News Digest (February 22-26, 2020)



Domestic Politics

The Ruling Party: Referring to the party member’s alleged involvement in the recent corruption issues, NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal assured that every wrongdoer in the party would be punishable and not given any ‘excuse and protection’.[1] Following the recent scandal of the MCC debate, and disagreement over constitutional amendment, intra-party friction has further worsened.[2][3] Prime Minister Oli, however, alleged opposition forces of inciting NCP leaders’ to topple the current government.[4]

Constitution Amendment: NCP formed a 3-member taskforce to do the homework for constitutional amendment that will pave path for a National Assembly member to become the prime minister. The taskforce, led by Madhav Kumar Nepal, has Subas Nembang and Khimlal Devkota as other members. NCP wants to elect Bamdev Gautam, its deputy chair, who has been long dissatisfied with his role within the party, as an NA member after the amendment.[5]  NCP secretariat meeting has decided to nominate Gautam as NA member.[6]

Formation of the task force to amend the constitution to allow a National Assembly member to become prime minister made headlines across the country on Sunday and Monday. Two opposing factions belonging to party Chairs Oli and Dahal are divided over the very existence of the task force, once again baring the long-running rivalry inside the ruling party between the two chairs.[7]

Subas Nembang, however, criticized his own party’s decision to form the task force and stated that constitutional amendment for the benefit of one particular individual would be an irresponsible step.[8] He further argued that Bamdev Gautam should win a spot in the lower house to become the prime minister.[9] NCP lawmaker Sher Bahadur Tamang proposed constitutional amendment for directly elected executive head in the country in the parliament on February 25.[10]

Opposition Politics: Suggesting involvement of other ministers, including the prime minister, in the security printing press corruption scandal, NC president demanded a fair investigation into the case.[11] Another NC leader Shekhar Koirala argued that the Baskota scam leaves no moral ground for the prime minister to continue office and that he should step down.[12]

NC’s’ shadow government, formed last May, held its first meeting on February 23. The meeting, chaired by NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba, discussed government’s performance and instructed the NC leaders to conduct its own investigation and expose corrupt ministers.[13]

Nepal Trust White Paper: The white paper, issued by deputy prime minister and Nepal Trust Chair Ishwar Pokhrel, presented details of the land across country and the lengthy process of how they were leased out at extremely favorable rates to Yeti Holdings. The White Paper outlines the involvement of former Prime Ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba in leasing out land at different places, in an attempt to deflect widespread criticism regarding Prime Minister Oli allegedly favoring Yeti Holdings. Prabin Raj Dahal, a board member, claims that the White Paper was issued to prove that all the governments, not only the current one, have been engaged in land scams and corruption.[14]

MCC Update: As the 3-member taskforce formed by the ruling Nepal Communist Party has suggested that the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact cannot get parliamentary nod without amendments, the Oli administration is in a kind of fix. Even though party Chair Prime Minister Oli has for long reiterated that it would be ratified by the ongoing winter session, the plan is set to hit a roadblock.[15]

Gender, Human Rights, and Social Inclusion

Chhaupadi: The Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens is going to organize an international conference, ‘International Workshop on Dignified Menstruation’ in Kathmandu from May 26 to 28 aiming to end chhaupadi practice. Despite repeated actions to end this system, Nepal has not been able to end Chhaupadi, which is prevalent in the far-western region of the country. The conference will be attended by menstrual health rights activists, researchers, government representatives, and policymakers from more than 30 countries.[16]

Domestic Violence: Most of the domestic violence cases registered in Lamjung District Police Office were related to physical and mental torture and expulsion from families, but most of them were settled through reconciliation. Out of 49 cases registered in this fiscal year, 25 cases were settled through reconciliation.[17]

Disaster: Local governments in Achham have established Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund of Rs 29.677 million, which will be used for construction of disaster-resilient physical infrastructure and provide emergency training to the locals.[18]

Reproductive Health and Education: Absenteeism among girl students decreased drastically after providing sanitary pads to girls and constructing separate toilets for boys and girls with proper sanitation facilities in Janajyoti Secondary School in Sindhuli. The school has now started the ‘One School, One Nurse’ program as well where the nurse provides emergency medical services and reproductive health and sex education to students.[19]

International Relations

Passport Department is scrambling all over: The stock of passports with the department is depleting. The department is under pressure to arrange new stock of passports and is most likely to call for tenders in the next 10-15 days after Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali returns. After cancelling two previous biddings because the country had planned to set up its own security printing press, the department is calling for 2.5 million copies of e-passports. This stock will last for two and a half years at least, and the government is hopeful of setting up own press by then.[20]

Embarkation rules for Nepalis: The Nepal Embassy in New Delhi clarified that any Nepali flying to a third country via India or flying back to Kathmandu would only be cleared from immigration if there is an arrival stamp on the passport. Any Nepali who enters India via land routes will not be permitted to take international flights.[21] Likewise, at home, Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa has tabled an Immigration Bill at the National Assembly stipulates provisions to restrict suspicious Nepali citizens from flying abroad. As per a provision in the Bill, MoHA may stop any Nepali citizen from travelling abroad if there is reasonable ground to believe that the foreign trip of the person will have adverse impact on the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and international relation of Nepal. Likewise, no convict and jail breaker shall be entitled to foreign trip.[22]

COVID-19: India announced to take precautionary measures by screening all passengers arriving at its airports from Kathmandu even though Nepal has not reported any confirmed cases of coronavirus at present, except one.[23]  A high-level review meeting on COVID-19 chaired by India’s cabinet secretary announced universal screenings of all incoming air passengers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Nepal. The latest decision of India comes in the wake of Nepal evacuating 175 Nepali nationals from various cities of Hubei province including Wuhan, where the COVID19 outbreak is believed to have originated. 

All those evacuated are currently in quarantine for 14 days. Medical reports have shown that none of those evacuated have COVID19. The evacuees will be tested again on the 14th day.  

As the epidemic shows no sign of stopping, almost all countries have evacuated their citizens from China and kept them in quarantine for 14 days as per the WHO standards and released them after testing negative for coronavirus.[24]

Nepali Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, reported that none of the Nepalis have been infected till now in Korea.[25] There are about 40,000 Nepali migrant workers, 2,500 students, and about 1,000 other Nepalis working in different professions. Further, Government of Nepal has temporarily halted Nepali migrants from visiting South Korea, as the number of novel coronavirus cases has surged in the country. South Korea raised its alert for COVID-19 virus to the highest level, as the country reported 169 new infections on February 23 itself. With this, the number of people infected by the virus in the country has surged to 602. The embassy has also recommended Nepalis to visit hospital if they detect symptoms of coronavirus infection.[26]

However, at home, there is no groundwork to prevent and contain coronavirus outbreak, even as the World Health Organization today called on countries across the globe to be prepared to fight the virus. As the outbreak gradually takes the shape of a pandemic, many countries have restricted air travel in affected areas and put medical officials and hospitals on standby.[27] But Nepal neither has a robust surveillance system nor has it taken effective measures to prevent people who might have been exposed to coronavirus from entering the country. And adding to the woes, health ministry has decided to transfer critical point personnel dealing with Nepal’s response to the pandemic.[28]

Ironically, again, the government has decided to launch a drive to tell the world that the country is free from the novel coronavirus epidemic so that it can attract as many foreign tourists as possible during the ambitious Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign. The number of foreigners visiting Nepal has decreased in this January from the figure for the same month last year. Meanwhile, social media users have criticized the government’s decision citing it tried to create a sense of false security as Nepal also faces the threat.[29]

While the Revenue collection at Rasuwa Customs records zero since February 13, 2020 because of novel coronavirus. Due to COVID-19, imports from Keyrung has come to a complete halt. Before the outbreak, the office was collecting approximately Rs 300 million daily. Fortunately, no positive case of the virus has been recorded in the Rasuwa district so far.[30]































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