The Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP): The NCP vice chair Bamdev Gautam stated that Nepal should build a “five meter tall wall along Nepal-India border.”
Accepting that the constitutional body does not have to oversee private sector, PM Oli expressed his willingness to reconsider the CIAA amendment act.
NCP’s Standing Committee Meeting: The long overdue standing committee meeting of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) kicked off on June 24, 2020, where prime minister and the party co-chair KP Oli and co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal spoke to inaugurate the meeting. Prime Minister Oli skipped the second day of the meeting on June 26, which annoyed the standing committee members.
Speaking on the occasion of the birthday of the late NCP leader Madan Bhandari, PM Oli accused India of orchestrating a plot to topple him; his speech called out the increased activity of the Indian Embassy and agents in Kathmandu and Delhi and implied an involvement of Nepali leaders.
On the occasion of the late NCP leader Madan Bhandari’s birthday, Nepal Communist Party—Unified Marxist Leninist (NCP—UML) was registered in the election commission; NCP’s senior leader Bamdev Gautam claimed to have proofs of Oli’s involvement the registration.
Already dissatisfied with Oli’s handling of the party and the government, the standing committee members were further infuriated by the PM’s accusation of India for his resignation demands as well as by the registration of NCP—UML; almost all the members who spoke at the meeting on June 30, 2020, including Dahal, Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, and Bamdev Gautam, asked Oli to step down from both the party’s leadership and from the post of prime minister.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill: The senior leaders of Nepali Congress seemed worried about losing votes from Madhes if the party did not stand against the proposed citizenship provisions on naturalization of foreign women married to Nepali men. The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament has passed a seven-year naturalization period before granting such women naturalized Nepali citizenship. The current provision allows immediate naturalization, soon after the married woman initiates the process of renouncing the citizenship of her home country.
Calling the proposed seven-year naturalization period for foreign women married to Nepali men discriminatory against women, the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) has taken a strong exception to it; the party organized a demonstration against the same in Kathmandu on June 30, 2020.
The Central Committee meeting of the opposition Nepali Congress has decided to stand against the proposed seven year cooling period before granting naturalization to foreign women married to Nepali men. The party claims that the proposal is unconstitutional.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: The Supreme Court has sought the PM’s clarification on overlooking its interim orders related to better government response for the COVID-19 management. The government has extended the national lockdown until July 22; the flights, public transportation, and national borders will all remain shut.
The opposition Nepali Congress has urged the government, yet again, to expand the PCR testing and manage quarantine facilities.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC): The Government is dissatisfied with the Speaker’s decision to push parliamentary session past the MCC ratification deadline.The Biplav-led NCP has circulated a notice to the Kanchanpur MPs to vote against MCC.
House session going on without crucial bills being endorsed: The government is preparing to recommend the prorogation of the ongoing session. Following it, this pushes the endorsement of several important bills to the next session. The parliament secretariat is for immediate prorogation of the session, citing an increasing threat of COVID-19 to the continuation of the House meetings. According to the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, running the House has become riskier with a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections.
Finance Minister in favor of plans to provide on-the-job training to unemployed youths: Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada said that the key economic indicators of the country were improving in the midst of the pandemic and the financial fallout of the crisis has remained less severe than anticipated. He said that the country’s foreign exchange reserves are at record high due to improved inflow of remittances. But economist Shankar Sharma said that despite improvements in the external sector, the government is not in a situation as comfortable as it is projecting to be in. He said, in a situation, where there is a fear of a second wave of infections across the world, a need to re-impose a full lockdown cannot be overlooked.
National Assembly endorsing two CIAA bills: The National Assembly is likely to endorse two controversial bills related to the functions of the anti-corruption constitutional body, Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. According to the Federal Parliament Secretariat, Prime Minister Oli is scheduled to table proposals seeking the bills’ endorsement during the National Assembly meeting. Of late, the two bills have been dragged into controversy as they give additional rights of monitoring and investigating transactions of private companies also, which according to the experts could not be counted as an abuse of authority.
CIAA not to be given permission to probe private sector: PM: Prime Minister Oli assured that the government would not let the anti-corruption constitutional body, CIAA, investigate into transactions of the private sector. Oli’s statement comes amid proposals to revise the CIAA Act allowing it to investigate the wrongdoings of private individuals and companies whenever the government wanted, which many fear would make the government autocratic.
International Relations & Foreign Policy
Minister Gyawali talks with US Secretary of State Pompeo: On June 24, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo. The two dignitaries expressed grief on human loss and discussed the experience in fighting COVID-19. Minister Gyawali also conveyed gratitude for US’s support to Nepal. The conversation was held at a time when the ruling party was divided over the US’s MCC grant.
Foreign Minister provides clarification: Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali clarified that contrary to Indian media, India didn’t propose to hold talks which Nepal had earlier denied. However, when Nepal initiated dialogue, India refused to sit for it. Furthermore, Indian and Nepali media have been raising questions about China’s encroachment of Nepali territory. But, Minister Gyawali explained no such dispute arose, and if it does, the two countries will bilaterally resolve it.
Boundary issues won’t hamper Nepal-India ties, says Minister Gyawali: In the National Assembly Meeting on June 29, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali stated the boundary issue with India should not affect the overall ties with India. The statement was made following PM Oli’s accusation that India had hatched plans to unseat the PM.
Delayed MCC: The United States has said that delaying the ratification of MCC will deprive Nepal of the benefits from the grant such as increased employment and economic growth. On June 29, the American Embassy stated that it is aware of the ongoing debates about the MCC and added that the “availability of the funding is not open-ended”. Besides, the embassy further mentioned other benefits Nepal and the world could avail from the grant.
The US awaits parliament’s decision: Observers say, the US’s reminder for the MCC’s ratification hints that it is looking for an early ruling from Nepal and is willing to wait for a little while. Shankar Sharma, an economist, also clarified that the US doesn’t want the programme to linger any longer. If Nepal rejects the funds, the US wants to use it in other countries where such a grant will be welcomed.
Oli’s statement could hamper India-Nepal ties: PM Oli’s statement accusing India of a conspiracy to unseat him could damage the relations between the two countries according to observers. A Secretariat member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party said, “We are headed towards a diplomatic disaster” indicating that if India asks for evidence against Indian ambassador for manipulating Nepal politics, Oli will have to face the consequences.
National tally crosses 13,500 as Nepal confirms 29th COVID-19 related death: A 55-year-old man from Syangja died on June 25. The man was also suffering from diabetes and pneumonia. A man from Lalitpur who had recently undergone a kidney transplant died on June 25 while undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit. A female in her late 20s tested positive for the virus after her death on June 27. A 50-year-old man from Kailali died while receiving treatment at Bharatpur Hospital on June 27. A 30-year-old man from Rautahat tested positive for the virus after his death on June 28. This death brought the total COVID-19 death reported in Nepal to 29.
According to the Ministry of Health, so far, 228,341 polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted across the country. The total death tally stands at 29. Rautahat is the most affected district in the country with 1,369 active cases, followed by Dailekh with 779 cases.
Health experts stress need for community tracing, say pandemic is yet to unfold in Nepal: Heath experts have said that the pandemic has yet to unfold in Nepal and those who have tested positive for the virus are not an accurate representation of the situation on the ground. They have stressed the need to test in communities along with the individuals placed in quarantine facilities. According to Dr Mingmar Gyelgen Sherpa, former director of the Department of Health Services, “polymerase chain reaction tests should be performed for all having Covid-like symptoms and in highly vulnerable communities, where a lot of people have returned from abroad and tested positive for the virus”.
Minister of Health says, 6% of COVID-19 cases in Nepal through community transmission: Minister for Health and Population, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, on June 30, said that six per cent of the COVID-19 cases in Nepal have been detected in community level and that 94 per cent of the infected had a travel history, having entered the country with the virus. He also added that currently, the country is conducting as many as 7,791 RT-PCR tests in a day and that the government has been planning to increase the scope of testing to 10,000 tests per day.
Youth organise sit-in protest at Patan Durbar Square: Youth protesters organised a sit-in at Patan Durbar Square against the government’s lacklustre performance in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis on June 27. While some of the protesters held placards and read books, a few staged a hunger strike. There had been youth led protests earlier this month against the government’s inadequate response during the crisis, demanding an end to RDT testing and the ramping up of PCR testing.
Provincial and Local Governments
Health Insurance:The government of Gandaki Pradesh is preparing to provide health insurance and has allocated Rs 20 million for this fiscal year for different schemes to cater to all the citizens. The plan is to cover every one of the province within the next three years in coordination with the federal government.
Doctors’ protest: Eighth class medical doctors at the Surkhet-based Karnali Provincial Hospital launched a protest demanding incentives and allowances. Except for the emergency services, the doctors have stopped working. Although the provincial cabinet had decided to provide an incentive allowance of eleven, tenth, ninth, and eighth class doctors since January, the eight class medical doctors are yet to receive any amount. Similarly, health workers from 29 health posts in Jumla have also protested at the District Administration Office of Khalanga demanding their due salary and incentive allowance.
Dissatisfaction in the province: In Province 2, the ruling Janata Samajwadi Party’s MP Ashok Yadav expressed his displeasure over the Provincial Assembly’s passing of Communication Bill without any dialogue in the parliamentary committee. Yadav also claimed that the parliamentary committee is the backbone of a parliamentary system and that not sending the communication bill for discussion damages that backbone. However, the Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Gyanendra Yadav argued that the voice of everyone in the bill has been addressed.
Demanding to increase the PCR test for Coronavirus and to publicize the details of COVID-19 expenses, the opposition Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Parties’ MPs obstructed the provincial assembly of Sudurpashchim Pradesh on June 24, 2020..
On July 1, the Ruling Nepal Communist Party’s MPs in Bagmati Pradesh expressed dissatisfaction over the Appropriation Bill, claiming that the budget was distributive.
Corona Response: The Provincial COVID-19 Crisis management Committee of Bagmati is preparing to set up 2,450 isolation beds throughout the province. Bagmati has 1,258 isolation beds so far. According to the committee, 10 percent of the beds will be set up for women. The committee has also decided that the Ministry of Social Development will manage the required materials for the Corona-related response.
Budget Issues:On June 29, Province 5 passed its annual budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78 BS. Province 5 had presented its annual budget of Rs36.35 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration
Repatriation of the bodies of migrant workers resumes: Repatriation of the bodies of migrant workers who died in the destination country resumed along with the rescue process of stranded workers aboard. According to the officials, after June 10, nearly 48 bodies were repatriated. During the lockdown, 318 deceased bodies of migrant workers had stuck in the various destination countries.
Repatriation of migrant workers: A total of 1,002 stranded Nepali migrant workers in six different destination countries were repatriated on June 24 via both national and international airlines. According to Tribhuvan International Airport, 14 international flights were operated on that day. Those repatriated workers will have to stay in quarantine as per government’s guideline.
Guidelines ready for repatriation of migrant workers: The government has prepared the guidelines for repatriation of stranded migrant workers during the pandemic. 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. They also have to submit the proof that their employer or destination country isn’t paying for their return ticket. Earlier, the Supreme Court had issued an interim order to the government for bringing stranded workers by its own expenses.
Child marriage goes unchecked in Mahottari: Child marriage is still a major challenge in Mahottari district despite several awareness programs conducted by the government and other organizations. In the last two years, around 80 cases of child marriage were reported in Bardibas Municipality alone. According to the Human Rights Report, Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in South Asia.
Rise in suicide rates amid pandemic: Suicide rates increased during the lockdown imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19. During the first 61 days (March 24 to May 23) of the lockdown, 963 people committed suicide. Similarly, after May 24 to June 29, the suicides rates have increased; 535 have committed suicide in this period.