Book Review of ‘From Exclusion to inclusion, sociopolitical agenda for Nepal’
Author: late Dr. Harka Gurung
Review: Shekhar KC
Gurung, H. (2005). Bahiskaran dekhi samabeshikaran samma Nepal ka lagi samajik rajnitik agenda (trans. From Exclusion to inclusion, socio-political agenda for Nepal). Kathmandu: Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF).
The following text is the summary of the research booklet entitled ‘Bahiskarandekhi samabeshikaran samma Nepal ka lagi samajik rajnitik agenda’ prepared by late Dr. Harka Gurung for Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF) in 2008. The book I read is the Nepali translated version of English text (I acknowledge Amol Acharya for providing that book to me) which was already published in 2005. In this following summary I have literately tried to put the main arguments and analytical points of Dr Harka Gurung (2005) regarding the social exclusion/inclusion issue of Nepal which is targeted to help those who might not have time to go through the detailed report thoroughly. Besides that, I myself had to understand the text and putting it in words was the only way to confirm that I have at least understood something about this very serious issue. Some of the words are translated into English without consulting the English version of this book; such mistakes are expected to be considered with liberal hearts. While going through this text, the analysis and data might sounds outdated or not updated because it doesn’t carry the sentiments of Interim constitution of Nepal 2008 – the only constitutions that is far better inclusion sensitive than any other previous constitutions.
Key words: Human Development Index or HDI, Human Poverty Index or HPI, Local diversity, caste and class, exclusion, inequity, socio-economic deprivation, primordialist Vs instrumentalist, Essentialist Vs modernism
The book comprise of 5 chapters which are dealt shortly yet comprehensively with supporting facts and opinions backed by historical and current narratives. These chapters are Ch1- Manab Bikash (Human Development, p.1), Ch2- Esthanik bibidhata (Local Diversity, p.5), Ch3- Barga samandhi rajya ko sidhanta (State policy on Class, p.15), Ch4- Bahiskaran ko Prabhav (Impact of Exclusion, p.20) and Ch5- Samabeshikaran ko bato ma (Road to the social inclusion, p.37).
The first chapter gives short background of different development paradigms that explains, in simple sentence, how to achieve economic prosperity and development in society and nation. The discourse starts with Adam Smith who took human beings as the social asset and the core means to development. Classical economist believed that enhancing human capability lead to the economic prosperity and overall development. The examples of war-destructed nations are listed whose development strategy to achieve high rate of economic growth was to focus on human resource development, despite having low potential to develop from natural resources. The development sector saw the concept of ‘Human Capital’ in 1960 and Human resource development became the core means to implement the concept effectively. In 1990 UNDP modified the concept and came up with the concept of Human Resource Development. HRD focused on expanding human capacity, prioritizing citizen welfare, ensuring socio-economic freedom etc. similarly 1993 saw the wave of ‘citizen participation’ influencing the discourse followed by ‘Poverty Alleviation’ in 1997, ‘Inclusive Democracy’ in 2000, ‘Saghan Democracy’ in 2002 and the recent one ‘Cultural freedom’ in 2004 (p.2).
Dr Gurung argues that the main population problems faced by Nepal are high growth rate and subsequent low living standard. The increase in population means the increase in low skilled and illiterate + unproductive manpower because Nepal doesn’t have that administrative capacity to enhance the human development of its citizen in proportion with growing population (p.3). So illiteracy, unemployment etc posed serious threat to Human Capital development of Nepal. Various HPI and HDI data also verified that Nepal is having serious problem in health, education and household income disparity. From 1975 to 2000, Nepal had progressed by 69% interms of increment in HDI, the social reality is that sufferings seem to find no way-out (p.4).
The second chapter put forward the regional discrimination and social exclusion as the main two causes behind Nepal’s backwardness. Unequal access to Natural resources and the one-way regional administrative strategy of the nation are accompanying causes (p.5). Dr Gurung argues that social exclusion in Nepal is the cultural construct or output.
Dr Gurung suggested two bases for regional division of Nepal. 1) Natural resources. 2) geographical regional. He argues that the equal access over the natural resources by the people irrespective of the geographical location will address the big gap between high development of Kathmandu and pity marginalization of Bajhang (p.6). He has analyzed the pattern of per-capita Income, HDI on geographical basis and proposed his own model of administrative units which will minimize the current hardship Nepal is facing interms of regional discrimination (p.8)
The third chapter i.e. ‘State principles on Class’ gives the historical account of exclusionary policies adopted by Nepal that dates back to 18th century and its impact is prolonging hitherto. He explains why Hinduisation was adopted in Nepal. There was fear of the Mugal Empire of neighboring India engulfing Nepal’s cultural identity. To strengthen the nationalism based on single religion i.e. Hindu, Nepal adopted the process of Hinduisation (p.15). Later Nepal saw how British Empire destructed Mugals of India with their Christianity and as the preventive strategy; Nepal reacted with strengthening Brahman cultural rites and rituals. Nepal categorized Hindu-based casted on hierarchical basis and marginalized the remaining caste, ethnicity as they were considered so important to unify the national interms of strong political and cultural unit. Nepal came up with Muluki Ain 1910, that only favor hight caste Brahnin and Chhetris while devalue other Dalits, ethnicities and nationalities (p.17).
Dr Gurung clarifies the concept of Caste (jaat), Ethnicity (Jati or Jana jaati) and Dalit. Caste refers to that Hindu social group which comprise of internal high-low hierarchies. Ethnicity refers to the people who have their own mother tongue, historically quoted place for habitation and religious tradition. For example Brahmin and Chhetris are caste but Newars are ethnic people. Dalit are social group within Hindu but labeled by state in inferior through their profession (p.18).
Dr Gurung explains the theoretical model of Core-periphery division applied in the categorization of the social group in the Muluki Ain (p.18). He states that Hindu people are at ‘core’ while Non-Hindu is at ‘periphery’. Similarly core-periphery distinction is visible between Parbate Hindu and ethnic people including Newar Hindu. Also parbate Hindu are at ‘core’, Newar Hindu are at ‘sub core’, Parbate janajaati are at ‘periphery’ and Bhote, Tharu etc are at post-periphery (p.18).
It shows that Kirat, Bhote, terai ethnic people (except Tharu) were excluded in the past because they were not considered important for national building and that’s why they were not incorporated in the process of Hinduisation. These state-backed Hinduisation or say a form of marginalization is the main reason behind political, cultural and economic disparity we see today (p.19).
The fourth chapter elaborates the impacts of exclusion. Two causes are put forward by Dr Gurung behind disparity. One is Geographical diversity and second is State mismanagement. Gurung states that through geographical diversity provide space for grooming cultural and environmental diversity but in case of Nepal due to unequal access to resources between urban and rural, the scale of inequalities became broader and broader. So, geographical diversity had to be taken as one of the main hurdles to the development of Nepal (p.21). Secondly, State mismanagement became the instrumental to advocate the particular religion, language or social group like Hindu based higher caste Brahmin or Chhetris while directly marginalizing the various Nepalese of different ethnicities and languages.
Dr Gurung answers who get stock in the vicious cycle of poverty in Nepal. for example a Buddhis monk of Himal region has neither access to resources or opportunities due to his geographical location far from the center nor his religion is given similar status to as that of Hindu. That means he is two times discriminated that a Parbate Dalit (p.20). The 3 main impacts are
a) Political inequalities: Since the root of our present constitution and legal mechanism is Muluki Ain, no matter how many times it is amended, Parbate Hindu or high caste Brahmin or Chhetris will always have superior position in compare to other Dalit and excluded ethinic people. Those 212 law makers of Muluki Ain comprised of 95.1% higher caste background (p.23), which makes it clear the level of biasness the law carried with it and spreading the conflict till today. Dr Gurung elucidates the % share of various social group in governmental service, legislation and civil society which shows that power structure of Nepal is dominantly captured by privileged group like higher caste Brahmin and chhetris(p.23). Hence Dr Gurung advocates for strong affirmative action to upgrade the status of those historically marginalized social group to incorporate them in national legal and social development mechanisms.
b) Economic Deprivation: Nepal Living Stand Survey shows that Newars have highest per capita income with High HDI while Hilly Ethnic + Dalit + Muslim has the lowest per capita with low HDI. This shows that income is such a central measure of human development. Dr Gurung answers why Brahmin and Newar have high HDI? It’s because Newar are indulged in Market/ Business profession while Brahmin have ‘cerebral preoccupation’ (p.26) to compete in higher government position. That is to say the occupation directly leads to higher income and high human development.
c) Educational inequality: It is another impact where similar disparity is seen between state-backed social group and marginalized ethinic, dalit people.
The last chapter entitled ‘Road to Inclusion’ provides the accounts of possible steps towards end the present chaos which has been lingering since 18th century (p.37). Dr Gurung asserts that ending social exclusion through Pluralistic Democracy should be main agenda of national building in Nepal (p.37). He listed some of the possible actions to address the problems as suggested by HD report of UNDP
– Identifying endangered languages
– legitimating traditional rights
– positive discrimination for disadvantaged group
– proportional representation
– asymmetric federalism for power sharing
Dr Gurung points out that delay in identifying social exclusion as the main cause of Nepal’s backwardness is the main problem (p.38). According to him, following interventions are necessary to address the problem of social exclusion
1) State management: since Nepal’s constitutions and laws doesn’t carry the true sentiment of social inclusion and ha always advocated particular religion like Hindu or language like Nepali by devaluating and marginalizing other social group, Dr Gurung suggest following four steps (p.39)
- Amendment of Constitution
- National value to all mother tongue and languages without prioritizing particular language like Nepali as such
- Proportional representation system instead of majority-based democracy
- Local autonomy
Our past governmental practices to address the problem shows that state has tried to established different institution mechanism like Dalit Ayog (Dalit commission) and Mahila Ayog (Women Commission) but with no clear cut vision and implementation plan and outputs. Ninth and Tenth development Plan addressed the social exclusion issues by incorporation the problems of nationalities, ethnicities and other marginalized Dalit community (p.42).
Dr Gurung criticized that the aforementioned actions and plan had no measure basis to evaluate whether the results or outputs were effective or not.
Dr Gurung provides list the main issues of different ethnic ethnicities, social group, madhesis and Dalit separately and suggested the respective way-out for their particular cultural, economic, political, social problems (p.42). For example the political problems of Janajati are low representation and anarchist rule over Janajati and they are supposed to be addressed through proportional representation and Ethnic autonomy respectively (p.43). Similarly, The economic problems are Dalit are low literacy, unemployment, homelessness and their suggestive way-out are free education, reservation system and alternative livelihood mechanisms respectively. The problems of Janajati, Madhesi and Dalit are categorically put there and death with affirmative actions according to Dr Gurung (2008, p.43).
Hence Dr Gurung characterized the structural problem of Nepal as the state-backed exclusionary policies. He further stresses why social inclusion is necessary for Nepal through following arguments.
a) Since Dalit and Janajaati have almost 50% share in Nepal’s total population, their exclusion is the national problem and hence enhancing their development lead to national development and economic prosperity (p.45).
b) If poverty alleviation development projects and plans target these excluded groups, the outcome will be visible and measurable because these people are really poor in compare to dominant high caste Brahmin and Chhetris.
c) Ending the monopoly of a mono-cultural dominance is necessary precondition to establish pluralistic democracy (p.45).
[Thank You. Date: September 08, 2012, Lalitpur]