Inclusive Governance: A Case Study of Civil Service in Nepal
Narendra Raj Paudel ☒
Faculty Member, Central Department of Public Administration, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Online Version Published: 1 July 2016
© 2016 South Asian Youth Research Institute for Development. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CCBY).
This paper examines the level of inclusive policy implementation in civil service in Nepal which has been adopted since 2007, after the second amendment of the Civil Service Act-1993. The legal instruments state to bring the disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic minorities, Dalits, disabled, etc. who are socially, economically and politically marginalized into the governing system. Specifically, this paper analyzes the role of the Public Service Commission (PSC). Also, it examines the level of social justice due to inclusive policy implementation and their level of performance after their recruitment, drawing information through a questionnaire to 227 civil servants, interviews with 28 key informants and the annual report of the PSC from 2008 to 2014. The study revealed that the selected quota or share in civil service as per the Act has been increasing but the trend of recruitment has remained the same as before. The study depicted that the selected civil servants belonged to similar families with members having already been civil servants. The legal opportunity allocated for inclusion were enjoyed by certain families in the name of disadvantaged groups as they were elites in their respective community because the real disadvantaged groups were not in a position to compete in the PSC examinations. They had low literacy rate. Brahmins, Chhetris, Newars together with some ethnic groups were dominating the civil service due to family orientation and education even if their population was relatively low. The study concluded that the structure of civil service due to inclusive governance has changed but not entrenched in the targeted community.
Keywords: Governance, Inclusion policies, Civil Service, Implementation, Nepal
Social exclusion/inclusion is in hot discussion around the globe though the particular concept emerged from Europe four decades ago. In the initial phase, social exclusion was viewed as a social problem related to disability, substance abuse, and related deviation. Gradually, it gained popularity covering social problems like poverty in Britain, unemployment in Europe, the problem of social integration for social solidarity and migration in France (Silver, 2010). Later on, it covered Africa for the race as a social problem. In the case of Asia, the social problems which include gender, ethnicity, caste system, language etc. are varied (Tamang, 2014). Overall, the social exclusion is a social problem which is rooted in disability, poverty, unemployment, gender, caste system, ethnicity, language, and area specific.
Conceptually, social exclusion means many things to many scholars. It is a dynamic progress of progressive multidimensional rupturing of the social bond (Silver, 2007, 1p.). Social exclusion is about how formal and informal institutions and practices work disconnect individuals and a group from social relations and create barriers for their participation and accessible for other groups in the same community (Power and Wilson, 2000; Bennett, 2008, quoted from Tamang, 2014). Studies on social exclusion illustrate that social exclusion is a condition, a relation, and a process. The condition of poverty, deprivation, marginalization and powerlessness are the causes of social exclusion. The problems of homelessness, educational failure and lack of skills for the labor market and childhood malnutrition and subsequent ill health diseases all contribute to social exclusion (Tamang, 2014, p.12). Similarly, lack of mutual support and cooperation between members of a society and discriminatory behavior, unequal and failed relations between the elite and the common people which refer to the relationship of social members also play a determinant role in social exclusion. Likewise, social exclusion is a process whereby an excluder continuously and actively attempts to gain higher position by excluding others.
While examining the reasons for social exclusion, Lou Wilson (2006) synthesizes and categorizes the various interpretations of this issue into three models. The first model explains the reason of exclusion that certain dominant groups control the state and by abusing power, exercise illegitimate control over state resources. According to the second model, the struggle among groups with different social background, ethnicity, language etc. is an inevitable part of modern society to expand their power and influence. The winner group is dominant in the losing group. The loser will form a class gradually whereby it gets excluded from the winner through a set of customs and practices set by the dominant groups. The third model is about social integration. When the state fails to integrate the society, it results in social exclusion.
Initially, the social exclusion was discussed on to overcome the social problems and get integration into the mainstream society (Wislon, 2006). The European model of social exclusion encourages social assimilation for social inclusion. This is based on the European context. The context of other countries is quite different because of their language, gender, caste system, culture etc. But social inclusion is beyond solving social problems. By only solving the social problem may not be sufficient condition for social inclusion. Social inclusion is about participation especially of the most disadvantaged people who are left out of the mainstream of development and in the governance process (Haan, 1998). Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in the society. It is also a process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society (WB, 2013, p 3-4). In a broad sense, social inclusion means uniting the national and global society consisting of multicultural groups based on the principle of both autonomy and mutual cooperation (Tamang, 2014, p.20).
The elimination of the determinant factors of social exclusion may not be sufficient condition for social inclusion. It demands something beyond the elimination of exclusion. First, social inclusion demands an end to the status quo of inequality. Inclusion aspires for solidarity based on equality with a difference. Second, social inclusion requires that social problems be resolved on the basis of the principle of equality. Third, social inclusion does not mean assimilation into the mainstream of the dominant culture. Thus, social inclusion matters because social exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic, and political are often interrelated (WB, 2013, p.54). Moving from social exclusion to inclusion does not happen overnight. It takes long-term views to achieve the main thrusts of social inclusion such as an end to the status quo of inequality, solidarity based on equality with differences, wider participation of people with social justice and improving ability, opportunity, and dignity of the people to take part in the society. All of these intentions of inclusion depend on how much inclusive policies are implemented in the national and global context.
1.1 Civil Service in Nepal
The civil service in Nepal has been changing its operational modality due to the popular movements and political regime changes since its inception 1956. During this period, it has moved towards professionalism, impartiality, merit-based selection and more inclusive/representative even though criticisms remain. The criticisms of Nepalese civil services that appeared in scholarly written papers include the presence of corruption, certain caste’s domination, less representative and non-performer. Now, the government of Nepal has adopted the inclusive policy since 1990 in general and 2006 in particular due to the popular movements of 1990 and 2006 respectively. In this context, Article 13(3) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 mentioned that…”provide that especial provisions for women, Dalits, ethnic, Madheshi, farmers, workers, may be made by law for the protection, empowerment and advancement of the interests of children, the aged or those who are physically or mentally incapacitated or those who belong to a class which is economically, socially and culturally backward”. This provision of the constitution is the same as in Nepal’s Constitution 2014. Thus, a reservation policy was introduced in the civil service of Nepal through the second amendment of the Civil Service Act, 2007. The provision of the Act states that 55 per cent of the seats of total vacant seats will be for open competition while the rest of the 45 per cent seats would be allotted for the reservation based on the gender, caste and ethnicity, Dalits, backward areas, Madheshi, and disability. Again, assuming 45 per cent seats allotted for reservation as 100 per cent, 33 per cent seats are reserved for women, 27 per cent seats for ethnicity, 22 per cent seats for Madheshi, 9 per cent seats for Dalit, 5 per cent seats for the disabled and 4 per cent seats for backward areas1.
The inclusive policy in the civil service has been implemented since 2007. Due to this policy, more than twenty thousand civil servants were recruited. Among them, seven thousand civil servants were from the inclusive provision. As a result, the composition of civil service has changed. Among 80 thousand civil servants, 85 per cent are males and 15 per cent females. Still, there is a high domination of male civil servants. Similarly, the composition of civil service on the basis of caste and ethnicity has also changed. There are about 56 per cent Brahmins, 14 per cent Chhetris, 15 per cent ethnicity, 5 per cent Dalits and 8 per cent Madheshis.
Table 1: Number of civil servants and applicants of PSC with respective population and literacy rate
*This percentage is calculated on the basis of civil servants who joined civil service in 2011/12 only. Their total number was 471 only. Source: Civil Service Department, 2014, Reports of Public Service Commission (2007-2014). CBS, 2014
The data shows that there is still the domination of Brahmins and others. Religiously, they are 97 percent Hindu. Region-wise, about fifty percent of the civil servants are working in Central Development Region (CDR) and the rest of the fifty per cent civil servants are in other four development regions. According to Yogendra B. Gurung (2014), Hill Brahmin, Chhetri, Madheshi other caste groups, Hill Dalit, M/H Janajatis and Tarai Janajatis are in the majority for their involvement in agriculture and related works. The highest percentage of Madheshi Dalits is involved in elementary occupation (41.4%) and Marwadi/Panjabi/Bengali in service and sales workers (36.3%). However, there are some social groups, whose percentage of occupations is scattered in diverse occupations.
After the implementation of the inclusive policy in civil service in Nepal, about 1.5 million applicants within the period from 2007 to 2012 submitted applications seeking to be recruited in the civil service. Among them, 56 percents were male applicants and 44 percent female applicants whereas the male’s total population accounted for 48 percent and females 52 percent. However, their respective literacy rate was 75 percent for males and 57 percent for females. Caste and ethnicity-wise, there were 41 per cent Brahmin applicants, 19 percent Chhetri, 17 per cent ethnic groups, 3 per cent Dalits and 10 per cent Madheshi applicants even though their respective population are 13 per cent Brahmin, 17 per cent Chhetri, 36 per cent ethnic groups, 14 per cent Dalit and 17 per cent Madheshi. Paudel (2014) outlines that those civil servants who have the rural background, Brahmin/Chhetri, agrarian occupation and more studious are able to be selected through the PSC examination. Despite the lower population of the Brahmins, they have still dominated the Nepalese civil service. In this situation, Brahmins are more literate than the other caste and ethnic groups. Religiously, 81 percent of the applicants were Hindus. Development region-wise, the highest number of applicants i.e. 36 per cent applicants were from the Central Development Region and only 10 per cent applicants (lowest) from the Far-Western Development Region.
The above presentation of data poses the following questions: Is the examination conducted by PSC impartial so that every applicant has a fair chance of being selected? Why do certain castes have domination in the selection and what is the reason behind this? What are the economic benefits received by civil servants when they are recruited as civil servants? Does the inclusive policy implementation do justice to the Nepalese community? Is there any variation in job performance between inclusive category and open category of civil servants?
2. Methods and Materials
The research design was explorative. The data was generated in three phases. In the first phase, data of civil servants was retrieved from the Civil Servant Department, Government of Nepal. These data which gave a general picture of civil service in Nepal were categorized under gender and development region. In the second phase, 471 selected civil servants in 2011/12 were collected from PSC to analyze their socio-economic background. At the same time, applicants since 2007 to 2011 were collected and grouped gender-wise, caste and ethnicity-wise, religion-wise and development region-wise to find out the issues of inclusive policy implementation in Nepal’s civil service. In the third phase, 227 civil servants from seven districts (Dhanusa, Dhankuta, Dhangdhi, Gorkha, Achham, Dailekh and Kathmandu) out of 75 districts were approached through a questionnaire to analyze why caste specific had more domination in civil service. Similarly, other specific questions were asked to respondents about the PSC examination, social justice and the performance of civil servants. Besides, 28 in-depth interviews with heads of public offices based on the same kind of variables were conducted to consolidate the study. Likewise, the relevant data on the population as well as literacy rate were collected from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1 Tests of Public Service Commission
To hunt for the best of the best candidate on the basis of merit, PSC, a constitutional body, conducts written examinations and interviews whereby it prepares a merit list of the best candidates. PSC has set a calendar explaining the time of advertising, screening test, written test and interview and final merit list, which is published in the broadsheet daily national newspaper and it’s web page so that every interested person can be well-informed. While advertising for the vacant posts, it has fixed the posts as per the inclusive policy2. Potential candidates3 apply for the vacant posts as per their wish and suitable category. PSC conducts screen tests4 based on the prescribed syllabus. Objective questions are set so that a large number of candidates can be screened easily. Those candidates who are able to pass the screen at first, are eligible for the final written test.
The final written test is also based on the service-wise5 prescribed syllabus. These services are also broadly categorized into technical and non-technical. In each service, there are three subjects with 100 full-marks each. Public Service Commission Act, 1992 spells out clearly that the candidate should pass separately in each subject at first and should come in merit. Otherwise, candidates will be disqualified. While checking the answer sheets, PSC applies the double coding system. One set of codes is the Chairman of PSC and another with the PSC secretary. Both of them do not disclose the code. It remains confidential. Final merit list after the written test is prepared on the basis of the codes. Then only, the name of the candidate will be explored by matching the codes. After this, the merit list for the interview is published.
Also, in the case of an interview, there is a face-to-face interview and psychological test. After adding all the marks of the written test, face-to-face interview and psychological test obtained by the candidates, the final merit list is published. Thus, the candidates are selected for the civil service.
Table 2: Perception of employee on PSC examination
The question was on Likert’s five-point scale. 1- Too bad, 2- bad, 3- neither bad nor good, 4-good and 5- very good.
Question: What is your perception on a test conducted by PSC? Source: Field study, 2014
One question was asked to civil servants (both inclusive and open category) about their perception on the test conducted by PSC. As per the result, civil servants belonging to the inclusive category opined all tests except for the interview were good whereas the open category civil servants opined that the written and language tests were good but the interview, IQ test, and practical test were neither good nor bad. It means there are still questions regarding the interview, IQ, and practical test. According to their view, interview, IQ, and practical tests were not on par with the written and language tests. However, respondents highlighted some demerits of the written test. The syllabus of written test was very vague. It needed more time to be prepared for the test. It did not match the job specifications. Thus, it was more theoretical. Despite these comments, the written test was more trustworthy and impartial. In an in-depth interview with civil servants, they opined that the interview and practical tests were not impartial because of human error especially of the joint secretary and undersecretary. There was limited expert in these areas. Candidates who passed written test easily approached them to get favor for the interview test and also for the practical test. The field study made it clear that the examinations conducted by PSC were relatively trustworthy and impartial. This was also depicted by the Trust Survey Research (2010 & 2015) carried out by the Central Department of Public Administration, Tribhuvan University which showed that there was a high degree people’s trust to PSC. It revealed that there was no discrimination in the selection process of PSC despite some loopholes in the interview and practical tests.
3.2 Why more applications of caste-specific having rural, agrarian and community-based school’s background?
Even though Nepal is a multicultural, multi-language6, multi-religious7 with diverse caste and ethnic community8 (Dahal, 2014), Brahmin is a dominant cluster in civil service. Similarly, there is the domination of rural people9 who studied at rural schools and colleges in civil service even though urban areas of Nepal are more developed and accessible for information. There are also more colleges and universities in urban areas. Even though there are opportunities in others areas, Brahmins and Chhetris are attracted towards the civil service than the ethnic communities. Due to this background, the questions about the reasons for more applications from the following groups were asked to civil servants. The major factors for more applications included are education, Nepali language, proximity of PSC, rural/urban culture, family orientation and no alternative other than PSC. In addition, difficulty of livelihood in rural areas, more secure job, and the attractive lifestyle of civil servants etc.
3.2.1 Why specific caste’s domination?
From the literature, it is revealed that Brahmin community has more share in civil service even though their population is about 13 percent. Both the inclusive and open category’s respondents opined that Brahmins were more educated in the country. The census also illustrated their literacy rate was about 82 percent. The second reason was the language as a mother tongue. They got to benefit from the language also. The Nepali language is the official language of Nepal. Another reason for more applicants from the Brahmin community is accounted by the proximity of the PSC. However, the respondents more or less denied nepotism and favoritism during the selection process. Besides, inclusive category respondents opined that there was a presence of state discrimination against other groups of the society but open category respondents denied it.
Table 3: Reasons for more applications
Question: Why do candidates having certain caste specific including rural, agrarian and community school education able to be selected in PSC examination? It was based on five points Likert Scale where 1- completely disagree, 2-partially disagree, 3- partially agree, 4-agree and 5-completely agree. Source: Field study, 2014
In an interview with civil servants, most of them opined that Brahmin community was involved in reading and writing areas since the inception of Nepal. They went to Banaras to study traditional mythologies whereas other communities were involved in the army especially in the British India Company. When Brahmins return back to the country, they engage in traditional ritual practices. They were called as Pandits in Nepal. Such traditional cultures pushed Brahmins to study while people from other communities indulged in other areas. In general, an ethnic community especially Gurung, Magar, Rai, Limbu etc. had domination in British/Indian Army while Madheshi community in a technical field. The Newar community had more participation in all forms of business, banking, education and civil service. The history of traditional practices made the difference in the domination in civil service. In an opinion of another interviewee, Brahmin community was more flexible, adaptive and laborious as well as endowed with fine commitment. Due to these reasons, they had the domination in Nepal.
3.2.2 Why are there more rural applicants than urban?
There were more rural applicants than urban. Both categories of respondents agreed that family orientation (4.5 mean) was the foremost responsible reason for more applications from rural areas. Similarly, the secure job in civil service attracted rural people than the urban. Likewise, there was no viable alternative available to show personal talents in the rural areas like that in the urban areas. In urban areas, there were other fields to be involved in. Education was also responsible for more applicants from rural areas. Open category civil servants outlined no alternative other than PSC for rural area applicants whereas inclusive category did not mention it to the same degree. Likewise, they mentioned other factors such as rural/urban culture, access to PSC and Nepali language which led more applications at PSC from rural areas. In an interview, there was a high degree of educational unemployment in rural areas as compared to urban areas. Such educational unemployment caused the rural youth to labor for PSC examination. Thus, such negative factors caused more applications from rural areas than urban ones.
3.2.3 Why more applicants belong to community school/college than private ones?
Even though private schools/colleges were assumed to be more qualified than public/community schools and colleges, there was more public/community college students’ domination in public service applications. According to inclusive category civil servant’s opinion, public/community school/college students were found to be more interested and have more preference for civil service whereas open category civil servants did not emphasize that as much as the inclusive category ones. The second reason was about the labor of the applicants. Community/public school/college students were found to be more laborious than urban students. Without more labor in exam preparation, no one gets success. The PSC examination is assumed as high competition. Similarly, open category civil servant agreed that there was no alternative to community/public school/college students other than civil service. Respondents of both the categories opined that the civil service was less attractive from the economic viewpoint. Due to the accumulation of the above-mentioned reasons, students of community/public school/college knocked at the door of PSC.
3.3 Justice to society
Social justice will be maintained in society due to inclusive policy implementation. For this purpose, GoN allocated seats to gender, ethnic groups, Dalits (untouchables), Madheshi (people of Terai, plain areas), disabled and those from the backward regions. The following issues were perceived in the inclusion process. In the case of gender, the women representation in civil service was about 15 per cent only whereas their population was more than fifty percent of the population of Nepal. The representation of ethnic communities was also 15 per cent while their population was about 36 percent. Likewise, Madheshi community also represented about 8 per cent in civil service. All of these categories showed that there were low representations in civil service in comparison to their respective population. Thus, a question is that whether people perceive social justice or not. If yes, what are the reasons? If no, how? Most of the inclusive category civil servants opined that they felt social justice was done. Open category civil servant also mentioned it was a kind of social justice maintained by the government.
Table 4: Reasons of justice
Do you perceive social justice due to inclusion in Civil service? What are the reasons? It was based on four points Likert Scale in which 1 is the lowest whereas 4 is the highest. Source: Field Study, 2014
Most of the respondents opined the reason that it was open to all. Each eligible individual could compete for vacant positions. Besides, they felt social justice was done due to impartial screening process of PSC without any kind of discrimination during the selection process. Likewise, Nepalese civil service was moving towards becoming more representative. From in-depth interviews, it was revealed that this process had given justice to the communities which were marginalized. They had opportunities to enter civil service. He further added that there would be potential for each candidate if the government provided opportunity and favorable environment. However, some of the interviewees opined that this process had provided partial social justice. People who were marginalized had to compete with elites in the same category. Again, they could not reap the legal opportunity. For example, Newar, Rai, Limbu etc. who lived in Jumla, Taplejung, Humla (remote places) could not compete with the people who lived in Kathmandu and other urban areas. They got legal opportunities in the name of the marginalized community. Brahmins and Chhetris who belong to remote and upper hills of Nepal were far behind the ethnic communities who belonged to lower hills and Terai. The inclusion process narrated that Brahmins and Chhetris were the main beneficiaries. He further asked what the mistakes of marginalized Brahmin and Chhetri were so that they had the bar for the inclusion.
Even though the application rate of women has increased; the real competitors were limited to elite women. The literacy rate of women in Nepal was about 57 per cent only. Academically, prequalified women for the vacant posts published by PSC were few. The women, who were really marginalized, might not have a university degree. Besides, while analyzing the social background of women who were selected from the inclusive category, they were either the sister of a civil servant or wife or sister-in-law etc. In fact, most of them were relatives of civil servants. It meant that the real benefits again went to a family whose member was already in the civil service. The same kind of nature was also applicable to the ethnic community. In the case of the Madheshi community, the definition of Madheshi was not concrete. Either people who lived in Madhesh were Madhishe or it included only certain caste only. If Madhesh represents the geography, it excludes other communities. Demographically, Madhesh is very much heterogeneous in terms of social structure and composition. There were very top class people and low-class people there. It might not do justice to include all in a basket. Likewise, there should be a concrete definition of the disabled because the legal opportunity of disability was reaped by other people who made medical certificate of disability. If the target community or group reaps the opportunity provided by GoN, the inclusion process would be meaningful. Thus, the capability of the candidate matters for taking part in the competition for inclusion. Eventually, it leads towards social justice.
Eliminating the social problems such as poverty, unemployment, inequality etc. refers to social exclusion whereas social inclusion is beyond this. Social inclusion refers to the participation of the people in the process of decision making whereby people perceive justice. The allocation of a few opportunities is not sufficient condition, it also demands the individual capability to reap the legal opportunity provided by the government and other agencies. Inclusive policy in civil service has been implemented since 2007, after the amendment of the Civil Service Act-1993. It was found that studious Hindu Brahmins and Chhetris who lived in hilly regions of Nepal were selected through the PSC test even though they belonged to a lower percentage of the total population. As a result, there was also their domination in the civil service. The study illustrated that family orientation, education, attraction of civil service, the prestige of civil services etc. were prime reasons which encouraged the applicants concerned to labor more for getting employment opportunity in the civil service.
The study showed that inclusive policy implementation had provided social justice partially because it was open to all, no discrimination, and impartially screening process. However, the study revealed that the selected quota or share in civil service as per the Act has been increasing but the trend of recruitment has remained the same as before. The study depicted that the selected civil servants belonged to the same kind of family’s members of which were already in civil service. The only difference was the sex. Earlier males were selected, now, females either sister or wife or daughter-in-law who belong to elite families were selected. They availed the opportunity legally because targeted females were not able to compete due to lack of education, appropriate culture, and environment required for the competition. In the case of ethnic minorities, the dominant family among them got the opportunity legally rather than the target groups who were marginalized politically, economically and socially. In the case of the physically challenged, candidates with no visible disability grabbed the legal opportunity. Similarly, the candidates who had received citizenship certificates from backward areas but had not lived in that area got the opportunity in the name of backward areas. Thus, the implementation of inclusive policy in Nepal adopted only social variables even though Civil Service Act has clearly stated to include socially, politically and economically marginalized communities.
1Backward areas include seven districts (Achham, Jajarkot, Mugu, Humala, Jumla, Kalikot and Dolpa districts) out of 75 districts.
2Inclusive policy means that has fixed the number of position allocated for open competition and reserved seats for women, Dalits, Madheshi, disables, backward region.
3Potential candidate means Nepali Citizen, above 21 years and below 35 years for male and 40 years for female, not disqualified by the government, not charged criminal by the court.
4In screen test, there is 40 per cent pass marks out of 100 marks.
5As per Civil Service Act, 2007, there are Nepal economic planning and statistics service, Nepal engineering service, Nepal agriculture service, Nepal justice service, Nepal forestry service, Nepal administrative service, and Nepal miscellaneous service.
6One hundred and twenty three languages are in practice.
7Four religion groups such as Hindu, Buddha, Musalman, and Christian
8One hundred and twenty six castes and ethnic groups are in Nepal.
9Seventy three percent of the total population lives in rural whereas 27 percent population in urban areas of Nepal.
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Author (s) Biography
Narendra Raj Paudel is a lecturer at the Public Administration Campus, Central Department of Public Administration, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. His research interests include public policy implementation, development administration, and gender and health governance. He has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and book chapter in an edited volume.
Inclusive Governance: A Case Study of Civil Service in Nepal by South Asian Youth Research Institute for Development is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.