Nepal makes multi-billion-rupee development plan for Terai

Kathmandu, Jan 20 (IANS) Shaken by the nearly five months long agitation of Madhesis in the Terai region, the Nepal government has prepared an NRS.5 billion development plan for the southern plains of the Himalayan republic.

Madhesis have been protesting against the newly adopted Constitution, which they perceive as the continuation of the immense discrimination their region has traditionally suffered from the Kathmandu-centric ruling elite.

The development programme aims at creating physical and social infrastructures in the Terai region.

Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, who holds charge of the foreign and federal affairs and local development portfolios, will on Thursday launch the ambitious Border Area Development Programme (BADP) at Bardibas, in Mahottari district of south-eastern Nepal.

The five-year programme will initially target the development of proposed province number 2 – the heartland of the ongoing Madhesi agitation. It has eight districts of Sapatari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara and Parsa.

The region chosen for the programme has villages and towns bordering India. It has been lagging behind in life expectancy, literacy and per capita income values as compared to other regions of the country.

Mentioning the objectives behind the programme, Thapa said: “Though the Terai is a plains area and accessible, it is backward in human development indices.”

Against the national HDI value of 0.540 for 2014, HDI for all of these eight districts is less than 0.500 while for some it is less than 0.400. HDI score closer to one indicates greater achievement than those closer to zero.

The federal affairs and local development ministry said the Border Area Development Programme will be implemented in 107 Village Development Committees and seven municipalities in the eight Terai districts, and will run till the 2019-20 fiscal.

“The programme is meant for areas that have fallen behind in Human Development Index,” the ministry joint secretary Dhan Bahadur Shrestha said. “A budget of NRs.164 million has been allocated for the programme during this fiscal.”

At the current exchange rate, 160 Nepali rupees (NRs.) equal 100 Indian rupees (INR).

Shrestha said the programme will focus on building local road networks, small-scale irrigation systems, agriculture, drinking water facilities, sanitation, community infrastructure, environment conservation, energy, schools, sub-health posts, toilets, skill development and social awareness.

“Provisions are in place for employing local resources for the programme,” he said.

The federal affairs and local development ministry will coordinate the programme while a central monitoring and evaluation committee, a programme-direction committee and a district programme implementation coordination committee will be formed for ensuring effectiveness, Shrestha said.

District and village development committees will lead programme implementation operations with the participation of the local people, he added.

The unrest in Nepal’s southern Terai has been going on unabated for almost five months with the protestors demanding equal rights, inclusive representation of the Madhesi population in various state organs and access to the development endeavours.

Over 55 people, including protestors and police personnel, have been killed during the Madhesi agitation.

The Madhesis’ major demand is for the formation of two provinces in the Nepali Terai — the Madhes extending from the Mechi river in the east to the Narayani river in mid-western Nepal, and Tharuhat pradesh from the Narayani to the Mahakali river in the west.

The Madhesis are also demanding, among other things, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in the Himalayan nation as proposed in the new Constitution; and representation in parliament on the basis of population. Significantly, the Nepal Terai has almost 51 percent of the country’s population and yet gets only one-third of seats in parliament.

The Madhesis also seek proportional representation in government jobs and restoration of rights granted to them in the interim constitution of 2007 which the new charter has snatched away.

The new Nepali Constitution was promulgated on September 20 last year.

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