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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Hindu Editorial: A New Beginning With Nepal

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Title: A new beginning with Nepal 

(Pragmatism has finally taken root in Delhi and Kathmandu — project implementation will be the test) 

It is a long-standing tradition that Nepali Prime Ministers make Delhi the first foreign port of call after taking over. The only exception was Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ in 2008 who visited China first and found his tenure cut short months later when his coalition collapsed, forcing him to resign and adding a touch of superstition to the tradition. 

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli maintained the tradition during his state visit to India last week. 

His earlier nine-month tenure as PM in 2015-16 had seen relations with India hit a new low, and it made eminent sense to begin his second term on a positive note. 

Contentious years 

Nepal’s political transition began nearly three decades ago when it adopted a new constitution in 1990 which ushered (शुरुआत) in multiparty democracy. However, stability eluded (escaped) Nepal with a spreading Maoist insurgency(विद्रोह). They finally produced a new constitution in 2015. Nepal abolished its 250-year-old monarchy and emerged as a federal republic. During these decades, political instability prevailed with 25 Prime Ministers in 27 years! 

On February 15, Mr. Oli began his second tenure as Prime Minister. 

He is shrewd enough to realise that his campaign rhetoric of Nepali nationalism with overt shades of anti-Indianism needed to be modified, and by observing the tradition of visiting Delhi, he was signalling the shift. 

A rethink in Delhi 

In New Delhi too, there has been a growing realisation that time had come to make a new beginning with Nepal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in August 2014 had marked a new high in relations. 

India’s openly stated reservations on the new constitution in support of the Madhesi cause and the economic disruptions caused by the undeclared blockade had fuelled anti-Indianism which Mr. Oli cleverly exploited. 

Compared to the Joint Statement issued in August 2014 at the time of Mr. Modi’s visit, the latest one is much shorter and talks about strengthening relations on the basis of “equality, mutual trust, respect and benefit”. 

Project implementation 

For decades, India has been Nepal’s most significant development partner. Yet the pace of project implementation has been slow. 

The idea of four Integrated Check Posts (ICP) on the India-Nepal border to facilitate movement of goods, vehicles and people was mooted 15 years ago and an MOU signed in 2005. 

While preparation of surveys and project reports moved slowly on the Indian side, acquisition of land by the Nepali authorities got held up leading to delayed construction. 

As a result, only the Raxaul-Birgunj ICP has been completed and was inaugurated last week. 

The two Prime Ministers also witnessed the ground breaking ceremony of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border petroleum products pipeline, a project for which the MOU between the two governments was signed in 2004. 

What is now needed is effective delivery on the pending projects, the remaining ICPs, the five railway connections, postal road network in the Terai and the petroleum pipeline so that connectivity is enhanced and the idea of ‘inclusive development and prosperity’ assumes reality. 

Title: A register by the people 

(The draft National Forest Policy identifies threats to forests, but does not provide systems for public involvement) 

The State of Forest Report says that forest cover had increased in India by 0.21% in 2017 from 2015, and that some areas had become ‘Very Dense Forest’ in this period. At the same time, the Ministry itself admits that between 2014 and 2017, India lost, or legally diverted, 36,575 hectares of forest area towards 1,419 development projects. So, two things are clear: even if forest cover is being increased, it is also simultaneously being lost. 

Crucially, the claim of new forests being created is questionable. In several consecutive forest reports, an absence of ground truths has meant that areas that look green, such as tea estates and commercial plantations, have been counted as forests. Environmentalists stress that it is difficult to believe that India’s forest cover has become more dense in the last two years simply because this process takes much longer. 

The point is that there is a need to create mechanisms to calculate our actual forest cover and natural wealth, and this should form the basis for a forest policy. 

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002, calls for setting up a Biodiversity Management Committee in each local body. The Committee will prepare People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs), with tribals as members or people living in natural areas not classified legally as forest. The Registers entail a complete documentation of biodiversity in the area — plants, food sources, wildlife, medicinal sources, etc. 

A good PBR will not just be a powerful text, it can also help to trace how habitats are changing, and to understand and estimate parts of our forests. 

For instance, several Endemic Birds Areas, like in the Western Ghats, are those where tribals like the Todas live. These communities have specific ways of interacting with the environment and have helped conserve it in a sustainable way. 

Decentralisation 

Traditionally, the view of forests in India has been that of a natural resource which requires management and effective commercial use. 

While the draft Forest Policy talks about increasing forests, including for commercial purposes, through public-private partnerships, it does not create a mechanism for including those who live around forests. 

The draft identifies threats to forests but does not provide systems for community involvement. 

Vocabulary words: 

Coalition (noun) = Alliance, union (गठबंधन) 

Usher (verb) = Show or guide somewhere (शुरुआत) 

Elude (verb) = Evade, avoid (बच निकालना) 

Abolish (verb) = End, finish (समाप्त करना) 

Monarchy (noun) = Sovereignty, autocracy (राज-तंत्र) 

Prevail (verb) = Prove more powerful or superior (प्रबल) 

Shrewd (adj) = Having or showing sharp power or judgement (कुशल) 

Acrimonious (adj) = Angry and bitter (speech or discussion) (रूखा) 

Exploit (verb) = Make full use of something in an unfair way (शोषण करना) 

Don (verb) = Put on(clothing) (पहनना) 

Moot (adj) = Debatable (पहनना) 

Acquisition (noun) = Purchase (अर्जन) 

Imperative (adj) = Mandatory, crucial (अनिवार्य) 

Languish (verb) = Weaken, decline (दुर्बल) 

Consecutive (adj) = Successive, following each other continuously (लगातार) 

Integration (noun) = Combination (एकीकरण) 

Elusive (adj) = Difficult to achieve or remember 

Blend (noun) = Mixture, combination (मिश्रण) 

Vulnerable (adj) = Can easily be hurt (जो सहज में घायल हो सके) 

Predominantly (adv) = Mainly, mostly (मुख्य रूप से) 

Err (verb) = Be mistaken or incorrect (ग़लती होना) 

Replication (noun) = The action of copying or reproducing something (पुनरावृत्ति) 

Attribute (verb) = Regard something as being caused by (जिम्मेदार ठहराना) 

Lacuna (noun) = Deficiency (कमी) 

Fatality (noun) = An occurrence of death by accident, in war or from disease (मौत) 

Deter (verb) = Prevent the occurrence of (प्रतिरोध करना) 

Statute (noun) = A written law passed by a legislative body (क़ानून) 


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