News Digest – Democracy & Governance (January 7 – January 13, 2021)

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Democracy and Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) & the House Dissolution: Subash Nembang, ex-House Speaker who played a vital role during the making of the 2015 constitution, came under heavy criticism for staying silent on the issue of parliamentary dissolution after an old video of him claiming the unconstitutionality of such a move surfaced on social media.

After coming under pressure, Justice Hari Krishna Karki ‘recused himself from the Constitutional Bench’ formed to hear cases against the parliamentary dissolution. In 2015, Karki had been appointed by PM Oli (1st tenure) as the attorney general and served as his chief legal counsel, which questioned the ethics of his inclusion in the Bench supposed to oversee cases against PM Oli.

The major political parties began warming up for a joint struggle against PM Oli and his unconstitutional move to dissolve the parliament. NCP leader Madhav Nepal claimed that there is no alternative to uniting to defend democratic republic, federalism, secularism, and inclusion

Pointing out at the weaknesses of both the factions of NCP, leader Bamdev Gautam gave a sentimental speech in the National Assembly (NA), expressing his almost-wishful thinking to preserve the party unity.

Meanwhile, NA members from NCP’s Dahal-Nepal faction, Nepali Congress, and Janata Samajwadi Party expressed their willingness to unite against the lower house dissolution. However, the winter session of the NA ended on December 10, 2021—only nine days after the session began.

On January 8, 2021, PM Oli reached Dhangadhi to address a province-level public gathering. Because the Oli faction has a minority in the Sudurpaschim province, the PM seems to have kept the province under special priority.

On December 9, 2021, Madhesi people, largely from Province 2, launched a “Dhoti rally” in Kathmandu in PM Oli’s support. The protest was led by PM Oli’s confidante Mahesh Basnet.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP has demanded Election Commission to stop all its election related activities, as the cases against parliamentary dissolution are awaiting hearing in the Supreme Court. However, the Commission has rejected the group’s request. On the other hand, the group has prepared a mechanism to fill the party’s vacant posts in provinces and districts based on the divisions of the ex-group.

Responding to the joint statement issued by four former chief justices against the parliamentary dissolution, PM Oli accused them of “threatening” the judiciary and trying to influence its verdict on the case.

Dahal claimed that KP Oli was the first one to sign the agreement on dropping People’s Multiparty Democracy, which led him to be the prime minister.

On January 11, 2021, PM Oli appeared in two interviews with India’s Zee Network channels—the WION and Zee News—the very channels that were banned due to their controversial remarks on Nepal only a few months ago. Observers noted that the “strategic” interviews served two purposes for PM Oli: a) to deflect people’s attention from his failed governance and ‘unconstitutional’ House dissolution, and b) to send a message to India that he is willing to mend the bilateral ties, as he will need India’s support going forward.

Nepali Congress: With NC president Deuba eyeing to be the next PM through new elections and Ram Chandra Poudel the president after parliamentary restoration, the opposition Nepali Congress still struggles to make a firm official decision against PM Oli’s ‘unconstitutional’ move to dissolve the parliament.

NC deputy-president Bimalendra Nidhi stated that while the House dissolution was ‘unconstitutional,’ the declaration for next elections is constitutional. Nidhi also claimed that elections should be prioritized over NC’s general convention. 

Nepali Congress has requested the government to quickly procure COVID-19 vaccines and make it available for people for free.

Miscellaneous: Voting for the Communists and winning them an almost two-third majority in the parliament turned out to be a crime, claimed JSP leader Rajendra Mahato.

The Election Commission sees NCP’s current status as a major obstacle for the mid-term elections; at present, the NCP neither remains one unified party nor has it officially split.

Governance and Corruption

Shortage of drinking water: Around 400 families in Ward no. 3 Bardibas, of Ratmate, Bastipur, and Raimandal villages have been facing drinking water shortage for the last five decades. They go to the neighbouring villages of Atappe Gaun and Bardanda to get water. Kathmandu Post reported that Tara Bahadur Pulami chairman of Bhapsi Drinking Water and Sanitation Consumers Committee said that the Drinking Water and Sanitation Division Office in Mahottari has not released a budget for the drinking water project. For the project worth Rs. 30 million, main supply pipes have been installed, but they are yet to construct a water tank and install pipes in homes. The office in Mahottari claims the project will be completed this year.

Extreme cold affects daily life: Adverse cold weather in Humla’s Limi, Namkha Rural Municipality has led to the closure of three schools as well as the halting of the 67-km road construction from Gamgadhi, Mugu to Daram, Humla. The 26-km road construction project from Gamgadhi to Chankheli has been allocated to the provincial government.

Land ownership: The government is yet to take a decision on 80 families without land ownership certificates in Lakbesi, Bheriganga, and Gurbhakot in Surkhet district who may be displaced because of the Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, an irrigation cum hydroelectricity project which is constructing a dam in Chiple, Bhangeri. So far, the government has compensated 53 families with certificates and Rs. 123.5 million.

Earthquake reconstruction: The contractor for the Gorkha Durbar restoration project, after it was damaged by the 2015 earthquake, has missed the second deadline. Local residents have blamed the contractor company and Department of Archaeology. The Rs. 43.7 million project, initiated on December 17, 2017, is only 65% complete.

School buildings damaged by the 2015 earthquake have almost been reconstructed in Gorkha. Reconstruction work on 42 out of 52 school buildings is almost complete.

Miscellaneous: Financial Comptroller General Office has warned public offices that it may take action if they don’t follow austerity measures and cut down recurrent expenditure.

The Foreign Employment Department has decided to cease the process of prospective workers submitting their passports to agencies until their jobs are finalised.

Illegal wildlife traders are using social media to reach out to potential customers to sell their products, which include various mammals, reptiles, and birds. Animals, such as wild boars, khalij pheasants, barking deer, red jungle fowl, and monkeys, are killed for their meat.

A male elephant died as it was electrocuted by a high voltage wire in a wheat farm in Saptari, signifying ongoing human-wildlife conflict.

Bhimdatta Municipality bought a PCR machine six months ago, but since testing kits and other equipment haven’t arrived, the machine is still not in operation.

Health authorities, prioritising home quarantine, have closed 95% quarantine facilities in Karnali, removing 40,050 beds in the past two days, the Karnali Provincial Health Directorate cited.

The Supreme Court implemented a new curriculum for grade 11, however, a group of detractors signed a writ petition demanding that the new curriculum should not be implemented.

Conservationists have pointed out that Rani Pokhari is covered in algae, and the government doesn’t have any concrete plans to clean it.

Corruption cases: Employee Subba Bednidhi Baral and accountant Ram Sundar Mahato of the Land Revenue office in Ward no. 2 of Hariban Municipality, Sarlahi were charged of taking Rs. 11,000 to change the name in land ownership registration certificate.

Land and Measurement Office head Buddhiman Jaisi and 27 others were charged of making an illegal profit of Rs. 20,233,671.88 by modifying a 2022 B.S. land measurement map and thus claiming public/government land for Euro Housing Developers Company. The land is located in Lalitpur district, Ward no. 23, Silaute, near Karmanasa (Kodku) river.

Police Shanti Bhandari of a local police station in Belchautari, Tanahu was charged of taking Rs. 10,000 bribe to free a prisoner.

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