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There is no development, where there is no Justice : Ward chairperson Mudvari

He is known as a leader of the ordinary citizens in his Constituency.  Mr. Santosh Mudvari started his political journey as a student leader in the capital city of Nepal . He however , chose to live in his hometown in Far West Nepal and pursue his passion of serving the people. He  was elected as the chairperson of Ward number one Dhangadhi sub-metropolitan city in the year 2017.  He is also the spokesperson of Dhangadhi Sub_-Metropolitan city.  A post graduate in Sociology he is a vocal advocate of social Justice. SDG campaigner ,  Prabhakar Bagchand spoke to him on wide range of issues including Sustainable Development Goal. Full text of the interview is as follows:

It’s been three years since you assumed office. How has it been so far ?

I have earned the love and admiration of people of my Constituency. I have done my best to be available for the people round the clock. I guess people are happy with my performance as their representative. This has been a rewarding journey.

You talked about development. What according to you is development ?

I am not a development expert but from my experience of working with people I can say there is no development where there is no Justice. For example there could be high rise buildings , good roads and bridges but if rights of citizens , women , Dalits and marginalized communities  are restricted or curtailed , that society can not be considered developed. For true development to take place Justice has to be the foundation of any development work.

What you have said is very interesting and important. You just said there is no development without Justice. How have you integrated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially Justice in the design implementation & monitoring of development policies & plans of your ward and Sub -Metropolitan City ?

I am of the view that as local bodies our role is crucial to make Sustainable development goals a reality. The more people are connected to SDG , the more we are closer to achieving the goals. Leave no one behind has been our Mantra. Lets for instance take my ward , we constructed roads around Ward number 1 which has  enhanced the economic condition people living there .All the projects we  implemented were designed  to benefit the citizens of the ward but our effort has been to ensure that most vulnerable individuals and communities are benefitted the most.

We believe SDG 16 is the key to achieving all other sustainable development goals.

We have noticed that due to lack legal identity documents and other identity documents many people are deprived of government services and benefit. We try to make process of registration of vital information less cumbersome and free from nay bureaucratic hurdles. We will hopefully achieve the SDG target 16.9 “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.”

At the policy level we have framed policies that keeps women, Dalits indigenous communities and poor at the core. Recently we have come up with policies that are guided by the targets of sustainable development goals.

The  SDGs have  put justice and good governance at the centre of development policy.  We fully recognize  that   that reducing violence and corruption, improving security with the rule of law, and creating inclusive and effective institutions to deliver justice and public services are essential preconditions for sustainable development and eradication of  poverty.  We believe SDG 16 is the key to achieving all other sustainable development goals.

Let me take this opportunity to share with you in spite of being a  sub –metropolitan city and a hub of economic and political activities of Far West Nepal, we do not have adequate  resources in particular infrastructure and human resources to measure and assess our activities with respect to SDG -16 targets and indicators.

We would need the support of national international agencies on this front.

Judicial Committees in the Local bodies is positive step towards Justice delivery . But there is feeling JC’s work have not been effective as anticipated. What are the challenges you face ?

The constitution of 2015 envisioned Judicial Committees at each of the 753 municipalities and rural municipalities. Judicial Committee were designed to overcome the drawbacks of the formal system, increase access to justice and bridge the formal/informal justice divide.

JC is headed by deputy mayor at the municipal level and deputy chairperson at the rural municipal level. The three-member committee has the mandate to adjudicate, arbitrate and refer cases for mediation at the local level.

Local Government Operation Act (LGOA) 2017 has given various powers to the local levels. As per Clause 47 (1) of LGOA, judicial committees are empowered to settle disputes related to 13 specific matters. Likewise, as per Clause 47 (2), in 11 other matters, judicial committee has the right to settle the disputes through mediation. A case can directly be registered in the Court also. If not satisfied with decision of the JC an appeal can be submitted by the disputants at the district court. With regard to  adjudication and arbitration, judicial committees collectively exercise their jurisdiction. The opinion of the majority is regarded as the decision of the committee. In cases of mediation, judicial committees Judicial Committees refer the parties to the mediation centres at the ward level.

Judicial committees are definitely step in the right direction when it comes to enhancing access to Justice of people. Though I am not in the Committee as a spokesperson  of Dhangadhi Sub-Metropolitan I can say Judicial Committees have performed well in our city though there is lot room for improvement. Judicial Committees aim to provide Justice at door step. However, Judicial Committees are beset with many challenges.

There is lack of clear protocol Committees should follow while adjudicating. The capacity office bearers of Judicial Committees need to be built by providing training on law. I think Judicial committees need to be empowered first.

Don’t you think apart from settling disputes and cases JC should take up Legal Empowerment as part of its work so that communities are better positioned to deal with their legal problems and avail services provided by the government ?

 Our approach is as you said,  is empowering the people so that they have control over their lives. We are willing to work with all stakeholders in particular donor agencies to run community empowerment programs.

As you are aware Paralegals in different names are doing Community Empowerment work at grass root level. Do you see their role as connecting link between communities and Judicial Committees?

I see a possible collaboration with Paralegals. Judicial Committees have to refer the disputants to ward level mediation centres. This is where Paralegal can have a role. Apart from this Paralegal could be engaged in legal empowerment of communities.

You are one of the most recognized /popular elected leaders of Dhanagadhi Metro-politan city. How often and how do meet your Constituent?

I have frequent interactions with my constituents. I make it a point to visit families whenever they need me. People often come to with their problems and grievances and try to address them as far as possible. I feel I am fully accountable to the people.

What are you planning to do economically, socially and politically, to make Dhangadhi ward number  one,  as a site of sustainable development?

 Ward number one is the heart of Dhanagdhi Sub- metropolitan city. Many facilities like hospitals , government offices public parks shopping complexes are located here. We are trying to attract investors so that employment opportunities are created for our youth. This opportunity will greatly affect the lives of our people economically, socially and politically. As further preparation and part of my advocacies, I have radical approaches in agriculture , education and health care. Here, we have encouraged thousands of indigent families to take part in education through government scholarship programs, In addition, we are seriously showing to our people that good governance, transparency and involvement of private sector leaders, including protection of the environment, among other things, as well as our concern for the preservation of our culture and heritage, will, hopefully, change for the better the attitude and values of some of our people.

Good governance at any level requires the strong support of constituents. To get this support, what values, policies and virtues do you espouse in your own ward/city and what programs do you have to apply them?

I try to be an example to my constituent. One cannot get the support of people if you do things differently from what you say. Transparency, dedication to work and accountability matters to me. My projects are developmental not cosmetic.

Can you elaborate on how ordinary citizens of your ward can help you realize your dream where everyone enjoys a decent quality of life.?

They have to be concerned members of the community, carrying with them personal ethics like a sense of fairness, justice, belonging and selflessness. Public officials cannot do it alone. That is why I am encouraging participation of the private sector leaders , civil society in my governance.

 

Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights.

 Thank you Prabahkar ji .

 


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