Nepal Communist Party (NCP): The long-due Standing Committee meeting of the NCP kicked off on June 24, 2020. The main agenda of the meeting is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government’s performance.
Nepali Congress (NC): The opposition Nepali Congress—led by Balkrishna Khand, Pushpa Bhusal and Gagan Thapa—registered a motion in the federal parliament to draw the government’s attention towards tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 18, NC’s sister organization, National Student’s Union (NSU) organized a mid-night torch protest against the government’s corruption and irregularity.
Other Political Parties: The Janata Samajwadi Party sought clarification from Sarita Giri for her decision to go against the party’s whip and for not voting in favor of the constitutional amendment.
Following the India-China border row and India’s request of the Nepali nationals, who are currently on leave, to rejoin the Gorkha Regiment, the Chand-led Nepal Communist Party has demanded that the youths should be ‘barred from joining Gorkha Regiment’.
The Citizenship Debate: After the political parties’ failure to forge a consensus over naturalized citizenship within the designated five-day period, the State Affair and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament recommended ‘seven years to grant naturalized citizenship to a foreign woman married to a Nepali man’. The committee passed the seven-year arrangement according to NCP’s decision on the same. There were widespread protests in Madhes, including Janakpur and Birgunj, against the committee’s decision.
Accusing the government of ‘taking Nepal to the Chinese camp,’ NC lawmaker Jitendra Narayan Dev demanded the government to reconsider the citizenship-related decision. Despite objections from the NC, the Janata Samajwadi Party, and some Madhesi lawmakers of the NCP, the citizenship amendment bill is now ready to go to the parliament.
The Federal Parliament: The third amendment to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Act has been tabled in the Upper House of the federal parliament. The bill, which was scheduled for the NA endorsement on June 23 but was later removed from the agenda, seeks to allow the CIAA to investigate the private sector.
Parliament approves the new map including territory controlled by India, and President authenticates it: The Upper House of the country’s parliament approved a new map of the country, including land controlled by India on June 18. The map also received the presidential seal on the same day, completing the entire process to incorporate the country’s new map in the national emblem. The Parliament Secretariat forwarded the constitution amendment bill to the President a few hours after the National Assembly endorsed it through a unanimous vote on the same day. The bill was passed by the lower house earlier on June 14.
National Assembly passes three bills related to budget: The National Assembly (NA) endorsed three bills ‒ ‘Finance Bill-2077 BS’, ‘Bill to Raise National Debt-2077 BS’ and the ‘Loan and Guarantee Bill-2077 BS’ ‒ related to the budget. Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada said promotion of electric vehicles were a priority in the budget for the upcoming fiscal so as to reduce air pollution and to maintain the tax for public vehicles as it is. Minister Tumbahamphe, on behalf of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, also presented the annual report of the Attorney General for the previous fiscal year 2075-76 BS.
Government deliberating to resume public transport: The government is formulating guidelines for public transport services to resume adhering to social distancing norms due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the public vehicle entrepreneurs are waiting for their turn to operate the services. They are pressing the government to come up with a plan to reopen public transport, which the government doesn’t have. They say they cannot operate with only half of its capacity as proposed by the government. The Department of Transport Management began discussions with entrepreneurs to keep the vehicles maintained as they have remained unused since the lockdown started.
International Relations & Foreign Policy
China agreed to open Rasuwa border: China agreed to open the Rasuwagadhi checkpointthat was shut for five months. However, China only allowed one-way traffic since more than 1,000 containers coming to Nepal was stuck on the other side since January 19, 2020.
Nepal-India talks won’t happen soon, analysts say: Following the clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan border, India is desperate to resolve issues with China first. This might put Nepal-India diplomatic talks in the backseat. Compared to the India-China violent border issue, Nepal-India issues are not severe, analysts say. Nonetheless, PM Oli remained optimistic and said the talks would be held ‘very soon’. Some officials argued that India can simultaneously hold negotiations with both China and Nepal.
NCP and China’s Communist Party (CPC) to hold call: On June 19, NCP and CPC held a video conference to share their experiences and discuss friendly relations between the two parties. Almost 100 NCP leaders were part of the meeting where they focused on contemporary issues. Prachanda, while delivering his address, emphasized on Nepal’s support in Taiwan’s peaceful reunification. However, the meeting was widely criticized as it was held at a time when Nepal-India relations were deteriorating.
Foreign Minister Gyawali on BRI and for a concerted effort to fight against COVID-19: In a high-level video conference on ‘BRI Cooperation: Combating COVID-19 with Solidarity’ chaired by Wang Yi, state councilor and foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, Minister Pradeep Gyawali appreciated the overall role of BRI and underscored the importance of the new initiative – Health Silk Road under BRI, aimed at facilitating trade of medical supplies and cooperation in fighting infectious diseases. He highlighted the need for solidarity and mutual cooperation among partner countries and for a stronger role of WHO to combat the pandemic.
India-Nepal hold security meeting: On June 20, Nepal-India held a border security meeting in Lakhimpur Kheri district in the Uttar Pradesh state of India. The meeting was held to discuss the border management and coordination of movement of people across the border checkpoints in light of Coronavirus transmission. Concerned authorities including police and border representatives of both countries attended the meeting.
PM Oli on defense of MCC: On June 18, responding to the lawmakers’ queries in the National Assembly, PM Oli asked those who oppose the much conflicted MCC to go through the documents and then comment on it. He said some people were being misled that the American army would swamp Nepal after the MCC agreement is ratified, which is merely a rumour.
MCC deadline approaches: As the deadline for the ratification of MCC approaches, NCP remains divided on it. The ratification deadline is June 30, but the party chairs—PM Oli and Dahal— are to meet on June 23 and call for a Standing Committee Meeting the following day to discuss the grant clauses. While some leaders of the ruling party think the grant should be passed immediately, others say that it should be passed after some amendments.
Nepali cargoes stopped at the Indian border: Over twenty trucks carrying goods for export to India and Bangladesh were stuck over the Mechi River Bridge since mid-June. The West Bengal government halted the movement of all Nepali cargo trucks through Kakarbhitta, eastern border point, and showed no sign of letting the vehicles through. However, India finally allowed Nepali cargoes to pass through Panitanki border point in West Bengal after six days. Meanwhile, other border points have allowed the shipments to pass through smoothly. Indians have, time and again, questioned the quality of Nepali tea and have now completely stopped import from Nepal. But there has been unhindered movement through the Jogbani checkpoint.
CoAS Thapa and IG Khanal visit border outpost at Chhangru: Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) Purna Chandra Thapa and Inspector General (IG) of Armed Police Force (APF) Shailendra Khanal visited a border outpost (BOP) of the APF at Chhangru of Byas rural municipality in Darchula on June 17. Their visit to Chhangru comes one and half months after India constructed a strategic road link to Manasarovar via Lipulekh, a disputed territory between Nepal and India.
National tally crosses 10,000 as Nepal confirms 24th Covid-19 death: Nepal’s COVID-19 death toll climbed to 23 on June 21. On the same day, Nepal reported its 24th Covid-19 related death and 538new cases as the national tally climbed to 10,099. According to the Health Ministry, the virus has been found in 76 districts with Rasuwa in Bagmati province being the only district without any cases.
Incompatible PCR kits delay testing in highly affected districts: The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) lab at the Narayani Hospital in Birgunj has been closed since June 22 as the PCR test kits supplied by the Federal Ministry of Health and Population are incompatible with the machines. The incompatibility of the testing kits will delay tests and may have serious ramifications in highly affected districts like Rautahat and Parsa, according to health officials.
Provincial and Local Governments
Corona response: The number of positive cases of novel Coronavirus are increasing day-by-day in Sudurpashchim Pradesh, but tests have been slow due to the lack of PCRmachine. Sudurpashchim Pradesh has only one PCR machine, and the laboratory has the capacity to test only 250 samples every day. Out of 25,000 collected swabs in Sudurpashchim, only 10,000 swabs have been tested.
According to the Provincial Health Directorate, Karnali Pradesh has purchased three additional PCR machines after many COVID-19 positive in the province. Two municipalities are also planning to purchase two PCR machines.
On June 23, Dr. Runa Jha, director of the National Public Health Laboratory, issued approval to operate a lab to conduct PCR testing for Coronavirus at the Nepal-Korea Friendship Hospital in Madhyapur Thimi Municipality. Thimi Municipality provides ambulance, isolation, and quarantine facilities to fight against COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee (CMC) issued approval to the provincial governments to impose lockdown as per their need.
Provincial Tax Issues: The government of Province 1 increased taxes on transportations, cooperatives, organizations, and employment sectors heavily to manage budget resources in the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78 BS. Likewise, the Province remains flexible towards community forest user groups and cement producers. Similarly, Sudurpashchim Pradesh reduced tax rate in all sectors for the upcoming fiscal year.
Provinces increase its facilities for representatives: On June 22, a meeting of Provincial Assembly of Sudurpashchim Pradesh amended acts related to facilities given to representative. According to the amended act, local representatives receive large sums in different headings. Even during the havoc created by the pandemic, Karnali Pradesh also increased facilities for local representatives under different headings by amending the existing acts. Last week, Province 5 increased local facilities for representatives by amending the law.
Administrative Issues: On June 22, the major opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), obstructed provincial assembly meeting claiming that the federal government barred people from entering Kathmandu valley and another provincial assembly and has not made public the details of the expenditure on prevention and control of Coronavirus.
Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration
Queer rights group demand inclusive citizenship act:On June 21, the Queer Youth Group submitted a petition with signed letter for gender recognition in Citizenship Bill to the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee. The inclusion of their choice of identification in the citizenship was tabled in the parliament for approval almost two years ago.
Rukum Massacre: The investigation of the Ministry of Home Affairs committee formed to investigate the killings of youths in Rukum (west) found that the killed youths had been stoned to death. Last month, the villagers attacked 21-year-old Nawaraj BK and his friends with stones and domestic weapons and threw them in the Bheri River.
12 trafficking victims rescued: The Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau of Nepal Police rescued 12 trafficked women including three minor girls from India and Nepal amid the nationwide lockdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. The bureau also arrested 12 people for their involvement in human trafficking.
32 Nepali women stranded in India: 32 trafficked Nepali women are stranded in shelter homes in various cities of India for eight months. Due to the negligence of Nepali Embassy in Delhi, their rescue has been delayed. The women were lured by the traffickers with the pretense of providing employment in the Gulf countries.
Repatriation of Nepali migrant workers: On June 22, the government said that it would repatriate only around 12,000 stranded migrant workers who need immediate rescue from different countries in the first phase. Earlier, it had planned to repatriate around 30,000 workers in the first phase.
Violence against women during the lockdown: The incidents of violence against women have increased exponentially during the lockdown. According to Nepal Police, during the 83 days of lockdown since it was administered, 541 incidents of VAW were recorded. Among them, 373 rape cases, 101 attempts to rape, 34 cases of polygamy, nine instances of child marriages, nine cases of human trafficking, eight instances of witchcraft, and seven cases of unnatural sex were recorded.
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