by the local people. People are more prone for testing; using opportunities provided by the government/NGOs rather apply forever. Thus the nature is more exploitative than conservation and promotion for future.

Raw wool of Sheep in Jumla

Education: a three grade students not recognized the letters/words of 1-100, students are studying in ground due to not having class rooms, three classes run in the same class room, five grade school has three class rooms and three teachers. Students often go to villagers due to not having drinking water supply (Jogibada primary school, Kudari, March 2014). Most of the school activities are disassociated with the life of the students, their family and society.  Most of them have dirt hands, running nose, bare foot, merely no bags, if yes, they are torn well etc.

Grade 3 students were here due to not having class room in Gogibada, Kudari

Health: a 21 years old woman admitted in hospital for treatment of severe malnutrition of 10 months boy and she has 4 months pregnancy from Botamalika, Jumla (INF, Jumla, March 2014). District health office sanctioned two Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM) in Sannigaun. However, both of them are living in headquarter and attained only 3 days in a month (AWON, December 2013). The birthing center should be served 24/7 hours service for the maternal and child health as policy but no one taking care of it in terms of taking corrective actions. The pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition are the key killer diseases for children.

Social Evils and practices: even the health personnel, school teachers are practicing Chhaupadi in headquarter of the district. Likewise, women are working 18 hours a day. In many villages specially from Sinja valley, men are not at home e.g. only 3 senior men are at village in out of 89 households in Kadagaun, Sannigaun, Jumla (AWON, December 2013).Even today the early marriage is prevalent (AWON, March 2014).
Chhaupadi in Bohoragaun, 

WASH: the 23 villages are promulgated as ODF (Open Field Defecation) free villages. Unfortunately; villages are occupied with open defecation observed in Kudari, Sannigaun. There are no toilets, if yes not used or no water or very congested and dirty too. The rate of absenteeism of adolescent girls is increasing due to not having toilets and water supply in school.

In addition from above mentioned cases/stories, the appearance of that day; the people in stage and in ground as audience is enough to understand the reality of 21 years assembly of DDC in Jumla. The number of women and quality of their presence is enough to understand the gender equality, women’s right and development at large.

Few Questions to assess the results of DDC’s budget/performance:
In order to assess the impact of such over flooded of budget and programs, hundreds of questions yet to answered by the DDC and concerned stakeholders.  The following questions are the representative questions only.
1.      How much grant is transferred at the name of women, dalit, disable at village level and what is the impact of it?
2.      What is the impact of district education office which is being implementing its strategy since last 2 years? How many schools are identified best schools and why? How many schools gave sanctioned teachers and classroom as number of grades?……
3.      Are the planned activities relevant with community and people? If yes, what is the impact yet?
4.      How many women enjoyed their rights as CEDAW article 14 ?
5.      What is the percentage of women in local peace committees?
6.      What is the status of the women within political parties e.g. how many political leaders aware about their manifesto?
7.      How many GBV survivors women get prompt response from one stop crisis center?
8.      How many women/household do abolish the Chhaupadi practice this year?
9.      What is response of police while seek support of police?
10.  How many men give up to go to migration?
11.  What is the loss from the load shedding?
12.  Which are the best practices of sustainability?
13.  Where is the analysis of the efficiency and effectiveness?
Reasons and Challenges;
To answer the above mentioned questions and to explore the underlying causes of having such devastating situation, there are various controlled and un-controlled factors. Here, few reasons and challenges explained for sensing the reality.
1.   Poor mind set:  Money, geographic difficult are not problem indeed. The positive feeling and pro activeness merely absence among the employees. They want to work in comfort zone and promoting corrupt culture. In other hand, the citizens are also fully occupied with dependency culture. The dialogue, interaction or discussions starts, `we are poor, government/NGOs are not taking care of us’. Very few people are ready to work by and for themselves.
2.   Lack of vision and commitment: in Jumla, each village council has periodic plan and these plans are accumulated at district level. Some of villagers do not know the real needs due to lack of knowledge and exposure. Rest of them know and has have resources so far for implementation. Unfortunately, the plans are not changes in to the actions. For instance, hot spring,Tatopani is a popular hot spring in Karnali. It is full with dirt, bad smell and merely zero hospitality among the members and management committees. Many things can be done without money or little money but people are feeling peace and enjoying a lot by pointing to the government and limitation of the fund.

Hotspring at Tatopani village 

The dirt in hotspring, at Tatopani
3.   Synergy among stakeholders: the government heads passing the balls from here to there at the name of system. Most of them are love to work in comfort zones, within the stereotyped system and policies. There are several examples to prove it e.g. ahead of Skills Development office, has been working in Jumla since last three years. He knows that the post training support mechanism is the key factor to continue the skills as practiced in training. He neither find a way by collaborating with like minded organizations nor manage internally. Likewise, the small cottage industry has the same experience but lack of coordination and collaboration to generate synergy and sustainability.
4.   Lack of accountability: the prolonged absence of the sanctioned post in institutions and no one pay attention to correct it. Sometimes it is open secrete among the organization head, they just ignored. Even the government personnel do not like to contribute if there is no incentives or daily allowances. Likewise, the political leaders are disperse and no common vision, planning and commitment beyond their political boundaries.
5.   Mentoring and Monitoring: Usually, the mentoring and monitoring is for the sake of formality. Even the central level mentoring and monitoring is very traditional manner and confined in papers and near by areas from the headquarter. Even the DDC is failed to do it. The village council is also a synonym of the conflict. The huge amount of money is delegated for the empowerment and development of the villages. Unfortunately, village council failed to prioritize the urgent concerns and come up with 100 plans which is not possible to work out.
6.   Absence of elected bodies at local level: The entire resources are governed by the government bodies who are not necessary be from local, expert in local knowledge and skills, and not for the long term. The local election was held in 1997 thus political parties are consulted for planning and implementation. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge and skills among the political parties/leaders and their dominant nature for everywhere, the development is really affected badly. The corruption and mis-management of fund is largely observed everywhere.
7.   Population Vs Human Rights: The total population is low compare to the geography (100000 DDC Profile, 2013). About 5% households are really rich by many ways. But rest of the population is struggling so much, living in deep depression, ignorance, extreme poverty, and so many other deprivations which is crucial for survival as human being. It has been talked several times so don’t like to repeat the same again. In this scenario, working in Jumla/Karnai is seems very time consuming, expensive and tedious too. In this connection, where is human right of low population? Where is the state for them? Where is the basic human rights of them? Where is the investment since 300 years back? Working in Jumla is often become a debate in Nepali politics and policy discourse. One school of people considered that working in Jumla is a loss of resources and another schools of thought claiming their right even asking for the compensation because it is considered a violation of human rights by many ways.
Way forward:
As shared above, the funding and the geographical difficult are not challenges, they are the opportunities in the other way around and it is only a mind set of people, institutions and all. This article doesn’t present the way forward as a form of each activities and time frame because it is only a plan, need something different beyond that as mentioned below;
1.      Establishing common goal and commitments: The civil servants are always blaming to political leaders and political leaders always pointing towards the civil servants. In Nepal, both parties; civil servants and political leaders enjoy the powers during the conflict and post conflict period from 1997-till date. Both systems don’t show the real impact in the development and good governance. In local and national level, the corruption is shooting up, the development indicators are putting off such as women empowerment, poverty indices, malnutrition etc.The experience from the monarchy to federal democratic context, none of the actors have vision towards their organizational journey. Usually, their positions and powers are floating over the temporary thoughts, emotional issues and personal interest at large. Therefore, the leaders; civil servant, political parties should sit together at least 3 days and develop a common understanding on goals and strategies where any new comers obey and function under same frame. This is real way to address the issue of Jumla and Karnali instead of gossip. The all leaders should speak, stand beyond the boundary of comfort, interest of an individual. In democracy, each should posses the right of choice, but shouldn’t turbulent the common goal at all. There should be common ways forward on gender equality and women empowerment, education, climate change and environment, health and so on.
2.      Proven model from own self: Nowadays, leaders are losing their followers because of lack of honesty and commitment on their saying since long. They are good in saying always e.g. LDO drank and verbally abuse woman and two days after gave speech on women’s rights. That kinds of examples found everywhere specially so called leaders e.g. a women leader talking about the women’s right but she practiced the harmful traditional practices e.g. Chhaupadi, no red color after death of husband. Similarly, a politician spoke over radio on fighting against corruption and next day just asked to police to release the offender of the violence against women. Thus, each activists, leaders, individuals and organizations should follow the norms and policies as guided by the government. Each should be a model rather seeking model from outside from the country and each are potential candidate to make the things happens.
3.      Solidarity among NGOs: The level of change and development achieved so far is the partially outcome of the NGO too. However, the NGOs are also so much divided by politics and donors. Many NGOs also are fall for corruption. Therefore, all NGO should sit together and make a master for implementation. NGO’s works are under mind on the basis of volume of amount its posses rather the quality work. NGOs are not for party politics, corruption and conflict in the community at all.
4.       Critical engagement in the ward level: By considering the overlapping of social issues from micro to macro level, the engagement should focus at ward level. The supports from one day training, Nrs 5000 for income generation activities, Nrs 100 for scholarship etc are not work well in transformation of rural Nepal like Jumla. The patience and consistence work required otherwise the development work doesn’t make sense at all. Without knowing logic and exposure on what it is, really doesn’t sense e.g. teachers are teaching on menstruation and practicing Chhaupadi at home.
By considering the above discussion, the DDC, Jumla  would use the budget in rational way; the total al Nrs 3,11,24,40,000 (2070/2071) where DDC will be contributed Nrs 80,83,92,000, from sectoral offices Nrs 1,64,45,15,000 and I/NGOs will be contributed Nrs 65,95,33,000.

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