Khaptad Chhanna is a rural municipality with an area of 34.48 square kilometres and a population of 15,893. The municipality has seven wards and was formed by merging former Pauwagadi, Lamatola, Majhigaun, Kalukheti, Patadebal and Gadraya Village Development Committees. Barka Bahadur Rokaya, elected from the Nepali Congress, leads the rural municipality as its chairman. Our Bajhang correspondent Shailendra Rokaya talked with him regarding Khaptad Chhanna’s plans for development. Excerpts:
What major works have you done since assuming office?
Since our election in 2017, we have made remarkable achievements in the fields of education, health, transportation and especially agriculture. For example, we have constructed additional health posts so that people living in any part of the rural municipality can have access to healthcare. We have also purchased an X-ray machine and managed oxygen supply. We have begun building a 10-bed hospital and recruiting the needed manpower. We have also started constructing toilets and infrastructure for schools. We have also distributed free saplings of fruit plants, fish fry, animal calves and agricultural implements to the farmers, implemented a large-scale agricultural programme and worked to provide irrigation to all the fields within the rural municipality.
What short and long-term plans have you devised for the prosperity of Khaptad Chhanna Rural Municipality?
Khaptad Chhanna is very rich in natural resources. Our water, land and forest can propel the rural municipality’s development. We have internal revenue of Rs. 1 million. And by adding the grants provided by the federal and provincial governments, we are able to draft an annual budget of Rs. 410 million. This is not a large amount, yet, we have devised short and long-term plans within this limited budget. We are able to spend 90 per cent of our budget every year. This year too, our spending is around 80 per cent. We have prioritised the agriculture sector to make Khaptad Chhanna a prosperous and self-sufficient local level. As the largest portion of Khaptad, the main tourist area of the far west, lies in this rural municipality and it also offers the shortest route to Khaptad, we have focused on formulating a master plan to realise the full tourism potential of this place. We are also continuously supporting small and cottage industries, tourism promotion activities and homestays.
How does the local government plan to develop tourism? What is it doing to support people’s livelihoods?
Our rural municipality holds great potential for tourism. Our top priority is to construct infrastructure to facilitate the arrival and stay of internal and external tourists and promote the area as a must-visit place. We have also made a documentary to promote Khaptad Chhanna’s tourism destinations and to preserve and revive the native culture and art. Talking about livelihoods, it is our responsibility to identify issues and bring programmes to directly benefit the people.
What programmes have you introduced to bring the youth into the mainstream?
We understand that a country cannot develop without harnessing the energy of its youth so we plan to create a profile of unemployed youth in our rural municipality to involve them in various works. Khaptad Chhanna, like the whole country, is grappling with the exodus of skilled manpower in the name of foreign employment. To curb this, we have initiated the Youth Self-Employment Programme. In the first phase of this campaign, we imparted skill training to the youths after conducting a comprehensive study of their needs and wants and ensuring the available resources and market in our rural municipality.
What have you done so far for the development of agriculture? What are your future plans for the sector?
Since the election, we have built more than 120 irrigation canals in the rural municipality. Realising the importance of agriculture, we had allocated Rs. 15 million for it in the last fiscal year. About 80 per cent of our population are engaged in agriculture and rely on it for their livelihoods. We have introduced various programmes like the establishment of a potato pocket area, the ‘one product per village’ scheme, fruit and vegetable seed production, free distribution of pesticides, modern agricultural tools distribution and the chairman comprehensive agriculture programme. We aim to continue prioritising the agriculture sector in the coming days as well.
What are you doing for the prevention and control of COVID-19?
We have done a lot to control COVID-19. We have set up health desks at all the major entry points into the rural municipality. We also keep records of people arriving in the rural municipality from outside and make them stay in quarantines and home isolation. We have also distributed free masks and sanitisers to the locals. A 25-bed COVID hospital has also been built here. We have moved ahead by making an action plan and purchasing necessary health materials.
What have you done to maintain good governance in the rural municipality?
Local levels are the governments closest to the people. People feel attached to the local government and expect more from it. It is our responsibility to not let them down. In matters of procurement, we are working in line with the acts, regulations and principles of good governance. We hold public hearings every three months and conduct public and social audits of various projects. If we receive any complaint from locals, we discuss it in the grievance hearing committee and swiftly move to make improvements.