April 2023 Analysis: Gender, Social Inclusion & Human Rights

Posted by : Prashanti Poudyal


Date : 2023-04-30

The Government of Nepal has released its Common Minimum Programme, which prioritizes the peace process, together with various other commitment that was already made three months ago. Nepali migrant workers are facing difficulty in enrolling themselves in the social security scheme, and loan shark victims have been protesting in the streets. On a separate note, the Kathmandu District Court has directed to produce the doctor who carried out the test on the minor who was allegedly raped by cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane.  

Timeline of Major Events

Date Event
1st April Government reaches five-point agreement with loan shark protestors
7th April Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government brought a new Common Minimum Programme.
9th April The Kathmandu District Court, directed the police to produce the doctor who carried out a test on "Gaushala 26"
18th April Migrant workers facing difficulty in enrolling themselves for social security scheme

Transitional Justice Promised Yet Again

On April 7, the government released the Common Minimum Programme, its second in three months. The 13-page document entitled ‘Policy Priorities and Common Minimum Programme of Government of Nepal’ resembles its earlier prequal, however, there are also new added provisions. It was endorsed by the 10-party ruling coalition. Through the programme, the government pledged to bring a bill to amend the Citizenship Act within six months, even though the Prime Minister promised the same three months ago. The document pledges to prioritize the peace process and to conclude the same within the two-years’ period. Analysts believe that if the Prime Minister is committed, the time and situation seems the most favorable for him to conclude with a quick resolution.

Nagarik Unmukti Party’s concern regarding the release of Resham Chaudhary has also been taken into consideration, on the fourth statement of the document, ‘Fake cases will be withdrawn and all the prisoners of political nature will be released.’ Resham Chaudhary has been doing his time at Dillibazar Sadarkhor prison for masterminding the 2015 Tikapur incident that saw deaths of seven policemen and a toddler. Chaudhary’s wife Ranjita Shrestha joined the ruling coalition on the grounds that her husband be released.

The government is also feeling the nudge from the diplomatic front to complete the peace process. In the month of April, US envoy, Ambassador Thompson paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Narayan Kaji Shrestha. He asserted that the US wanted to see the completion of the remaining tasks of the peace process in Nepal. The US envoy also pledged to take the lead in facilitating diplomatic stakeholders for the same.

The Prime Minister’s chief advisor, Haribol Gajurel, had told the Kathmandu Post – a notable English daily, that PM Dahal wanted to become prime minister for the third time mainly with the aim of concluding the protracted peace process. However, the UML has been ‘non-cooperative’ to Dahal’s proposal of fast-tracking the passage of the amendment bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act that was proposed in the house of representative in February. Political observers believe that the UML chair, K.P. Sharma Oli, now opposed to fast-tracking the bill, will ultimately give in, if his party is given leadership of parliamentary committees. On April 11, three top leaders, namely, Prime Minister Dahal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and K.P. Sharma Oli called upon by the Speaker of the House, Devraj Ghimire, agreed to make the bills related to the peace process acceptable to all, after discussing the issues in the presence of some experts.

Difficulty for Migrant Workers for Enrolling in Social Security Scheme

Nepali migrant workers are facing difficulty in accessing websites to enroll themselves in the social security scheme started by the Nepal government. The government of Nepal formally expanded social security schemes for migrant workers last month. Launched in November 2018, the social security scheme had formerly only covered formal private sector workers. However, last December, the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security passed two working guidelines – one related to migrant workers and the other related to informal sector workers and self-employed persons in the country – thus enlarging the social safety net. Migrant workers or self-employed persons based abroad will now have to contribute Nrs. 2,002 monthly. The security scheme will entitle workers to various benefits, however not medical treatment, health protection and maternity coverage. Through the accidents and disability plan, workers will be entitled to receive hospital expenses up to Nrs. 100,000. For death, a sum of Nrs. 25000 will be provided to the family to carry out the funeral rites. The scheme also offers a monthly benefit of Nrs. 5,631 (60% of the minimum basic salary) for temporary disability. Permanent disability will result in a lifetime monthly pension.

While minimum basic salary as determined by the government is Nrs. 15,000, average minimum basic salary is Nrs. 9,385. Thus, the monthly premium of 2,002 may be costly for some of the wage earners. Regarding migrant workers, this is a positive step for the government to recognize the wellbeing of migrant workers who contribute a minimum of 25% to the country’s GDP in the form of remittance. While news about migrant workers doing time in jail abroad for false accusations or being subjected to various atrocities are common, this move from the government is still a step forward for recognizing their contribution for the country and economy.

Issues Regarding Loan Sharks

Loan shark victims have been protesting in the streets for months, mostly coming from the southern plains of Nepal. PM Dahal’s administration on March had formed a committee to talk to the loan shark victims; the committee had met with the protestors immediately after to discuss about their demands. On April 1, 2023, the government penned a five-point agreement with the victims, convincing them to end weeks-long demonstrations. The agreement was signed in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Home Secretary Binod Prakash Singh – the team that had been formed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The agreement was signed with the leaders of the demonstrators in Kathmandu.

The agreement will ensure that the high-level commission will look into the reports of fraud in loan agreements issued by loan sharks; and ensure legal repercussions for the same. Similarly, at the district level, chief officials would have the power to investigate any reports regarding such cases. The statement also emphasized the importance of declaring the documents signed by borrowers who received loans from such lenders as unlawful, halting all legal proceedings initiated by these lenders against borrowers, and reviewing court rulings that were in favor of the money lenders.

The agreement is a commendable move from the government towards addressing a pressing issue in society. However, the true effectiveness of the agreement remains to be seen, as the government’s policies and high-level committees have fallen short of generating tangible results on the ground, in the past. It is crucial to acknowledge that the issue at hand is not solely the lack of access to cheaper loan or capital, but rather the disparity in access to markets and essential skills. Thus, if the government is truly dedicated to improving the lives of those affected, it must direct its attention towards addressing the root causes of this problem.

Sandeep Lamichhane Controversy

The Kathmandu District Court on April 9 directed to produce the doctor who carried out the test on ‘Gaushala 26,’ the minor who was allegedly raped by cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane. Additionally, the court also ordered for the recording of statement from fellow cricketer Sahab Alam. Lamichhane's lawyer, Murari Sapkota, filed an application highlighting the need for these statements as the witnesses lack affidavits. The next hearing date has not been scheduled. A single judge bench of Shankar Raj Baral issued the order after finding that the statement produced earlier in the court wasn’t from the doctor who had examined the victim. The court therefore asked for the doctor to be present, who actually examined her. Next hearing will only be held once the doctor presents his statement at the court.