Nepal is often found torn between its two powerful neighbors — India and China. The country finds it hard to strike a balance between its allies and even more so when it becomes the battleground. While India and China both continuously try to ‘expend their influence’ by negating each other’s influence in the South Asian region, the two countries have managed to shake up Nepal’s diplomacy, making it insecure and unstable. It is no secret that the giants are interested in Nepal due to its strategic location. Moreover, the US-India relations have tightened over the pandemic, whereas Indo-Sino relations have worsened, despite growing mutual understanding over the years.
India has the opportunity to take advantage of the US-China conflict and lure in foreign investments to relocate from China. However, shifting the industries from China to India while tensions are escalating seems too far-fetched. Additionally, China and India have been facing border issues after China tried to obstruct India’s Border Roads Organization activities in the Galwan region.
In the need of the hour, it is best for both the giants to look out for the world. They must keep their competition, to become the world superpower, aside.
The month started with the Office of the President ordering new carpets worth Rs 100 million which raised huge protests from different arenas. Many were critical of the untimed purchase at a time when the funds should have been used for COVID-19 care, better quarantine facilities, repatriate Nepali workers who continue to languish abroad for the lack of means to get back home, or to feed the thousands of citizens who are starving because of the prolonged lockdown.
People are dying in quarantine areas because of lack of medicine even for a simple disease as diarrhea. Quarantine areas are becoming breeding grounds for Coronavirus and this month saw an exponential rise in the positive cases countrywide. From 1811 cases on June 1, the country has seen more than 13,500 cases with 29 deaths by the end of the month. Nonetheless, more than 3000 people have recovered as well.
The World Bank decreased Nepal’s economic growth to 1.8-2% as opposed to the finance minister’s target of 7%. This clearly shows how the extended lockdown is affecting the economic growth of the country, though this is the trend globally. Most of the countries are seeing an economic slowdown amidst COVID-19 pandemic and Nepal is not untouched by this. Many people have lost their only source of income and are in the brink of destitution.
Siddharth Auji, an employee of Bayalpata Hospital self-immolated as he lost his job. He is an example of how many other people have lost their lives, not to the disease itself, but because of the government’s blind eye to the sufferings of the poor and vulnerable. The government has been unable to bring any relief support to people who rely solely on their only vocation and who have lost it because of the government-imposed lockdown.
There was news of how crime has decreased nationally because of the lockdown but it did not highlight how this lockdown has caused increase in suicide rates, domestic violence, sexual abuse and many social evils. Maternal mortality has increased 200% whereas many children have not received their mandatory immunizations, causing fear of spread of preventable diseases.
Albeit late, the Nepali government started to repatriate its citizens stranded in different countries. Chartered flights are bringing in the migrant workers from different destinations but there are still questions about their quarantine and self-isolations. There are a certain section of people who cannot afford to self-isolate at their homes and they need to be provided a station where they can be safely evaluated for COVID-19. But the government is still in confusion and are sending these people back home asking some simple questions. Bringing our people back is a commendable and laudable effort by the government but charging the workers for their flights has been a drawback. How can a country whose 1/3rd GDP relies on the remittances sent by these people charge them for coming back to their own country amidst a pandemic? The Supreme Court then issued an interim order to the government to bring the stranded workers by its own expenses. Now, the government will bear the full costs of the return ticket of those workers who are returning within a year of their migration, and have valid labor permits.
Along with the repatriation, bodies of dead migrant workers were also repatriated. During the lockdown, 318 deceased bodies of migrant workers had stuck in the various destination countries.