You might be wondering how buses and social accountability are related. In Baglung, western region of Nepal, they are not just related - one is the direct result of the other.
Nepal, with its diverse topography has amazing landscapes for tourism but when it comes to accessible roads, it is one of the rural community’s biggest concerns. In the hilly or mountainous regions, the problem is severe; the same can be said about the remote regions of Baglung where people were not getting any bus service from the centre to the upper faraway villages (up to Kalimati). As their only other option, they had jeeps (people carrier) as substitutes for public transportation.
“Now, it’s become easier for us to go to the villages as the bus is cheaper – it’s less than half the price of what we pay for jeeps. The jeeps cost us NRs. 150 to 200 (US$ 1.75 to $2.35) while the bus is just NRs. 40 (US$ 0.50). I am happy that the bus is in operation now but what is more exciting is - the bus service started as the direct result of the public hearing we had with the municipality last year,” says Pingal Khadka GC, one of the PETS members set up by Deep Jyoti Youth Club in the municipality.
Under the Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN), Deepjyoti Youth Club (DYC) organised one of the most effective tools of Social Accountability: a public hearing in a remote village of Baglung. The turnover of more than 2,500 people from local communities not just made an arresting sight but yielded results in less than two weeks. During the summer last year, the citizens had the opportunity to ask questions to the municipal officers and one of the concerns was the bus service. The people were promised the service to start as soon as possible and it did. The commitment of the Local Development Officer (LDO) in front of the entire community made the bus service a reality.
PRAN is a program of the World Bank in Nepal, promoting the use of social accountability tools to make sure that the citizens can hold the government accountable. The public hearing is one of such tools that PRAN frequently uses in its programs. It has proved that public pressure, allied to an informed population, can make a considerable difference in the struggle of people for their rights and the accountability of the government. In the case of Baglung, the municipality was willing to change and made the decision to start the bus service for the local communities.
“We are all very pleased with the bus service. The service is only once daily. It goes from the main market centre of Baglung to Kudunle, Bhansa and Kalimati and returns later in the afternoon. It is so much easier to reach those villages up in the hills as it would take us hours to walk. I know it would be better if the service is at least twice daily,” comments Pingal but also agrees that “it sure is a great beginning, born out of direct dialogue with those at the top!”