The Ruling Party: In a bid to overcome public criticism and frustration the ruling party announced a nation-wide mass meeting to strengthen its position. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal stressed the need to act swiftly in every sector to prevent pessimism among the public and warned that public impatience could escalate to a dangerous level against the government. On 20 August, the ruling party called an all-party meeting where the leaders claimed that the Federal Democratic Republic (FDR) was under threat from regressive forces. Although experts and analysts say there is no threat and risk to FDR, leaders of ruling party and the opposition have come together to protect the system.
The Government: Election Commission has announced to register nomination for by-election by 17 September. Amid criticism, the government ran a tele-presence cabinet meeting for the second time on September 3, 2019. The government has taken a positive step for the employees’ and schoolchildren’s health and will implement health guideline at all local levels. Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai said that the Nijgadh Airport will be constructed at any cost despite a huge hue and cry from different areas regarding its environmental impact as well as from provincial level saying that they will not let those millions of trees to be cut. Minister Bhattarai ignored the concerns of environmentalists and experts.
Nepali Congress: The party is not yet decided on the date of its 14th general convention. All-time faction politics has hamstrung the party. The central working committee meeting concluded unanimously on 14-point decision including drafting of regulation 2019, issue of active membership, and so on. Likewise, the party warned the government to stop its power show both in the areas of constitutional bodies and transfer of police officials and civil servant. Leader Gagan Thapa expressed that it was time for the PM to take rest. He advised the NCP party to pick up an alternative. NC president Deuba that the government’s decision of dissolving Dalit Development Committee was against the sentiments of Dalits.
Biplab: The arrest of outlawed party cadres continues. Police arrested Mahottari district Biplab cadre Rupesh Bahadur Karki.
RJP-N: The internal tension and tussle continue in the party. The power-sharing among leaders has been a bone of contention delaying the merger process with SP-N. Out of six presidium coordinators, Raj Kishor Yadav and Anil Kumar Jha are against the merger. The SP-N has proposed Baburam Bhattarai as chairman of the federal council and Mahanta Thakur as the honorary chairman. The second-generation leaders have demanded a general convention prior to the merger as well as transparent negotiations during the merger process.
Parliamentary Affairs: The HoR, Education, and Health sub-committee completed the report on medical colleges. The report investigated 21 medical colleges for charging a hefty amount of fees from medical students. The government tabled a new bill from the Ministry of Youth and Sport, which proposes strong action against illegal activities including match-fixing. The government also drafted the Environment and Natural Resources Protection Bill 2019.
Likewise, lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties rejected any fine for journalists violating the journalistic code of conduct. Fourteen lawmakers jointly registered the amendment proposal to drop the provision. Lawmakers also registered amendment on the proposal of exams for journalist and reporters.
A committee formed to investigate the irregularities in vehicles for parliamentary committee submitted its report to the speaker of the HoR. The probe committee suggested actions against the supplier of the vehicles to fix the anomalies in the vehicles supplied.
Transitional Justice: The recommendation committee canceled the appointment meeting of the TJ due to disagreement of the political parties. Major parties want to push a candidate of their favor in the leadership of the TJ bodies.
President Xi Jinping’s Visit : Nepali authorities have allegedly begun ‘quiet preparations’ for Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal. His visit is preceded by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Some of the concerns that need to be worked out beforehand are the welcome arrangements to be made, security issues, and the official agenda of the visit.
Chinese FM Wang Yi is in Nepal for a three-day visit on Sptember 7, 2019. During his visit, Yi prepares a blueprint for Xi Jinping’s agenda for his probable visit in October. However, no big pacts or agreements will be signed during Yi’s visit as he is coming only to set the stage for Xi’s possible visit to Nepal as a detour from his India trip.
India-Nepal Relations : Pradeep Gyawali appears to have made confusing statements regarding the repeal of Article 370 in India. At first, he made a statement saying that India should resolve this dispute with peaceful talks and bring regional stability and peace. However, on an official visit to the Maldives, he allegedly spoke to ANI, an Indian news agency stating that changing a constitution is the domain of each government and thus is an internal matter of the country. He received criticism for making varying statements considering the sensitivity regarding the Kashmir Issue and the standoff between India and Pakistan.
Bhagat Singh Koshyari, the lead coordinator of the Indian side of the Eminent Group Persons Group, has been appointed the governor of Gujarat. This appointment has been viewed by many to put the EPG report in limbo as Koshyari was the chief proponent who has considerable influence in the BJP to ensure the report would be received by Narendra Modi or FM Jaishankar.
China-US Trade War : US president Trump imposed a fresh round of tariff with a 15% increase on a variety of goods like footwear, smart watches, and flat panel televisions. Citing the need to reduce the US reliance on Chinese goods, Trump claims that the US consumers will not be hurt as the Chinese currency will drop. This, however, has been refuted by American businesses who feel that this brutal trade war is going to result in a loss of American jobs. The Xinhua news agency lashed at Trump for being irresponsible and for behaving like a “school bully”.
DEMOCRACY, DEVELOPMENT, AND GOVERNANCE
Provincial Affairs: The government’s slogan of providing services at doorsteps failed in Karnali Province and as a counter measure, locals introduced the campaign ‘We Rule Ourselves’. But the public expressed that they still have not felt the essence of getting the services at at their doorsteps or even at the local level.
One thousand employees are still working in their previous designations and areas even after the government adjusted them in local and provincial governments. A provision in the Employee Adjustment Act says that the employee should resign if not present in the adjusted place. Maximum employees have neither resigned nor have presented at the adjusted place. The effect can be seen directly at the local bodies such as Taplejung, where locals are deprived of public services due to lack of employees. Even simple services like vital registration have come to a halt.
Province 1 has authenticated Public Service Commission Bill. The 40th provincial meeting on 27th August was unanimously passed the Bill. The provincial assembly has passed 37 Bills including the PSC.
One week since the registration of proposal in the assembly, Province 2 has not been able to start a discussion to finalize the name of the province and fix its permanent capital. Four proposals for names and five for the capital were registered in the assembly. Likewise, in province 3, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal urged that Hetauda should be the capital city.
Sudurpaschim Province has prepared a proposal to increase remuneration service for representatives. The draft that proposes an increment of 18% has been submitted in the cabinet.
Development partner including the European Union (EU), Government of Switzerland, Norway, and the United Kingdom have collectively provided a grant of Rs 11.4 billion for Nepal’s development and to implement federalism. The grant aims to strengthen the capacity of provincial and local governments for effective public service delivery.
Minister for Education, Science, and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel announced that the government was making a master plan to set-up libraries at all local governments and that the plan would be passed by the cabinet and would be implemented soon.
Rampant road construction by use of excavators in rural areas without any study or technical consideration has devastated the nature and displaced people in Baitadi. Some local governments banned the use of dozers for projects costing below Rs 10 million to increase local employment and control forceful foreign migration.
Karnali Pradesh procured 64 vehicles at the end of the fiscal year through virement; however, the allocated budget for procurement of ambulances was frozen. While many health centres lack medicines, the government is making a huge investment in constructing helipad to rescue critically ill persons.
Report of the Financial Comptroller General Office shows rampant financial irregularity and audit objection at Tirahuta Rural Municipality of Saptari, Kanchan rural municipality, and Debadah Municipality of Rupandehi, Province 5, and Doti district. Most of the irregularities and audit objection have been on representative allowances.
Melamchi Project: The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives has begun a study on the progress and expenditure process of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project after the MP raised a question on the detailed project report (DPR). According to the committee’s directive, the Ministry of Drinking Water submitted the details of Melamchi. The study on Melamchi’s document has been completed and they will call the board of directors next week.
Melamchi Water Supply Project is expected to face trouble as unpaid local sub-contractors, vendors, and workers are planning to hinder the work on the project site. The project work was expected to resume after the government hired a new contractor, but even after six months, the contract hasn’t been signed by the Sinohydro Corporation Ltd of China.
Had the government cleared the amount of Rs 1.67 billion last year, the work might have resumed by now.
The Chinese company Sino Hydro has requested security from the government for protection, after workers, suppliers, and local contractors warned them not to start their work until their payments were cleared. The Chinese have six months to work on the tunnel and another six months for the headwork, but due to the obstruction, the contractors may not be able to finish the work on time yet again.
Nepal Airlines: The ailing Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has failed once again to auction its Boeing 757 aircraft after aircraft’s auction turned invalid. The national flag carrier eliminated both the bids as one bidder had not mentioned its name in the bid document while the other had applied for the aircraft’s auction at a rate that was much lower than that determined by NAC. The national flag carrier has not been able to pick up as the new airbuses have not been able to make profitable long hauls including the recently resumed flights to Japan.
Nijgadh International Airport: The Province 2 government has said that they would not allow felling of tress for construction of Nijgadh Airport. The construction site will have to cut more than two million trees. Out of five Provinces, Province 2 has the lowest number of tress and the population pressure is extremely high. The provincial government is ready to suggest the federal government to use another land for the airport.
Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, however, has expressed that Nijgadh International Airport in Bara is his one-point agenda. Another international airport is the need of the country as Tribhuvan International Airport, the sole international airport, will reach its maximum utilization by 2022.
GENDER, SOCIAL INCLUSION, AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Literacy: The government announced to reach total literacy by the end of next fiscal year. Report of the Education Department on Literacy Status indicates that there are only around 102,101 illiterate people between the ages of 15 to 60 from 24 districts: 51 districts have already been declared fully literate. Experts are doubtful about the authenticity of government data.
Citizenship: The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives decided to provide citizenship by descent based on the mothers’ declaration. Mothers will be allowed to grant citizenship to the children by her surname when the father is unidentified. The committee is yet to conclude on citizenship in case of a foreign spouse.
Migration: The government has made bank accounts mandatory for migrant workers to receive labor permit from the Department of Foreign Employment. The government is going to implement this policy to formalize all the transactions such as remittance, service charge paid to recruitment agencies, and financial support given to migrant workers’ families in case of worker’s death, injury, or diseases.
Disaster: Five years since the flood havoc, victims of Panchapuri, Birendranagar, Bheriganga, and Barahatal areas of Surkhet are yet to be resettled. The flood victims are still living in huts in the nearby jungles, despite the government’s promise of immediate rehabilitation. A local NCP leader claimed that lack of clarity and guidelines at the policy level has left the issue unaddressed.