Tuesday, 6 June 2017

“To NRN” or “Not to NRN”

Based on my observation and experience of being a part of the Nepali community in New Zealand since 2005, I am going to outline a few observations about the New Zealand chapter of the Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) (from here on “NRNA NZ”).

NRNA NZ was established in October 2005, a few weeks after I migrated to New Zealand. I have thus been aware about NRNA NZ, its activities and the office bearers from the organisation’s early days.

At the onset, I want to make it clear that my commentary here is about the organisation. Any reference to any individuals and their behaviour are based on their capacity as an office bearer, not as an individual. People’s individual (private) life is none of my business. However, I have taken liberty to comment on their public life. Public scrutiny comes hand in hand with one’s public role. In this case, the commentaries are aimed at individuals in their capacity of holding the office of the elected executive committee of the NRNA NZ. I have deliberately left a few open-ended questions unanswered for the readers to draw their own conclusions.  

NRNA globally and NRNA NZ has done many good work over the years. Globally, if and when the dual citizenship agenda becomes a success, it will open new avenues for all those who have adopted overseas as their new home. Globally and within NZ, NRNA has done many outstanding fundraising and charitable work. We must give them the kudos they deserve for those splendid achievements. I personally respect any work anyone does for the greater good of the Nepali community and Nepal.

Victim of its own success?
The NRNA movement has gained a considerable amount of momentum and support from a noticeable proportion of global Nepali diaspora. It is fair to say that NRNA is now an influential organisation within Nepal and in every country where it exists throughout the world.

With its influence and global reach, NRNA it seems has been an organisation where games of vested interests are played at the full throttle. The dramas that are staged prior to the “election” of any body of the NRNA is a testament to the fact that perceived stakes for the candidates are too high for those who keep ambition of being “elected” in any national chapter (known as the National Co-ordination Council - NCC) or the international governing body (known as the International Co-ordination Council - ICC). I will leave it up to the readers to dissect the issue according to their own context and experience. As I see it, the evidence is too long and dirty to re-play.

Rich (and) men’s club?
All three past chairperson of the ICC has been middle aged men with deep pockets. This inherited trait is highly likely to be perpetuated. It is hardly a surprise that this culture has, more or less, been conveniently adopted in the NCC’s globally.

Out of the 24 office bearer team of the 2015-17 ICC, only three are women two of whom are “women co-ordinator”. See this link about the information of the office bearers - http://nrna.org.np/article-office_bearers1517

Should the size of your pocket and gender be a criteria to assume the role of NCC/ICC or one’s capacity to represent and lead?    

Zooming back into New Zealand, all presidents of the NRNA NZ has been men. Money matters in terms of the elected representatives has relatively been of not a great deal of fuss down under. Yet.

The dilemma known as NRNA NZ as I see it
I am in a serious dilemma over whether to give a damn to NRNA NZ or not. This maybe the reason why I find everyone else I talk to about NRNA NZ is in dilemma too. I may be totally wrong and short-sighted. I may have tinted and processed the information with my own filter and personal bias. My myopia over half of my life may have contributed to my short-sightedness.   

Let’s look at some facts. NRNA NZ, although being a nation-wide organisation supposedly meant to represent the entire Nepali diaspora in NZ, is far from having a respectable membership base over its lifetime of over 1.5 decade. Why? NRNA NZ cannot escape the fact that it’s number of members (those who continually renew their membership diligently and regularly) are not that different (or even low?) from the local geography-based organisations representing the Nepali community.

I meet people those who are super-keen in NRNA NZ.My conversation about NRNA NZ with the super-keen type often mostly almost always quickly zooms in towards the “should haves” and “could haves”. I find those topics so unhealthy. Yet, even before I realise we would already be engaging in such futile activity. I am equally, if not more than my colleagues, guilty of this sin that I continue to commit. I have now concluded that I have no right to criticise anyone unless I am prepared to get in and implement my own “should haves” and “could haves”. This applies to all those types who keep complaining by sitting on the fence and don’t intend to get their own hands dirty.

Now let us look at story from the flip side. I hear from people who vehemently abhor (to put it mildly) NRNA NZ officials and supporters. Please note that the hatred is towards the officials and supporters, not the organisation. They even don’t want to talk about NRNA NZ. Many times I have been told off to shut up when I had tried to initiate conversation about NRNA NZ with them. It is sad that number of such people are way higher compared those who are in love with NRNA NZ. I may be hanging around with the wrong bunch, I don’t know.

The not so flash history of an individual’s conducts seem to have come to haunt and taunt like a ghost from the past to those office bearers (and supporters) who are the subject of such unprecedented scale of mass dislike. I have to admit that I have not made an effort to verify the stories of such unflashy histories of the individuals. The way I see it is that an individual must be given an opportunity to prove oneself despite one’s past or mistakes. What matters is what one is doing now and what they are going to do in the future. Past is history and that is where the ghosts of the history should remain buried.

My personal analysis of those love-hate stories is that NRNA NZ has created credibility problems for itself due to providing public platform and having unabated involvement of such individuals who are perceived as “tinted” or “bad guy”. More so, those supposedly baddies (I stress, unverified once again) continue to wash their dirty laundry in the public even after assuming a public role.

It may be relevant to mention here that repeatedly, many members of Nepali community have made comments that those assuming roles in NRNA NZ are motivated by “other” factors than their intention to represent and lead the Nepali community or even their allegiance to the norm of the global NRNA movement. The accusations of “other” broadly constitutes yearning for recognition and hunger for respect. The most interesting accusation is that of developing an attachment towards the organisation developed over many years because of one’s involvement for far too long and at such a personal level that it becomes incomprehensible to them even to think that the organisation will survive if they leave the organisation. Obervation and history is evidence that there are elements of truth in those accusations.

The slips and slides, and oopsie daisies
A few years ago I once went to attend an AGM of NRNA NZ in Mt Albert, Auckland. There were about 10ish members present including only a handful office bearers of the incumbent NCC team. To my great surprise, after a discussion and completion of the topics such as annual report and audit report, significant changes to the constitution of NRNA NZ was proposed. I could not comprehend the courage of the officials’ guts for proposing such a significant scale of change in such low turn-out meeting. I expressed my view that the number of members assembled at the AGM to discuss and resolve the proposed change are too low, and I left. Literally, I felt sick and could not stand the atmosphere. I am to this day ignorant if those proposed changes were incorporated or dropped completely.

A regional meeting (of the Oceania region) was held in Pt. Chevalier, Auckland a few years ago. I was camping 250km away but made an effort to attend the meeting as an observer and a general member of the NRNA NZ. After realising that the overseas delegates almost outnumber attendees from NZ, my friends who came from Australia and are in the Australian NCC asked me, “why such low turn out from NZ”? I heard similar comments in a subsequent meeting held in Christchurch.

When I attend NRNA NZ’s functions, I find them dysfunctional. Turnout is often low (more so if there is no food served) given its status of nation-wide organisation. Lack of preparation becomes obvious and creeps in from the start until the end. Programmes often start late and technical quality (such as audio quality) is often poor. Having said that, last month I decided to go a bit late to attend the Everest Day as Nepali programmes seldom start on time. To my surprise,  when I got there the stage programme was already over. Maybe, this time punctuality was addressed. A quick conversation with those who attended the stage function and were then having lunch revealed that the inherent dysfunctions continued to occur on the day too. I can’t help but make this comment here that if one organises an event that is meant to represent the entire Nepali diaspora, it better be of a good quality one that is well attended by a respectable number of people. Period. There should be no excuse for sloppiness. This sounds harsh but one should be able to make an effort if one claims to represent the wider mass.

There has been a number of occasion where NCC members were seen too keen to take undeserved credit for someone else's’ hard work. This has happened even at very sensitive cases. Here is an example.  During the fundraising on Queen Street after the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, the end of the first day of street collection turned out to be chaotic. There was no leadership which was not a big issue as the gathering was impromptu that started with a young person’s facebook post. That facebook post (with time stamp) could be retrieved from the facebook group. I was one of the first one to reach Aotea Square in the morning. All those, including myself, who gathered seemed to be crushed because of the scale of what happened back home. In a while after a quick discussion, it was agreed that the collection of the day would be handed over to the NZ Red Cross. I announced that to the gathering as the official present from NRNA NZ would not do so. Many young people came forward and initiated and lead the fundraising on the day. The were least concerned about who the fund would go to. Everyone, including, me was seeking release in company of the others and were kee to be able to do something soon.

I left Aotea Square soon after the collection began to catch-up with other earthquake related work.  When I returned to Queen Street later in the afternoon, things seemed to have changed. There were NRNA banners flying with people taking pictures on Queen Street. After the collection was wrapped up, two organisations (one of which was NRNA NZ) claimed to own the buckets which had collection from the day. I was gobsmacked and could not comprehend what was going on. I asked an official of the NRNA to inform to the mass gathered and to those who volunteered all day to collect fund that the agreement of morning (that the fund collection would go to Red Cross) has changed. They won’t do it.  I was personally told off by another NRNA NZ official for encouraging (apparently always, according to this gentleman) misconduct by the young people. All the buckets were divvied up between the two organisations claiming them to be theirs. A few of them were taken away by the NRNA officials for the collection to be counted at someone’s residence. At that particular moment, it was unknown where and when.

I observed that the emotion of young people who stood all day on Queen Street and did hard work to collect fund were running raw and flying all over. The fact that someone or some organisation could come and take away the fund raised for such a cause seemed to have fuelled the hurt and anger among many young people. A few people got so angry that they were about to take some “action” (भौतिक कारवाही). I personally told the dissatisfied group of young people to not to even think of such silly action against those who apparently caused gross anger and hurt to them. I said to them that two wrongs won’t make it right. I went to the extent of threatening them that if they did any भौतिक कारवाही at any stage, that would be the end of whatever relationship I had with them. No such ugly incident ever happen, thankfully. The young guns were wise enough not to make such silly mistakes. They rather decided to swallow their pride and push on with fund raise for the next week.

There are many such examples. Without going into details, similar incident seemed to have happened when a Nepali student committed suicide in Tauranga few years ago.

It would be a fair observation to conclude that our friends of NRNA NZ are hungry and a little too keen to take credit over things that they really should not meddle with.  

Who represents the Nepali community in NZ?
There should be no contest that NRNA NZ is capable of representing the entire Nepali diaspora of NZ. It is the only organisation of such calibre until now. NRNA NZ, however, has failed to deliver on in this expectation. It does not seem to be interested to take up this role at all.

After the earthquake of 2015, I got opportunity to work with the NZ Ministry of Education, Immigration NZ and NZ police to take some initiatives to provide relief to those impacted by the quake in Nepal. This is a separate topic for discussion sometime later.

One thing stood out during April 2015 amidst the chaos that followed in NZ due to the quake in Nepal. Nepali community in NZ do not have a coordination mechanism among the communities scattered all over NZ. There is a lack of a unifying entity that represents all. Identifying this gap, Tribhuvan Shrestha (I call him Tribhuvan dai; for the sake of detaching emotions I’ll call him by his name in this write up) of Wellington and I started an initiative called “Community of Nepali Community Representatives” (CNCR). Apparently, Mr. Shrestha proposed this model to the NRNA NZ only to be vigorously resisted. He apparently ended up having to nurse some friendship gone bad due to the events that developed. Briefly, CNCR is an informal (not intended to be a registered entity) network of the leaders of all Nepali community organisations throughout NZ. Tribhuvan Shrestha and I co-lead drafting its rules and regulations. Mr. Shrestha already had all the groundwork completed for this to initiate. I only proposed some cosmetic changes.  I chaired its first meeting held on 3 March 2016. If anyone is keen, I can share the minutes and other documents of the meetings of CNCR. The incumbent leader of the NRNA NZ was invited from the beginning to give input and to attend the meeting of CNCR. That never happened. Not until this day.

One might argue that CNCR was stepping over the role of NRNA NZ. My counter argument would be, well, do we wait or take our own initiatives? We are fed up of the waiting game and from inaction.

The so called “election”
The dictionary meaning of election is “a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position

There has never been a voting process for the election of the NRNA NZ. There doesn’t seem to be appetite to accommodate voting and choice. It seems there is no capacity within NRNA NZ to administer a NZ-wide election process.

The so called “election” of until now were decided behind closed doors under wraps and over series of phone calls under the cloak of consensus (सहमती). What was lost over the election cycles was the beauty of democratic process and free and fair competition. Such act of “consensus making” murders meritocracy and encourages partisan politicking (गुटबन्दी). It is the sad case of perpetuation and that of similarity with the attitude, society and politics of Nepal. In the past elections of the NRNA NZ, not only members who stood in election but the volunteers of the election committee were grossly harassed and disrespected by the too passionate candidates.

What next?
This year NRNA NZ will elect a new executive committee. If the past is an indicator of the future about the election process of NRNA NZ, it would be fair to say that the upcoming election would be “interesting”. As a matter of fact, apparently “interesting” events follow NRNA all over the world during their election process. A recent example is the news about a “scam” involving addition of “hundreds of would-be members with an aim to build a VOTE bank” to the Australia chapter of NRNA (Quotation source https://goo.gl/r9o9HD. See the news piece for full reporting of the “scam”). Grape vines suggest that NZ chapter is not immune to “allegations” of such malpractice and other types of agee-bagee.

I remain cautiously optimistic that this year’s election of the NRNA NZ provides its members an opportunity to put the past behind them and prove that they are capable to operate and act differently in a more free and fair manner. In the unfortunate case of repetition of the “same old story” attitude in the election, NRNA NZ risks of further decline in its organisational credibility and social acceptance from the general population of Nepali diaspora in NZ. At the end of the day, relationship building is based on mutual respect and behavioural exchange, be it at a personal level or that in an organisational sense.   

Finally, am I interested in the upcoming NRNA NZ election? Hell, yes. Because whether I like it or not NRNA NZ impacts me on my capacity as a member of the Nepali community and a general member of the NRNA NZ. Will I stand in the election? I don’t know yet. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Volume 5 - The story of international students from Nepal in New Zealand


Screen shot of my post in the two Facebook groups (New Nepalese youth in New Zealand and Nepalese Student Community - Auckland) on 20 May 2017



Volume 4 - The story of international students from Nepal in New Zealand


On behalf of the NZNA, I took initiative to organise a meet and greet programme hoping to make progress in the problems international students were facing. Unfortunately, the programme did not succeed to grab the students' attention. I was gobsmacked and soon realised that this approach, whatever I was doing, wasn't working. I needed to gather my thoughts for the next thing. Then life came in between and I lost focus from this issue... until 19 May 2017 when I learned yet another life is lost. The conversation is once again re-started. We shall see where we land this time around.

Image 1: Screen shot of my post after the low turn out in the 14 May 2016 event:

Image 2: Screen shot of the Facebook event of the 



Volume 3 - The story of international students from Nepal in New Zealand

(Email chain of my communication with the ECAN President)


RE: Nepalese Students in New Zealand
R Maharjan
Wed 30/03/2016 4:43 p.m. Sent Items
To:president@ecan.org.np <president@ecan.org.np>;Cc:NZNA EC <nzna‐ec@googlegroups.com>; nzna.inc@gmail.com <nzna.inc@gmail.com>;

Dear Mr Pandey

Congratulations to your for assuming the role of the new leader of the ECAN.
Thank you for your kind response to my message of February 2016. Greatly appreciated.
We will get back to you in a while after we get an opportunity to discuss this in the wider NZNA team and the student community.


Kind regards
Raj Maharjan President, NZNA


Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2016 09:18:25 +0545 Subject: RE: Nepalese Students in New Zealand From: president@ecan.org.np
To: rajmaharjan@hotmail.com
CC: info@ecan.org.np

To

The Nepalese Community in New Zealand Through Mr. Raj Maharjan

President
New Zealand Nepalese Association


Re: Nepalese Students in New Zealand

Dear Mr. Maharjan,

Greetings from Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal ﴾ECAN﴿!
I am writing to you in response to your email dated 27th February 2016 titled "ECAN Members' Role and its Impact on Students Coming to NZ" which was received by the previous ECAN Executive Body on the same day.

Firstly, I would like express my heartfelt condolences to the departed soul of Raju Bhandari who met with an unfortunate, untimely death in a faraway land. It has brought pain to all of us here.

I would like to thank you for raising questions on behalf of the Nepalese students in Auckland in particular and the Nepalese student community in NZ in general. We have taken serious acknowledgement of the issues, and I would like to put forth the following points in response.

- that ECAN accepts the existence of fraudulent practices by education agents operating in the Nepalese market but all of them may not necessarily be under our umbrella because there are more than 1200 agents currently in existence in this market whereas we account for only 329 of them who are full‐fledged ECAN members.

- that ECAN has been working closely with the various government bodies in Nepal including the Ministry of Education to train and streamline the work standard of education agents ﴾Education consultancies﴿ affiliated to ECAN as well as others. The recent and ongoing trainings by Training Institute for Technical Instruction ﴾TITI﴿ is a good example of the same. I have attached a certificate of mine or your reference.


- that it has been a longstanding demand of ECAN that the Government of Nepal brings this industry under its regulation as a result of which the Ministry of Education has formulated the “Educational Consulting Services and Language Teaching Directive 2068” in the year 2068 BS which has proved to be a milestone in regulating agents working in this territory and controlling malpractices prevalent in the preceding days. 
Reference: http://www.moe.gov.np/article/213/educational‐consulting‐services‐and‐language‐siksanasambandhi‐directory‐ 2068.html

- that education agency companies have been started to be listed by Ministry of Education as per the guidelines of “Educational Consulting Services and Language Teaching Directive 2068”. Reference: http://www.moe.gov.np/article/525/approved‐consultant‐list‐by‐ ministry‐of‐education‐2071.html

- that ECAN shall endeavor to bring more non ECAN agents under our umbrella so that their pledge to the ECAN Code of Conduct will deter them from indulging in practices we abhor. Reference: http://www.ecan.org.np/index.php/about/code‐conduct

- that the current executive committee of ECAN has resolved to conduct a New Zealand specific Training Program for all its members currently promoting NZ education and actively recruiting students for NZ education providers. For this, ECAN shall constitute a team of qualified, highly skilled and experienced agents from within the industry to organize such training programs and provide information to avoid the kind of situations you have quoted in your email.

- that ECAN shall liaise closely with stake holders in New Zealand, including NZNA, as well as Nepal in the days ahead to keep ourselves abreast of the situations on the ground and initiate immediate and appropriate actions against members found to be at fault.

While I personally believe that the number of instances of fraud by agents must have come down now as compared to the previous years because of a combination of factors including the developments mentioned above, there will not be a single hour/day that we not keep our eyes and ears open so that we can act for the welfare of the students as and when the situation demands.

Lastly, please accept my sincere appreciation for the efforts, both individual and collective, of the Nepalese community in New Zealand as well as individuals and agencies with genuine intent in Nepal towards the welfare of the new comers to that beautiful country. 

From this day on, be reassured that there will be one more participant ﴾ECAN﴿ in your folds to share this great responsibility.

Long live the Nepalese spirit of brotherhood!

with regards,

Prakash Pandey President
Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal ﴾ECAN﴿ Dillibazar ﴾Near Batuleghar﴿, Kathmandu, Nepal
T: + 977 ‐ 4422267, 4421487
E: 
info@ecan.org.np

Volume 2 - The story of international students from Nepal in New Zealand

(Email chain of my communication with Shyam Bhandari of Rohini to approach ECAN) 

Re: FW: IMPORTANT: ECAN members' role and its impact on students coming to NZ

Rohini International <info@rohini.edu.np>
Mon 29/02/2016 7:36 p.m. POP
To:R Maharjan <rajmaharjan@hotmail.com>;

Raj Ji,
Thank you for approaching ECAN with the issues at stake.

Apologies for the delay in response from my end but everyone was busy with the ECAN Elections over the past few weeks. Now that the ECAN Elections are over and a new Executive team is in place, I will ensure that there is a response from ECAN soon.
On my part, I will do my best to play a constructive role in educating ECAN Members. I have also been approached by Hamro Chautari Radio program for my personal views, and I have reiterated that I will be more than happy to share my views on air.
Thank you for your great initiative. Let's work together for the betterment of every stakeholder, especially the students. Kindest Regards,
Shyam Bhandari


-----

On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 3:04 AM, R Maharjan <rajmaharjan@hotmail.com> wrote: The President
Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal ﴾ECAN Nepal﴿

Please find a message sent to ECAN Nepal on 23 February below for your kind attention and action.
I look forward to your appropriate response at the earliest.
Kind regards
Raj Maharjan
President
New Zealand Nepalese Association

CC: VPs of ECAN Nepal
Treasurer of NRNA Australia
Rohini Int'l Education Services ﴾P.﴿ Ltd


-----

From: rajmaharjan@hotmail.com
To: info@ecan.org.np
CC: careers@rcservices.in; d_la@hotmail.com
Subject: IMPORTANT: ECAN members' role and its impact on students coming to NZ Date: Tue, 23 Feb 2016 03:47:28 +1300

Namaskaar from Auckland, New Zealand.
I am the president of the New Zealand Nepalese Association (NZNA) and would like to draw attention of ECAN on the matter directly related with some of your members. The following communication initiated by myself has been circulated via Facebook since yesterday. As you can imagine coverage of social media is far and wide. This message seems to be spreading, mostly in NZ and Australia.
Could I please kindly get an official position of ECAN on this by a week or preferably without any delay.
Kind regards
Raj Maharjan President, NZNA Auckland, New Zealand

----


BEGINNING OF COPIED MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

A humble request and an open letter to the concerned Education Consultancies in Nepal who are acting on behalf of Education Institutes to send students to New Zealand.

In light of the recent sad news of Raju Bhandari in Sydney (covered in news at this link
-
http://www.nepalitimes.com.au/?p=347), a few members of the Nepali community in New Zealand including myself are increasingly concerned with the plight of the newly arrived students. Among those who land in Auckland International Airport (AIA), only a ver few transit in to the Kiwi life relatively without much drama. These are the lucky students.


There are another majority group of students who are not that lucky. These unlucky ones face various problems right from the time they land at the AIA. One example: Student A is admitted to a college in Palmerston North through an Education Consultancy in Kathmandu. When Student A arrives at AIA late in the night, he has no idea where he is and where Palmerston North (Palmy) is - Mars or Pluto let alone North Island or South Island. Panic and extreme stress sets in for Student A the minute he lands. Even before he gets out of the plane, he does not know answer to the first and fundamental question - where I am going from here?

One would argue that at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of Student A to figure out answer to such basic questions. What about the role and responsibility of the Education Consultancy who received a respectable percentage of the school tuition fee as commission that Student A paid to the Kiwi institution? On top of the commission on school tuition fee, the consultancy also charges the student an exorbitant (from my personal
standard for the limited 'lip-service' they offer) sum as their service fee. I have got no idea if a contract for service delivery is signed between a student (service receiver) and the consultancy (service provider). I would not be surprised if such a contract mechanism does not exist at all.

We have heard horror stories from students in NZ of passport holding and bullying from Education Consultancies that continue to occur even after they arrive in NZ. In some cases this becomes on-going saga for at least few months. At instances, Consultancies have apparently passed false information of students they previously sent to NZ such as saying Student B went to NZ from my consultancy and s/he is already settled, working full-time professional job and received PR. The reality is Student B is still struggling in every aspect of student life from renewing visa to finding a decent accommodation.

Luckily for Student A, he somehow met a Nepali in the AIA who took him home for the night, gave him a roof to stay for the night and helped him get to Palmy (500+km from Auckland) on a bus the next day. Was it not the responsibility of the Education Consultancy who processed Student A's case, and made money from providing him/her service? Is it not up to the Consultancy to make arrangements to ensure s/he reached his/her destination safe and sound in NZ? From what I gather by talking to the students, it seems the Education Consultancies can't be bothered about welfare of the students. They seem to be after only one thing - money from the students.

It will be unfair if we said all potatoes in the basket are rotten. By the sounds of it most are, unfortunately, rotten to the core. There are a handful consultancies who have fairly better reputation than others in NZ. I won't name names here; this is for later of some other time. I'll leave that in the opinion of the students who have used the Consultancies' service. For now, let me make the following points 100% clear and gently remind our brothers and sisters in Kathmandu who are running Consultancies to send students to NZ.

1. From the experience of living here more than 10 years and working closely with Ministry of Education, Immigration NZ and NZ Police during response to April 2015 earthquake, it seems to me that the NZ government agency who oversee international students from Nepal is AWARE of each and every case of students and their Agents (i.e. Consultancies in Nepal). The big brother is always watching.

2. Until now the NZ government agency has not paid closer attention (as I said in 1 above, they are already aware) to the plight of Nepali students due to various reasons, including their stretched resources and other priorities. The spot light fell on our students temporarily during the earthquake response but for different purpose, not for the agee bagee practices.

3. It only needs one high-profile case, and that's it. What happens after that is anyone's best geuss. I just want all concerned students and the Kiwi schools' agents in Nepal to research why did it become stricter for Nepali students to enter Australia a couple of years ago? I am sure you have better knowledge of your industry than a layman such as myself.

4. It would take just one unfortunate case or one phone call to the authorities from a grumpy student and the agents (i.e Education Consultancies) in Nepal and their sister college in NZ could be drafting answers to the NZ authorities' 'please explain'. If found guilty the Consultant in Nepal may be kissing their agent license good bye. If
the students are hesitant to report, it is now highly likely that the some good samaritan will step up sooner or later. People have had enough of this sorry saga of students' suffering and exploitation in the name of providing consultancy.

In the spirit of starting to address this genuine problem of the students and finding a solution, on behalf of the community organisations I represent (one of which has recently taken initiatives in Auckland to try to address the students' problems) and on behalf of those members of the Nepali community in NZ who are really worried about the new students' plight, we want to make the following request to the Education Consultancies who send Nepali students in NZ.

a. Be aware of the points 1-4 above. Most importantly, please note you could be loosing your permission/license if you continue to mistreat your client who paid for your service. You may be inadvertently putting the reputation of the Education Institution (college) in NZ at risk due to your malpractice. Under those circumstances, I can guarantee you, the institutions won't be able to help you. NZ is a place where right of an individual, including students, is held very high. This is at the heart of the very establishment of this nation. The authorities take is how seriously, I cannot stress enough. During earthquake response in April 2015, the Human Rights Commission of NZ (www.hrc.co.nz) had offered to help facilitate to ensure the rights of Nepali students are held to the highest regard. Back then, I personally communicated with the Commissioner and met the Commission's officer at one instance.

b. Set up a mechanism by which means, we want you (all Education Consultancies) to take full responsibility for making it transparent (by posting in facebook groups of Nepali students such as Nepalese Student Community - Auckland and New Nepalese youth in New Zealand to start with until we come up with an alternative mutually agreeable better workable solution) that you have 100% ensured that the student coming to NZ through using your service reaches his/her accommodation from AIA safely on the day they arrive in NZ. Also make sure that you have ensured s/he has at least a week's accommodation pre-arranged. If you fail to do so, from here on there will now be response from NZ to your incompetence. Please note that it is not a threat, it is a genuine request.

Please don't think there is no one to speak up for the students. There are many. Silence does not mean, our people here are oblivious of your tricks. Please treat this message as a signal of what is to come ahead as a push back to the Consultancies' behaviours towards our vulnerable students. This is a first step towards providing support to our students who have come here with a dream to build a career and to realise their dream. You can help them do that or you can be on the wrong side of the fence. The choice is yours. The choice you make will determine the future of your business. Simple as that.

The ball is in your court now. It is up to you how you want to play it - hard or soft. We live here so we know this country. We strongly advise you that you give this matter due consideration that it deserves and take our sincere and free advice on board.

We don't want sad stories such as that of young Raju Bhandai in NZ. You might recall there was a similar sad incident right here in NZ in Mt Manganui only few weeks ago. We are not saying it is all fault of the Education Consultancies but your practice and treatment of our students is not helping them manage their stress. You could be doing what you are supposed to do i.e. to help the students have a smooth transition from a young student to a
new life in NZ. Your negligence (is it deliberate or inadvertent is matter of another debate) is rather adding to their stress even before they leave Nepali soil and follows them like a shadow to NZ.

You can take simple steps described above in point 'b' to help the students who help you make money. Please be ensured that you ignore this advice at your own and your business' peril. Again, this is not a threat. This is a genuine advice.
Let us treat this message as a starting point. There are a lot of work to do to reach to a satisfactory position regarding our students from the sad situation they are in today. We shall get there eventually.

Shyam Bhandari, could you please kindly respond to this message (as I said we have not said your agency Rohini is good or bad; we will leave that to the students who have used your service) and kindly also help us make other Educational Consultancies aware about this message? we do not seem to have contacts of other consultancies handy. We can find them but your help would help speed up approaching them. Many thanks.
END OF COPIED MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Link: https://www.facebook.com/raj.maharjan.589/posts/10153947862144921 ---- 

Volume 1 - The story of international students from Nepal in New Zealand

(The following was posted on 22 February 2016 in Facebook groups (New Nepalese youth in New Zealand and Nepalese Student Community - Auckland) that have reach among the international students from Nepal in New Zealand. It was also sent to ECAN. See Volume 2 for ECAN's response to my email.)
A humble request and an open letter to the concerned Education Consultancies in Nepal who are acting on behalf of Education Institutes to send students to New Zealand.
In light of the recent sad news of Raju Bhandari in Sydney (covered in news at this link - http://www.nepalitimes.com.au/?p=347), a few members of the Nepali community in New Zealand including myself are increasingly concerned with the plight of the newly arrived students. Among those who land in Auckland International Airport (AIA), only a ver few transit in to the Kiwi life relatively without much drama. These are the lucky students.
There are another majority group of students who are not that lucky. These unlucky ones face various problems right from the time they land at the AIA. One example: Student A is admitted to a college in Palmerston North through an Education Consultancy in Kathmandu. When Student A arrives at AIA late in the night, he has no idea where he is and where Palmerston North (Palmy) is - Mars or Pluto let alone North Island or South Island. Panic and extreme stress sets in for Student A the minute he lands. Even before he gets out of the plane, he does not know answer to the first and fundamental question - where I am going from here?
One would argue that at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of Student A to figure out answer to such basic questions. What about the role and responsibility of the Education Consultancy who received a respectable percentage of the school tuition fee as commission that Student A paid to the Kiwi institution? On top of the commission on school tuition fee, the consultancy also charges the student an exorbitant (from my personal standard for the limited 'lip-service' they offer) sum as their service fee. I have got no idea if a contract for service delivery is signed between a student (service receiver) and the consultancy (service provider). I would not be surprised if such a contract mechanism does not exist at all.
We have heard horror stories from students in NZ of passport holding and bullying from Education Consultancies that continue to occur even after they arrive in NZ. In some cases this becomes on-going saga for at least few months. At instances, Consultancies have apparently passed false information of students they previously sent to NZ such as saying Student B went to NZ from my consultancy and s/he is already settled, working full-time professional job and received PR. The reality is Student B is still struggling in every aspect of student life from renewing visa to finding a decent accommodation.
Luckily for Student A, he somehow met a Nepali in the AIA who took him home for the night, gave him a roof to stay for the night and helped him get to Palmy (500+km from Auckland) on a bus the next day. Was it not the responsibility of the Education Consultancy who processed Student A's case, and made money from providing him/her service? Is it not up to the Consultancy to make arrangements to ensure s/he reached his/her destination safe and sound in NZ? From what I gather by talking to the students, it seems the Education Consultancies can't be bothered about welfare of the students. They seem to be after only one thing - money from the students.
It will be unfair if we said all potatoes in the basket are rotten. By the sounds of it most are, unfortunately, rotten to the core. There are a handful consultancies who have fairly better reputation than others in NZ. I won't name names here; this is for later of some other time. I'll leave that in the opinion of the students who have used the Consultancies' service. For now, let me make the following points 100% clear and gently remind our brothers and sisters in Kathmandu who are running Consultancies to send students to NZ.
1. From the experience of living here more than 10 years and working closely with Ministry of Education, Immigration NZ and NZ Police during response to April 2015 earthquake, it seems to me that the NZ government agency who oversee international students from Nepal is AWARE of each and every case of students and their Agents (i.e. Consultancies in Nepal). The big brother is always watching.
2. Until now the NZ government agency has not paid closer attention (as I said in 1 above, they are already aware) to the plight of Nepali students due to various reasons, including their stretched resources and other priorities. The spot light fell on our students temporarily during the earthquake response but for different purpose, not for the agee bagee practices.
3. It only needs one high-profile case, and that's it. What happens after that is anyone's best geuss. I just want all concerned students and the Kiwi schools' agents in Nepal to research why did it become stricter for Nepali students to enter Australia a couple of years ago? I am sure you have better knowledge of your industry than a layman such as myself.
4. It would take just one unfortunate case or one phone call to the authorities from a grumpy student and the agents (i.e Education Consultancies) in Nepal and their sister college in NZ could be drafting answers to the NZ authorities' 'please explain'. If found guilty the Consultant in Nepal may be kissing their agent license good bye. If the students are hesitant to report, it is now highly likely that the some good samaritan will step up sooner or later. People have had enough of this sorry saga of students' suffering and exploitation in the name of providing consultancy.
In the spirit of starting to address this genuine problem of the students and finding a solution, on behalf of the community organisations I represent (one of which has recently taken initiatives in Auckland to try to address the students' problems) and on behalf of those members of the Nepali community in NZ who are really worried about the new students' plight, we want to make the following request to the Education Consultancies who send Nepali students in NZ.
a. Be aware of the points 1-4 above. Most importantly, please note you could be loosing your permission/license if you continue to mistreat your client who paid for your service. You may be inadvertently putting the reputation of the Education Institution (college) in NZ at risk due to your malpractice. Under those circumstances, I can guarantee you, the institutions won't be able to help you. NZ is a place where right of an individual, including students, is held very high. This is at the heart of the very establishment of this nation. The authorities take is how seriously, I cannot stress enough. During earthquake response in April 2015, the Human Rights Commission of NZ (www.hrc.co.nz) had offered to help facilitate to ensure the rights of Nepali students are held to the highest regard. Back then, I personally communicated with the Commissioner and met the Commission's officer at one instance.
b. Set up a mechanism by which means, we want you (all Education Consultancies) to take full responsibility for making it transparent (by posting in facebook groups like this one to start with until we come up with an alternative mutually agreeable better workable solution) that you have 100% ensured that the student coming to NZ through using your service reaches his/her accommodation from AIA safely on the day they arrive in NZ. Also make sure that you have ensured s/he has at least a week's accommodation pre-arranged. If you fail to do so, from here on there will now be response from NZ to your incompetence. Please note that it is not a threat, it is a genuine request.
Please don't think there is no one to speak up for the students. There are many. Silence does not mean, our people here are oblivious of your tricks. Please treat this message as a signal of what is to come ahead as a push back to the Consultancies' behaviours towards our vulnerable students. This is a first step towards providing support to our students who have come here with a dream to build a career and to realise their dream. You can help them do that or you can be on the wrong side of the fence. The choice is yours. The choice you make will determine the future of your business. Simple as that.
The ball is in your court now. It is up to you how you want to play it - hard or soft. We live here so we know this country. We strongly advise you that you give this matter due consideration that it deserves and take our sincere and free advice on board.
We don't want sad stories such as that of young Raju Bhandai in NZ. You might recall there was a similar sad incident right here in NZ in Mt Manganui only few weeks ago. We are not saying it is all fault of the Education Consultancies but your practice and treatment of our students is not helping them manage their stress. You could be doing what you are supposed to do i.e. to help the students have a smooth transition from a young student to a new life in NZ. Your negligence (is it deliberate or inadvertent is matter of another debate) is rather adding to their stress even before they leave Nepali soil and follows them like a shadow to NZ.
You can take simple steps described above in point 'b' to help the students who help you make money. Please be ensured that you ignore this advice at your own and your business' peril. Again, this is not a threat. This is a genuine advice.
Let us treat this message as a starting point. There are a lot of work to do to reach to a satisfactory position regarding our students from the sad situation they are in today. We shall get there eventually.
Shyam Bhandari, could you please kindly respond to this message (as I said we have not said your agency Rohini is good or bad; we will leave that to the students who have used your service) and kindly also help us make other Educational Consultancies aware about this message? we do not seem to have contacts of other consultancies handy. We can find them but your help would help speed up approaching them. Many thanks.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

स्थानीय सरकार र मेयरको भूमिका

स्थानीय सरकार र मेयरको भूमिका


"मेयरको भूमिकामा सफल हुन कुनै विषयको दक्षता र अनुभव सहयोगी त होला तर नभई नहुने चाहीं होइन। मेयरको भूमिका प्रभावकारीताका साथ निभाउन अत्यावश्यक गुण भनेको नेतृत्व क्षमता हो। उनले अरु निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिका साथ साथै नगरपालिकाका कर्माचारी, विज्ञ र सल्लाहकारहरु लाई नेतृत्व प्रदान गर्नु पर्ने हुन्छ।"

An edited version of this blog was published in Setopati on 9 May 2017 http://setopati.com/blog/68962/

२० वर्ष पछि हुन लागेको स्थानीय निकायको चुनावको पूर्व सन्ध्यामा स्थानीय सरकारको संरचना र स्थानीय निकायसंग सम्बन्धित केहि महत्वपुर्ण पक्षहरु यस लेख द्वारा चुनावी उम्मेदवार र मतदाता समक्ष प्रस्तुत गर्ने जमर्को गरिएको छ।

स्थानीय सरकार को भूमिका र कार्यक्षेत्र
जनताले लोकतन्त्रको प्रतिफल प्राप्ति गर्ने र लोकतन्त्रमा प्रत्यक्ष सहभागी हुने एक मात्र द्वार नै स्थानीय सरकार हो। स्थानीय सरकार राज्यको पहुँच र विकाशको प्रतिफल सर्व साधारणको घर दैलो सम्म पुर्याउने माध्यम हो।

स्थानीय निकायका निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधि राज्यको विकेन्द्रीकरणका सम्बाहक हुन्। लोकतान्त्रिक विधि अनुरुप बढि भन्दा बढि जनता सम्म राज्यको उपस्थिति जनाउनु तेस्ता प्रतिनिधिहरुको प्रमुख दाइत्व हो। स्थानीय निकायका निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिहरुको आफ्नो निकायको व्यवस्थापन गर्नुका साथ साथै विकासका लागि आवश्यक निर्णय गर्ने र केन्द्रिय तथा प्रान्तीय सरकार संग समन्वय गर्ने दोहोरो र महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका हुन्छ।

लोकतन्त्रको संस्थागत विकाश बलियो स्थानीय निकाय बिना असम्भव हुन्छ। स्थानीय निकायले नागरिक र राज्यका अन्य संयन्त्र विच लोकतान्त्रिक सेतुको भूमिका सहि रुपमा निभाएका समाजमा लोकतन्त्र बलियो, संस्थागत र सफल भएको देखिन्छ।

स्थानीय निकायले गर्ने निर्णयहरु र त्यस संग सम्बन्धित कार्यान्वयनका पक्षहरु सर्व-साधारण जनताको दैनिक जीवन संग प्रत्यक्ष गाँसिएको हुन्छ। त्यस्तै सर्व-साधारण जनताका आवश्यकताहरु परिपूर्ति गर्न स्थानीय निकायको प्रभावकारी भूमिका रहन्छ।  

एक्काइसौं शताब्दिको आजको विश्वमा कुनै पनि देश विकशित मुलुकका रुपमा दरिन ठूला संरचना र पूर्वाधार भन्दा पनि सर्व-साधारणका दैनिक जीवन गुजाराका लागि चाहिने आधारभूत आवश्यकताहरु कुन हद सम्म सर्व-शुलभ रुपमा उपलब्ध छ भन्ने कुराले बढि महत्व राखेको देखिन्छ। विकशित समाजका अपरिहार्य सूचक यिनै आधारभूत आवश्यकताहरु तथा सेवा सुविधा राज्यको तल्लो निकाय सम्म सुनिश्चित गर्नु स्थानीय निकायको प्रमुख कार्य क्षेत्र हो।

नगरपालिकाको हकमा सहरको निर्माण विकाशका लागि आवश्यक पूर्वाधार सुनिस्चित गर्ने तथा दिर्घकालिन विकास संग सम्बन्धित स्थानिय तहमा गर्नु पर्ने निर्णय, बनाउन पर्ने योजना र तेसको कार्यन्वयन गर्ने प्रमुख निकाय स्थानीय सरकार हो। सहरी विकाशका साथ साथै स्थानीय निकायका लोकतान्त्रिक तथा सेवा मुलक अरु थुप्रै कार्य क्षेत्र हुन्छन्।

मैले अनुभव गरेको स्थानीय सरकार
१२ वर्षको न्यु जिल्याण्ड बसाई र ९ वर्ष यहाँको स्थानीय निकायमा रही सहरी विकाशमा काम गर्ने क्रममा अनुभव गरेका स्थानीय सरकारको सकारात्मक र प्रभावकारी अनुभवका केहि उदाहरण यहाँ उल्लेख गर्न सान्दर्भिक होला।

नेपाल र न्यु जिल्याण्डको भू-राजनैतिक र सामाजिक पृष्ठभुमि भिन्न भए पनि आकार र जनसंख्याका अधारमा यि दुवै देश तुलनात्मक रुपमा मध्यम-साना मुलुक हुन्। ट्रान्सपारेन्सी इन्टरनेसनल को सन् २०१६ को रिपोर्ट अनुसार न्यु जिल्याण्ड संसारमा सबै भन्दा कम भ्रस्टाचार हुने मुलुक हरुको सुचिमा दोस्रो स्थानमा मा पर्छ। स्थानीय सरकार, लोकतन्त्र र परोपकारी समाजको संसार भरिमै एक उत्कृस्ट प्रयोग गरिरहेको न्यु जिल्याण्ड जस्तो देश बाट नेपाली राजनीति र समाजले सिक्ने धेरै ठाउँ हरु छन्।

न्यु जिल्याण्डका स्थानीय सरकार लाई यहाँ काउन्सिल (Local Council) भनिन्छ। राज्यमा स्थानीय निकायको स्थान र तेस्को कार्य क्षेत्र कानुनि रुपमा स्पष्ट उल्लेख रहेको छ। स्थानीय स्तरमा जनतासंग सरोकार हुने निर्णयहरु गर्नु अगाडी जन सहभागिता सुनिस्चित गर्ने जिम्मेवारी र कर्तब्य पुरा गर्न काउन्सिल हरुले निरन्तर मिहेनत गरेको देखिन्छ।

काउन्सिल हरुले स्थानीय तहमा घर जग्गा कर संकलन गरी आफ्ना क्षेत्रका जनताहरु लाई सेवा सुविधा प्रदान गर्न सो करको परिचालन गर्छन्। निर्माण विकाशको अनुमति दिने देखि टोल वडाका बाटो घाटो बनाउने र मर्मत सम्हार गर्ने; फोहरमैला व्यवस्थापन गर्ने देखि खाने पानी वितरण गर्ने; पुस्तकालय स्थापना र संचालन देखि बाल बालिकाहरु खेल्ने पार्कहरुको निर्माण, संरक्षण र व्यवस्थापन गर्ने काम यहाँ स्थानीय निकायले नै गर्छन्।

स्थानीय जनता संग सरोकार राख्ने र स्थानीय निकायले दिने सेवा सुविधाको एउटा राम्रो उदाहरणको रुपमा कम्युनिटी सेन्टर (community centre) लाई लिन सकिन्छ। प्रत्येक वडा (suburb) हरुमा कम्तिमा एउटा कम्युनिटी सेन्टर अवस्थित रहेको पाइन्छ। कम्युनिटी सेन्टर हरुमा स्थानीय जनताले स्थानीय स्तरमा प्राप्त गर्न सक्ने सेवाहरु उपलब्ध हुनुका साथ साथै यस्ता सेन्टर सर्व साधारणले सामाजिक कार्यका लागि उपभोग पनि गर्न पाउछन्। कम्युनिटी सेन्टर लाई त्यस वडाको "सामाजिक मिलन विन्दु" (community hub) को रुपमा ब्याख्या गर्न सकिन्छ। स्थानीय निकायले कम्युनिटी सेन्टर हरु दिगो रुपमा संचालन गर्न आवश्यक व्यवस्थापन गर्छन् र केहि मात्रामा आर्थिक अनुदान पनि दिन्छन्। कम्युनिटी सेन्टर संचालनका लागि स्थानीय जनताको प्रत्यक्ष सहभागिता जुटाउने र आर्थिक श्रोत जुटाउने जस्ता कार्यको सहजकर्ताको भूमिकामा पनि स्थानीय निकाय निकै सक्रिय हुन्छन्।

स्थानीय निकायहरु आफैमा निकै व्यवस्थित र सेवामूलक भएको पाइन्छ। यि सब कुराहरुको उचित व्यवस्थापन संभब हुनमा स्थानीय निकायसँग आफ्नो वडाका वासिन्दा लगायत यावत् कुराहरुको गुणस्तरीय तथ्यांक हुनु र तिनको सुचना प्रविधि द्वारा प्रभावकारी प्रयोग गर्न सक्नु एक प्रमुख कारण हो। जनसंख्या (demographic) देखि भौगोलिक सुचना (Geographic Information System, GIS) सम्बन्धि डेटाबेस हरुलाई निकै महत्वका साथ संकलन र प्रयोग गर्ने गरेको देखिन्छ। यस प्रकारको भरपर्दो डेटाबेस (database) उपलब्ध हुने हुनाले त्यसको प्रभावकारी प्रयोग गरि स्थानीय निकाय छीटो छरितो रुपमा स्थानीय जनताको आवश्यकता आकलन र श्रोत परिचालन गर्ने गरेको पाइन्छ। त्यस्तै कुनै दैवी प्रकोप र बिपद आइपरेको खण्डमा छिटो भन्दा छिटो उद्दार कार्य गर्ने र उचित व्यवस्थापन गर्न पनि डेटाबेसको निकै ठूलो प्रयोग गरेको देखिन्छ।

तथ्यांक र सुचना प्रविधिको अर्को प्रभबकारी प्रयोग निर्वाचनमा हुने गरेको देखिन्छ। निर्वाचनको प्रचार प्रशार देखी लिएर मत दिने काम सम्म घर-घरै बाट गर्न सकिने सुविधा प्रदान गरिएको हुन्छ। त्यस्तै मतदाताले चाहेमा आफ्नो मतपत्र हुलाक मार्फत मत खसाल्ने दिन भन्दा एक महिना अगाडी पठाउन सकिन्छ । सुचना प्रविधिको प्रयोग चुनावमा मात्र नभै समुदायिक संरचनाहरुको व्यवस्थापन र विकाश गर्न पनि उपयोग गरेको पाइन्छ। सामुदायिक पार्क र भवनहरु को निर्माण गर्दा ति संरचना हरुले गर्ने प्रत्यक्ष फाइदाहरु को मुल्यान्कन गर्न डेटाबेसको उपयोग भएको पाइन्छ। यसका साथै स्थानीय निकायका संरचनाहरुको दस्ताबेज राख्न तथा तिनीहरुको संरक्षण र सही उपयोगका लागि पनि तथ्यांक हुनु र तिनको सुचना प्रविधिको निक्कै प्रभावकारि उपयोग गरेको पाईन्छ।

मेयरको कार्यक्षेत्र र भूमिका
स्थानीय निकायका निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिहरुको तिन प्रमुख भूमिका हुन्छ:
१. स्थानीय तहमा सरकारको प्रतिनिधित्व गर्ने (governance function),
२. स्थानीय तहमा नेतृत्व प्रदान गर्ने (leadership function ), र
३. स्थानीय तहमा गरिने निर्णयहरुको सहजीकरण गर्ने (facilitation of the decision making function)।

यि तिनै भूमिका प्रभावकारी रुपमा निर्वाह गर्नका लागि नगरपालिकाको हकमा मेयरले नेतृत्वदाई र अभिबावकीय भूमिका निभाउछन्। उनले स्थानीय निकाय निर्वाचन द्वारा जनताले चुनेका प्रतिनिधिहरुको मातहतमा बन्ने निर्णायक स्वरुपहरु (decision making bodies) को सभापतित्व गर्छन्। राष्ट्रिय तथा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय स्तरमा नगरपालिकाको निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधि मेयर हुन्छन् ।

मेयर नगरपालिकाको दिनानुदिन व्यवस्थापक होइनन्। यो काम नगरपालिकाका प्रशाशनले गर्छन्। प्रशाशनका साथ साथै नगरपालिकाको आकार र श्रोत हेरि उनका विषय विशेष सल्लाहकार (advisors) हुन सक्छन्। प्रशाशन तथा सल्लाहकारको टिम लाई प्रमुख कार्यकारी (CEO) ले नेतृत्व गर्छन्। नगरपालिकाको निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिहरुले प्रशाशन तथा सल्लाहकार बाट सुझाव (advice) लिन्छन र लोकतान्त्रिक विधि प्रयोग गरि नागरिकहरुको हितमा निर्णय गर्छन्।

मेयरको भूमिकामा सफल हुन कुनै विषयको दक्षता र अनुभव सहयोगी त होला तर नभई नहुने चाहीं होइन। मेयरको भूमिका प्रभावकारीताका साथ निभाउन अत्यावश्यक गुण भनेको नेतृत्व क्षमता हो। उनले अरु निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिका साथ साथै नगरपालिकाका कर्माचारी, विज्ञ र सल्लाहकारहरु लाई नेतृत्व प्रदान गर्नु पर्ने हुन्छ।

नेतृत्व क्षमता अन्तर्गत सफल मेयरमा विषम परिस्थितिमा पनि जटिल समस्याहरु छिटो भन्दा छिटो विस्लेषण गर्ने, समस्याका विच विचलित नभई अवसर पहिचान गर्ने, र यी सबका वाबजुद जनमुखी निर्णय गर्ने कुशलता हुन जरुरी हुन्छ।

समन्वयकारी भूमिका प्रभावकारी रुपमा निभाउन सक्नु एक सफल मेयर मा हुन पर्ने अर्को प्रमुख गुण हो। सबैलाई संगै लैजान सक्ने क्षमता राख्नु र राज्यका विभिन्न निकाय (केन्द्रिय सरकार देखि स्थानीय जनता सम्म) संग समन्वय गर्न सक्ने कलामा पोख्त हुनु उनको आवश्यकता हो।

सहरको नेताको रुपमा मेयरसंग सहरको विकाशको स्पस्ट दिर्घकालिन अवधारणा (vision) नभएको खण्डमा दैनिक आउने चुनौतीका विच उनि छिट्टै कुहिरोको काग बन्न सक्ने प्रबल सम्भावना रहन्छ। आफ्नो दुर दृस्टी लाई सर्व-साधारणको आवश्यकता र अपेक्षा संग तालमेल हुने गरि प्रस्तुत गर्ने कलामा पोख्त हुनु त उनका नभै नहुने गुण हुन्। अवधारणा का साथ साथै मेयर र उनको टिमसंग तेसलाई व्यवाहारमा उतार्न आवश्यक छोटो, मध्यम र दिर्घकालिन योजना तर्जुमा गर्ने क्षमता साथै योजना कार्यान्वयन गर्ने सिप, उर्जा, साहस र दृढ अठोट हुनु अपरिहार्य हुन्छ।

मेयरका उम्मेदवार कुनै राजनैतिक पार्टीसंग आवद्द हुन सक्लान् तर चुनाव जिते पछि भने उनले आफ्नो राजनैतिक आस्था र पार्टीगत स्वार्थ भन्दा माथि उठि आफ्नो नेतृत्वको दाइरा फराकिलो पर्न सक्नै पर्छ। उनलाई यसको र उसको नेता अथवा कार्यकर्ता हुने छुट हुँदैन। उनि सबैका मेयर बन्न सक्नु पर्छ।

अबको चुनैती र अवसर
नेपालको विगत २० वर्षको राजनैतिक तरलताले गर्दा देश दुई दशक स्थानीय सरकार विहिन परिस्थिति बाट गुज्रिन पुग्यो। यि दुई दशक निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिको सट्टामा कर्मचारीहरु स्थानीय तहका निर्णयकर्ताको भूमिकामा रहे। निर्वाचन नभएको र स्थानीय तह प्रतिनिधि विहिन हुन पुगेको अवस्थामा कर्मचारीतन्त्र स्थानीय निकायमा व्यवहारिक समाधानको रुपमा स्थापित हुन पुग्यो दुई दशक स्थानीय निकायमा वहाँहरुले गर्नु भएको सेवाको लागि कर्मचारीहरु प्रति हामी कृतज्ञ हुनै पर्छ।

यति भन्दा भन्दै हामीले के चाहिं बुझ्न जरुरी छ भने निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधि मतदाता प्रति उत्तरदायी हुन्छन् भने कर्मचारीको उत्तर्दायित्व उनका हाकिम र काम गर्ने संस्था प्रति रहन्छ।

अब हुन लागेको स्थानीय निकाय चुनावका निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिहरुका अगाडी निर्वाचन पश्चात कर्मचारीतन्त्र विस्थापित गरि सबैको सोच स्थानिय सरकारको अवधारणा तिर प्रतिस्थापन गर्नु ठूलो चुनौतिको रुपमा खडा हुने देखिन्छ। यो चुनौती चिर्न र मेयर जस्तो निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिको भूमिकाको अवसरमा सफल हुन भने विषयको दक्षता भन्दा नेतृत्व क्षमता अत्यावश्यक हुने छ।

मतदाताका लागी भने यहि आउँदो आइतवार हुन लागेको चुनाव हाम्रा नभई राम्रा उम्मेदवार लाई मत दीई स्थानीय सरकारमा योग्य प्रतिनिधि चुन्ने सुनौलो अवसर हो। यो अवसरको विवेकशील प्रयोगले मात्र हाम्रो सुनौलो भविश्य सुनिस्चित हुनेमा कुनै संका छैन।

विगतमा कसलाई भोट दिइयो र परिवारका अरु सदस्यहरुले के मा छाप लगाए भन्ने जस्ता आधारमै मात्र मतदान केन्द्र जाने हो भने, तेस्तो कार्यले मत पेटिकामा स्वास्तिका छापको दाग त लाग्ला, तर त्यो स्व-विवेक प्रयोग गरिएको मत भने हुन सक्दैन।

जनताले स्थानीय सरकारको नेतृत्व छान्ने बेला विवेक प्रयोग गरेमा र निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधिले इमान्दारीताका कर्तब्य निभाएमा मात्र नेपाली समाज विकाशको पथ तिर तिब्र गतिमा उन्मुख हुने छ।

आशा गरौँ आउँदो आइतवार मतदाताले लोकतन्त्र द्वारा सुनिस्चित आफ्नो मताधिकारको सहि उपयोग गर्ने छन्। त्येसो भएमा मात्रै आउँदा दिनमा अब्बल उम्मेदवारले स्थानीय सरकारको प्रतिनिधित्व गर्ने छन्। अनि सहि नेतृत्वले लोकतान्त्रिक पद्दतिको मातहातमा जनतालाई विकाशको अनुभव गराउन सफल हुने छन्।  

(राज महर्जन न्यु जिल्याण्डको सबै भन्दा ठूलो स्थानीय निकाय अक्ल्यांड काउन्सिलमा विगत ८ वर्ष देखि सहरी विकाशमा कार्यरत छन्। लेखनमा सुनिल ढकाल, अमित भण्डारी, दिपक चौहान र सरोज नेपालको सल्लाह र सुझावको लागि हार्दिक धन्यवाद।)
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