LEARNING from Nepal : I recently had an opportunity to do some intensive field work with the Tharu, Boate and Musahar indigenous people in the Tarai [plains] of Nepal.

I have been working on and off in Nepal for more than a decade. But this time around, I was particularly moved by transitions caused by remittances and the new constitution.

I think there are lessons with the way Nepal is negotiating its myriad challenges that deserve serious attention.

Nepal for the past decades has become one of the highest per-capita suppliers of labour to the Gulf and South-East Asia markets. The result has been a transformation, that we in Pakistan, or even in the developing world, are not so unfamiliar with.

People's faces have changed with improved nutrition as have their lifestyles, with booming consumerism.

We, in the developing countries have also been experiencing the same remittances driven transformation across each country in community profiles for the past four decades

The difference is the trajectory that Nepal seems to be taking, which may distinguish it from the well known one that we have followed to where we are.

Nepal now has a Maoist leftist government with a strong majority in the parliament. It is implementing a constitution where all power is being transferred to the local level.

It also has a strong social justice agenda whereby all lagging minorities and castes are to be empowered and taken along as equal partners in a democratic society. To many in South Asia such intentions are are precisely that - pious intentions. The question legitimately is - where is the evidence?

The evidence number is that Nepal is the one government in South Asia still investing in public housing for the poor.

The two room houses in Chitwan buffer-zone , that I saw are not much, but they are something. The evidence of the same  is also in the multiple engineering consultant offices around the mayor's office in the Kawasoti, municipality in South Central Nepal.

Engineering firms and other service providers are moving en masse to small tehsil level towns, because that's where the power and budget to undertake public works projects of which thousands will be undertaken, thanks to financial and administrative devolution, and a national commitment to state led development and welfare.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on performing economies of Asia continues.

The World Students Society thanks author Danish Mustafa, researcher in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King's College, London.
I recently had an opportunity to do some intensive field work with the indigenous people in the Tarai [plains] of Nepal.


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