In terms of population and geographical area, Suryodaya Municipality is the largest municipality in the eastern hills of Nepal. The municipality, led by Mayor Rana Bahadur Rai, is currently in the spotlight for its “indigenous” development model. Our Ilam correspondent Kokila Dhakal talked with him about what exactly this “indigenous” model was, among other issues. Excerpts:
What works have been carried out in the past three years since you were elected Mayor of this municipality?
We have formulated more than a hundred laws, procedures and directives. We are working to bring our irregular amounts down to zero. For this, we follow the criteria set by the Office of the Auditor General. Many works have also been done in the road infrastructure, drinking water, sports, tourism, environment, agriculture, health, education and irrigation sectors.
What works have been done to make the citizens feel the impact of development?
We listen to people’s concerns and problems while planning and implementing our projects. We go to the communities to listen to the complaints of the people. This has helped us learn the needs of the residents and design projects to meet them. Presently, farmers in Suryodaya cannot transport their products to the market during the rainy season. To solve this problem, we have begun construction of an all-weather road in all 14 wards of the municipality. Many notable works including drinking water and irrigation projects have been carried. All the works are carried out under our “Suryodaya Development Model.”
Suryodaya Municipality holds great potential in agriculture. What is being done to develop this sector?
Tea is the main cash crop of this area but unfortunately, tea farmers were dealing with many problems. It was hard for them to get a fair price for their production. After our election, we fixed the minimum support price for tea at Rs. 40 per kilogram. We implemented operational standards for more than 62 tea processing factories here. We have started giving interest subsidies to tea cooperatives from this fiscal year. We hope this will help them establish tea industries and make the farmers masters of their own produce. In order to emphasise organic agriculture, we have banned the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and promoted animal husbandry and the production of organic manure.
How many of your election commitments have you fulfilled?
We have fulfilled all the commitments we made in our election manifesto. In fact, we have done more than what we had initially promised. Many more works will be completed in the remaining two years. People can see how Suryodaya has changed. The municipality residents should be asked about what the local government has done.
How has the city been mobilising its resources?
The municipality treats all its wards equally. We believe that the development of the municipality is possible only through the proportionate development of the wards. That is why no ward has been left behind in the construction of roads, irrigation, drinking water, office building and physical infrastructure. Revenue is collected in a scientific manner. Because we work in partnership with the local communities, many of our projects have been completed successfully.
What programmes has the municipality introduced to guarantee basic health services to the people?
Health posts are being constructed in all wards of the municipality along with birthing centres for safe childbirth. Plans are afoot to build a 25-bed hospital in Phikkal. We provide free health insurance to single and widowed women as well as poor Dalit families. At least 500 people have been benefiting from this.
What is the situation of education in the municipality?
The situation of education has improved a lot. The municipality has drafted its own local curriculum which includes topics of tea, tourism and the local culture. This curriculum is taught from grades I to VIII. We also have a programme for the education of daughters-in-law. Free diploma-level education is provided to the daughters-in-law of the municipality at the Karfok Vidya Mandir School. Our target is to educate 60 daughters-in-law every year. Exercise booklets have been distributed to motivate the students to study. Under the concept of ‘Let’s play with maths,’ exercise books have been provided to pupils of classes 8, 9 and 10 to help develop a mathematical attitude in the children. We also conduct extracurricular activities like inter-school competitions, science exhibitions, teachers-visit to other schools and districts and more.
What is the local level’s relation with the provincial and federal governments like?
It is good. We have been able to accomplish a lot through the budgetary support of the provincial and federal governments. However, some offices under the federal government do not cooperate with us in our work which sometimes creates problems.
How is the relationship between the local government and its employees?
Mostly good. However, the staffers at the federal level do not understand the local government. They still have an old mind-set and prefer working through orders. But at the local level, the relationship between the employees and the elected representatives is pretty good and we work in collaboration with each other.
What will Suryodaya Municipality look like at the end of your term?
We feel that Suryodaya will have progressed a lot. Every household will have an internet connection, for which, we have introduced the ‘fibre to home’ programme. Under this programme, 2,000 families will immediately get internet and within the next six months, all the houses of the municipality will be connected to the net. By the end of our term, a technology-friendly administration, educated people, blacktopped roads in all wards and economic prosperity shall be seen in the municipality. We will have development under our own indigenous model.