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Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

On mature reflection

This article was originally published by Labisha Uprety in The Kathmandu Post on October 2, 2016.

Shree Namsaling Higher Secondary School, established in 2006BS, is a sizeable community school located in Namsaling, Ilam. It has close to 45 ropanis of land but fewer than 350 students. The place is scenic—misty and cool in the mornings.

A colleague and I were studying a number of private and community schools in the area. The vice principal of the school was kind and welcoming, and answered all my questions patiently. The teachers were, by and large, genuinely interested in teaching the children. The school-ground, where children played happily, was big enough to take long walks on. But one look at the school’s SLC results, and everything else would seem trivial. The 10th graders in particular were performing dismally, especially in Maths, English and Science. Although I believe that SLC results are hardly the best indicator of a child’s performance, exam results are an important means to assess student progress.

School politics

However, what began as an assessment of exam results led to an eventual examination of the power structure between the school management committee (SMC) and the institution. Every school has an SMC, which is largely comprised of parents of those studying in the school. But there is also space for ‘donors’, which is usually used by political parties to step formally into the school. The principal of the school is also part of the SMC; so is one teacher elected from the pool of teachers.

In a very strange turn of events, none of the community schools we visited had an active principal; all were managed by the vice-principal. One was reportedly away on informal visits, and two had mysteriously failed to turn up at the schools when the audit season came. The money that each community school gets—a sum divided under numerous headings such as salaries and scholarships—requires only the principal’s and the head of the SMC’s signature for mobilisation. It then requires no further monitoring throughout the school year and is examined by auditors at the end of the school year, again handled usually by the principal alone. The audit reports list repair and infrastructure costs. But the teachers state that even classrooms have been without doors for a long time.

We have been more than aware that problems in public schools stem from management practices and the infiltration of politics in them. Private schools are hardly all virtuous, but they deliver better exam results and are generally not an active political breeding ground. One thing missing from community schools is the effective incentivising of the management system and teachers. This is not to say that all private schools practise this. But public schools could begin with incentivising the management system to educate children better rather than pocketing the change with every other transaction.

Hire and fire policy

Teachers in public schools may be better trained than those in private schools, but what good is the training when teacher absenteeism is rife? In particular, those teaching Maths, Science and English seem to continually drop out of public schools and opt for entering the bureaucracy formally, leading to dismal results in these subjects.

A performance-based salary incentive for the contribution—in terms of time, effort and output—for both the SMC members and teachers would perhaps make for a better model, while also allowing for timely checks on monetary transactions. Though the law has provisions for school inspections, this is a rarity in rural areas, where school representatives frankly said that they had never seen a school inspector during their long service at the school.

Community schools rank fairly low in terms of exam results, but it would be premature to conclude that they have all failed. There are many examples of how certain public schools have managed to draw students. These schools hire private teachers to fill in teaching gaps and charge students—usually only those who are directly taught by the private teachers—a small fee to pay them. The flexibility to hire and fire staff is important in an education system that should be retaining only the best teachers. Of course, this does not mean people can be fired without due reason and process; it simply means that the mechanism should be in place and practised when the need arises.

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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Examining insolvency in policy and practice

This article was originally published by Labisha Uprety in The Himalyan Times on September 25, 2016.

Insolvency is a relatively little used term in Nepal – discussions on it are fairly limited to niche circles of business and/or law. However, insolvency is one of three company exit procedures as allowed by the Nepalese legal system – the first two being cancellation of registration and voluntary liquidation of company. Being insolvent simply means that a company is unable to clear its debts and has been running under alarm-triggering losses for a substantial period of time. The Insolvency Act 2006 governs insolvency dealings in the country and allows for a number of parties to file for insolvency at the Appellate Court: the company itself, or creditors/shareholders/debenture-holders of the company. The regulatory body under which the company is registered (such as the Insurance Board for all insurance companies or the Nepal Rastra Bank for all banks and financial institutions in the country) can also file for insolvency if it has amassed substantial evidence that the company in question is unable to pay its debts. There are two options that a company can undergo once the Appellate Court accepts the case – either liquidation (which would imply selling off all assets to settle debts, and closing the company) or restructuration (modifying operations in order to rescue the business by cutting costs and selling assets or even changing ownership if needed).

The initial process

After a case is filed under insolvency, the court will review the evidences and host a hearing in 15 days’ time. During this time period, the company in question is allowed to offer evidence-based counter arguments as to why it should not be declared insolvent and forced to liquidate its assets. When the court decides it has found no reason to stall the insolvency procedure, it will appoint an inquiry officer to re-evaluate the company’s financial state of affairs. This investigation often lasts for a period of 90 days after which the inquiry officer will generate a report explaining whether the company could be restructured or needs to be liquidated. The Appellate Court then, based on the inquiry officer’s report, holds a meeting with the applicant on finalizing the best course of action.

Increased length of proceedings

Liquidation under insolvency is the last resort for any company. Naturally then, regulatory bodies or creditors of the company will not have filed for application without substantial homework. In particular, when the insolvency filer is a regulatory body – well aware of government proceedings and following due process – the inquiry official appointment, whose work can again be reviewed by the liquidator makes for redundancy. While appointment for an inquiry official is warranted in cases of body/bodies not too familiar with the due process, the decision to twice review a regulatory body’s decision (first by the inquiry official and second by the appointed manager/liquidator) could be relaxed – for it may only work to lengthen the procedure.

A separate administration office

Though the law states that there will be a separate provision for an Insolvency Administration Office, no such office exists even after 8 years of the Act having been passed. Currently a number of functions that the law envisages the new office to take over is being handled by the Office of the Company Registrar. This includes registering insolvency practitioners, and issuing and renewing their licenses. It also includes maintaining insolvent companies records – but the OCR is currently burdened with documentation of over 100,000 shell companies alone. These shell companies’ records are ones that OCR should be looking into in order to cancel their registration but has not been doing so for many years. If the law provisions for a separate administration for insolvency, then this would reduce one set of burden fror the OCR – allowing them perhaps to engage more resources in dealing with shell companies.

Lack of cross-border insolvency policies

A remarkable absence in the reigning Insolvency Act is the lack of policies for cross-border insolvency. If a parent company based on borders outside of Nepal closes, what does this mean for its branches here? There is a lack of clear policy options for this particular case, and with Nepal housing a large number of international companies’ branches – options to ease this probable concern is a necessity.

Insolvency may be thought of as fairly uninteresting – but when a company is insolvent, it means it is sitting on resources that could be freed for other uses. Having a smoother facilitative process would allow for companies and people to use these resources better and create newer ventures and better innovation.

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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How to cancel the registration of a company in Nepal?

Have you ever needed to understand the procedure for company registration cancellation – if you did register the company but could not or did not commence business?

Samriddhi has been steadily working on examining prevailing exit strategies for companies and businesses in Nepal in the past few months and will soon be releasing a paper on the same. There are mainly three exit options available for entrepreneurs wishing to close their business – the cancellation of registration (for businesses that did not commence business once registered, – voluntary liquidation (for closing ‘active’ businesses) and – forced liquidation (where regulatory bodies file for closing of a certain company because of unassailable losses).

You can find the process flowchart for company registration cancellation below!

 

Registration Cancellation of a Company

Detailed descriptions of time and cost taken to administer the shown process can be found in our upcoming company exit paper.

The next in line for the exit strategy blog-post series will be on the process of voluntary liquidation (i.e. how to close a business in Nepal once you have engaged in some form of business commencement?)

Stay tuned!

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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On Infringing our Right to Earn a Living

The ongoing economic blockade in the country has, in all effect, rendered life excruciatingly difficult for the common mass. Among other things, 220,000 people have been left unemployed, 2200 industries have been forced to close, over 29.75 billion in revenue has been lost in the first 5 months of the ongoing fiscal year and poverty is expected to rise by 7% in the coming year as people are left without access to fuel and food in these harsh cold months. Additionally, medical supplies to Nepal have been affected by at least 50% since most of it came to the country from or via our southern neighbor. In all this, the protests in the Tarai-Madhesh plains have claimed over 50 lives. It is unfortunate that this number could potentially increase as we look at a seemingly unending conflict between party heads. It is time that the state and agitating parties look to finding ways to solve their differences without infringing on our right to earn a living.

 

Data sources:

Chalise, K. (2015, December 15). Nepal to become poorest in S Asia. Republica Daily.

Customs dept misses revenue collection target by 38.72 per cent. (2015, December 16). The Himalayan Times.

Khalid, S. (2015, November 21). India’s ‘blockade’ snuffs out Nepal’s medical lifeline. Aljazeera.

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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Reading Gaige in 2015: Part III (The politics of language)

Photo source: www.asianart.com

We ended Reading Gaige in 2015: Part II (The politics of citizenship in the 1950s) with an overview of how citizenship laws were first formulated and how land rights came into being in Nepal, and how both these led to the subsequent Nepalization of the Tarai or at least attempted to do so. This week we shall examine two successive chapters on language, communication and national integration in the Tarai.

Chapters 6 and 7:

Prior to 1951, there had been little or no effort for the implementation of a unified mother tongue in Nepal. With over 100 ethnicities, Nepal had and has incredible variety in language and dialects. Post-1951 however, Nepali-speaking democratic leaders were eager to establish Nepal as a nation with its own linguistic identity. With the establishment of the National Education Planning Commission in 1954 and the subsequent release of its report ‘Education in Nepal’ in 1956 came the first attempt to unify language in the country. The report recommended that Nepali be the primary language of instruction in schools beginning from the third grade. The recommendation was justified by stating points such as the need to give status to a language spoken by the majority, the need for a lingua franca and to adopt a national language which was easier to learn than Hindi among other reasons. Additionally, there was also mention of how no truly Hindi speaking populace was part of Nepal.

Though the proclamation of this particular recommendation did cause considerable controversy, it was from 1951 itself that the Nepal Tarai Congress had begun being vocal about wanting Tarai to become an autonomous state with the recognition of Hindi as a state language. Since local administration had weakened considerably in 1951 because of the revolution, the Tarai found courage to make such demands but with the re-establishment of power stemming from Kathmandu as early as 1953, the demands for an autonomous Tarai was dropped from the party manifesto. This will make for an interesting historical reference for all those who believe that the demand for an independent Madhesh is recent.

In terms of primary language of instruction in the Tarai, because there were few Nepali-speaking qualified teachers in Nepal, most teachers had to be recruited from across the border. The controversy for primary language of instruction however was taken to new heights with Prime Minister K .I. Singh issuing a directive that Nepali was to be the primary language of instruction in all schools, and that all teachers, within 2 years, had to demonstrate Nepali language usage in classrooms and they were also to furnish proof of Nepali citizenship within six months. The directive led to an outcry in the Tarai, with the move been seen as another way to force ‘hill culture’ on the Madhesh. It was also seen as a move to bar Tarai citizens from using the language that they were most familiar with. There were little or almost no plains representatives in the parliament then and thus the move was seen as severely curtailing their democracy which only aided to increase the distance between the hill and the plains. Post the decision, the Nepali Tarai Congress decided to launch a ‘Save Hindi’ campaign which managed to include in itself other major parties’ support. While the movement gained considerable momentum in 1957, it began to lose steam as parties began to prepare for national elections in 1958 and align themselves with more pressing issues. Eventually, the need for all teachers to have a valid Nepali citizenship was scrapped as it would mean having to close down many schools in the plains entirely dependent on Indian teachers.

An examination here then on whether Hindi really was the dominant language of the Tarai is warranted. The 1952/43 census stated that only 3% of the Tarai population spoke Hindi as their mother tongue. The census put a number of dialects one would assume as Hindi such as the mid-western and far-western plains dialects under Awadi. The 1961 census in fact reduced the number of the Hindi speaking population from 80,181 (in 1952/54) to 2,867 speakers.

It is interesting to note the 1961 Indian census put Awadi as one of the dialects under the Eastern Hindi category.  Hindi may not be the mother-tongue of many in the Tarai but is certainly the language they use when engaging in trade and commerce and is an important second language. According to Gaige’s calculations, at least 63 percent of the Tarai population spoke Hindi as a second language in 1961. Additionally, it should be noted that census takers assumed second language faculties of households based on their questioning of men alone and often did not question women members. This was a mistake if one takes into account marriage ties the Tarai has across the border. Nepali was assumed to be understood by most of the population and was spoken as the mother tongue by at least 6% in 1961 but Gaige calculates a mere 25 to 30 percent of the plains population speaking Nepali as a first or second language (based on the population of native speakers, the hill people they came in contact with and the students who studied in the language). This percentage still much lower than the Hindi speaking population who use the language as a first or second language.

In 1961, another report from the King appointed National Education asked for Nepali to be the language of instruction in all schools but it was to be implemented in stages as opposed to the previous blanket provision. Elaborating this issue, King Mahendra stated that the medium of education was to be Nepali in all schools but that teaching and examination of papers could be in a language other than Nepali. This statement is vague and contradictory considering that the medium of education is in fact teaching and examination. As Gaige puts it, this and other attempts to Nepalize the Tarai was a ‘pointed assertion of national consciousness.’

It is agreed while there is need for a lingua franca for a nation to help communicate with ethnicities of all kinds and as an official language, it seems almost hypocritical to first allow for the flourishing of trade and culture between the open borders and then dissuade the additional ‘carry-overs’ (such as language) that come into play when engaging in the same.

The literacy rate in Nepal in 1952/54 was only 4 percent and thus communication through the written word was tricky. Mail service had also not been fully developed and newspapers from India, in English and in Hindi, were read by many as opposed to the state paper – Gorkhapatra alone. The state thus relied on the radio as a better alternative to information dissemination. The radio was considered a symbol of wealth then and it was common to see people huddled around solitary radios in compounds of those who could afford the device. However, the plains people were avid listeners of All India Radio than Radio Nepal because of two primary factors – language and content. All India Radio broadcasted programs in diverse languages such as Bhojpuri, Maithili and even Nepali (from its Kurseong point) while Radio Nepal lay unwilling to validate regional languages. This cost the Nepalese government to lose out on tapping on its regional audiences in that time period. Furthermore, because the state published its announcements in ‘highly Sanskritized Nepali’, it became difficult for the plains to discern official announcements, having possibly to rely on Nepali-educated peers.

As Nepal government began to press for school language reform pushing for books in Nepali to be taught at all schools, this began to pose a problem with translations because as Gaige puts it, Nepali as a language (a by-product of culture) had no technological orientation in its development. In later years however, due to integration over time, schooling became an important tool for Nepalizing the plains further.

Find the link to Part I of the series here.

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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Reading Gaige in 2015: Part II (The politics of citizenship in the 1950s)

Photo source: www.nowherepeople.org

We ended Reading Gaige Part I with the understanding of a general commentary on the geo-politics of the Tarai, border issues with our southern neighbor and how migration into the Tarai began. This week, I shall outline a sketch of Gaige’s research on the politics of citizenship in the Tarai.

Chapter 5: The Politics of Citizenship

Citizenship has been a sensitive issue in Nepal since its determination in the country. After Prithivi Narayan Shah’s 1769 conquest of Nepal inclusive of the Tarai, came the need for defining roles and responsibilities for the plains. Minor government posts and zamindarita (land-lordship) were granted in 3 levels; with first preference being given to the ‘hill folks’, second to ‘those settled with family in the tarai’ and who were rich, faithful and from respectable ancestry’. Third preference was given to Indians, with Indians being defined as a plains person residing in the Tarai without his family. This separation was because there were no citizenship laws before 1964 and identification was made as such. Before the Citizenship Act of ‘52, there was an absolute lack of administrative mechanism to determine a person’s status as Nepalese or Indian. Thus, both Tarai residents and Indians were required to obtain a passport from Birgunj before they were allowed entry into Kathmandu, except for on Shiva Ratri – when Indians were allowed to make pilgrimage to Pashupatinath. These passports were checked at Chisapani Garhi and the procedure was not abandoned completely until 1958. As Gaige notes, before 1951, nationality depended heavily on use of the primary language, meaning Nepali (as spoken in the hills) and thus these people required no such form of identification when entering from the eastern or western hills into the capital.

When the Nepalese political revolution began in 1951 and there was a need to draw up a voters’ list, there had still been no formal definition of citizenry in the country. Hence, the Public Representation Act of 1951 affirmed that any person who had resided in a constituency for at least 60 days would be allowed the right to vote. This liberal approach to voting may have been influenced by India’s influence on Nepal’s political matters, considering that Nepalese leaders were far from policy drafting experts and required help from India in such an arena. The ’51 Constitution was subsequently seen as an adaptation of the then newly formulated Indian constitution. The results of the general election of ’59 can however give an indication of the bonds that the hill and tarai leaders had with each other. Of those elected in the Parliament from Nepali Congress, 12 were plains people and 11 were hill folks, who had strong ties with the plains and included leaders such as B.P. Koirala and Subarna Shamsher. As Gaige puts it succinctly, ‘there was a time when the men of the hills and plains worked, fought, and occasionally died together and, when the struggle was over, they governed together’.

The 1952 Citizenship Act formed the basis for citizenship laws, which was later reiterated in the 1962 Constitution, barring for difference in naturalization requirements. Article 8, Section 2 of the Constitution of Nepal (1962), qualified a foreigner for citizenship based on whether he/she could speak and write in Nepali and was residing, and engaged in an occupation in Nepal. He/she should have also already taken steps to renounce the citizenship of the other country in question. Additionally, in case the person was of Nepalese origin, he should have resided in Nepal for a period of less than two years and in case he was not of Nepalese origin, he should have resided for at least 12 years inside the country’s territory. Gaige’s examination of said clauses reveal the following: that requiring the population to also write Nepali as part of the citizenship acquirement when the literacy rate of the entire country was 4 percent in the 1950s made very little sense. Provisions for a language test for testing the same was also absent, calling for little or no enforcement.

While the other clauses can be understood as commonly administered citizenship rules, the fourth clause is a little misleading with no concrete definition of said ‘Nepalese origin’, leaving two interpretations, whereby one would be being born inside the political border of Nepal (including the Tarai) or culturally, a person born in the hills of Nepal alone (which was then referred solely as Nepal).

Citizenship soon became an important identification in Nepal when it was associated with the right to own property in the country. Though neither the 1964 Lands Act/Rules explicitly stated the need, its details were required when acquiring land. The cause for this ambiguity was to potentially avoid India’s furious reaction. According to the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty, citizens living in either countries were allowed to own property in the other. Though initially signed with motives of maintaining peace and friendship, the treaty has been continually resented by Nepalese as a way of India’s way to interfere with Nepal’s sovereignty. Though attempts were made in the past by the Communist parties of Nepal to nullify the agreement, the pact is yet to be scrapped.

In terms of citizenship procurement in the 1950s and 1960s, the procedure was laced with considerable bureaucracy. For citizenship by birth, one had to provide proof that one was born inside the political border of Nepal. Birth registration was scant expect in a few hospitals in Kathmandu, and officials were generally ready to accept hill people to have been born in the country. On the other hand, a plains person had to find one or two prominent people from the Tarai to vouch for him/her. Unfortunately, these people usually engaged in asking for financial compensation for the task, greatly disadvantaging the poor of the plains, thereby causing most to forgo citizenship acquirement.

There is some commentary at the end of the chapter on how anti-Indian sentiments were at its peak in Nepal during the promulgation of the ’62 Constitution of Nepal with it re-instating the King’s power as the monarch. With the promulgation of the new 2015 Constitution of Nepal, the sentiments have hardened and continue to threaten bilateral relations between the two nations.

The next part on Reading Gaige will cover the politics of language and communication among other things.

 

Labisha Uprety

About Labisha Uprety

Labisha Uprety is a Research and Communications Officer at Samriddhi. She enjoys debating and likes her tea black with a little sugar.

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