COVID-19 and people

News Digest (April 30 – May 6, 2020)

Democracy & Governance, Economy & Development, Gender & Social Inclusion, International Relations & Foreign Affairs, National Security & Climate Change, News Digest, Thematic Areas 0 Comments

Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) & the Government: In the party secretariat meeting on April 30, 2020, NCP leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Nepal, and Bamdev Gautam asked KP Oli to resign from the position of both the prime minister as well the party chief.[1]

Prime Minister Oli presented a counter proposal to make Bamdev Gautam the prime minister and Madhav Kumar Nepal the third party chief.[2]

NCP MP from Kaski-1, Khagaraj Adhikari, stated that he was ready to resign for Gautam to contest for by-election from his constituency; he also suggested not to amend the constitution to make Gautam the prime minister.[3]

On April 30, 2020, a Chinese Communist Party-Delegation, led by the head of the International Liaison Department, Song Tao, held a 3-hour long video conversation with Madhav Nepal-led NCP delegation.[4] The global politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic, China-Nepal relations, NCP’s relation with the CPC, the situation of the pandemic in Nepal, etc. were the major agendas of the meeting.

A secretariat meeting on May 2, 2020, decided to field Bamdev Gautam in a by-election at an ‘appropriate’ time. The meeting also called a standing committee meeting on May 7, 2020.[5] Prior to the secretariat meeting, PM Oli met Dahal, after which Dahal met Nepal.[6]

Prime Minister Oli’s self-criticism and reflection seems to have stalled the intra-party dispute, particularly after Oli succeeded in bringing Gautam to his side which won him a majority in the nine-member secretariat.[7]

The secretariat meeting on May 2 assigned party co-chair Dahal and Secretary Bishnu Poudel the responsibility to prepare an agreement proposal for the May 7 standing committee meeting.[8] Standing committee members from the Dahal-Nepal group suggested the two leaders move ahead with an ideological agreement.[9]

With a minority in the party secretariat now, co-chair Dahal held a separate meeting with his aides Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, and Narayankaji Shrestha on May 4, 2020.[10]

In his address on the International Labor Day on May 1, PM Oli expressed his solidarity to all Nepali laborers—a class of people who work hard and dreams for happiness—living within the country as well overseas.[11] 

The Opposition: Janata Samajwadi Party MP Surendra Yadav registered a complaint in the National Human Rights Commission against ex-minister Mahesh Basnet, NCP MP Krishna Kumar Shrestha, and the former IGP Sarvendra Khanal for abduction and hostage-taking.[12]

A cyber-offense complaint—for criticizing PM Oli in a radio interview— against ex-PM Dr Baburam Bhattarai was registered in the District Government Attorney’s Office.[13]

NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba urged the government to provide ‘special relief package for media houses and journalists.‘[14]

Federal Parliament: The Cabinet, on May 3, recommended the President to call the parliamentary budget session from May 8, 2020.[15]

To conduct House meetings by reducing the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Speaker Agni Sapkota consulted with stakeholders in a meeting on May 3, 2020.[16]

Speaker consults stakeholders for meeting: The government prepares to allocate Rs 60 million to each MP under the Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Program (MP Development Fund).[17]

Governance

In light of COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, upcoming budget to focus on creating jobs: The government is preparing a budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 to be presented to the federal parliament on May 29 as per the constitution. According to the vice-chair of the National Planning Commission, this year’s budget will focus on creating employment through both government and private sector, looking to prioritize mass mobilization, like the Prime Minister’s Employment Program and the River Control Program. In addition, the upcoming budget will renew the government’s attention towards health, education, agriculture sectors, and improving infrastructure to better public service delivery.[19]

PM addresses NAM Virtual Summit on COVID-19: Prime Minister KP Oli addressed a virtual summit themed ‘United against COVID-19’, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on May 5, 2020, where he spoke about the measures taken by the government of Nepal to respond to the crisis, stressing on the fact that human health must be the top priority of all governments.[20]

Government prepares to reopen factories in three steps: Amidst the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, the government is preparing to reopen factories gradually. Minister for Industry, Commerce, and Supplies Lekh Raj Bhatta said that the factories producing food and other essential items would reopen in the first phase; construction and infrastructure sectors in the second phase; and export-oriented industries in the third phase. A cabinet meeting on Wednesday will make the final decision.[21]

Government considers bringing back migrant workers from COVID-19-affected countries: The government is considering bringing back migrant workers stranded in COVID-19 affected countries. Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said their return will be decided by a host of factors, such as their living condition, job and visa status, the situation of their family back home, and how the outbreak pans out in Nepal in the days to come. Pregnant women, people who have lost their jobs, those with health issues, those that have lost a family member back home, and those that have overstayed their visas will be given priority.[22]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

PM Oli concerned about Nepalis in Israel: On April 30, PM Oli spoke with Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, expressing concern regarding the safety condition and treatment offered to Nepalis living there. The two government heads discussed the bilateral relation they have shared for over 60 years. President Rivlin also assured PM Oli of a proper safety and healthy environment for the Nepalis.[23]

Nepalis in Kuwait struggle: According to the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), over 1500 Nepali migrants are being forced to spend sleepless nights under the sky. The Kuwaiti companies have sent the workers home on unpaid leave. The workers complained that the Nepal Embassy in Kuwait did not listen to their concerns after repeatedly requesting the embassy to arrange homewards travel.[24]

All Nepalis in Kuwait granted amnesty and could be repatriated soon: Approximately 3,500 Nepalis living in Kuwait without official documents who are desperately waiting to return home have been granted amnesty. The Nepalis have reached government facilities and are ready to return. The Kuwait government offered its own civil aircraft free of cost to repatriate the Nepalis. They are now looking to make the necessary arrangements. However, the numbers are half of what the Ministry of Labour was expecting.[25]

Nepal Army to be deployed at Indo-Nepal border, development projects, and prisons: Nepal Army is now responsible for the security of development projects, infrastructure, and prisons. On May 3, PM Oli directed the Home Ministry to tighten the lockdown, and therefore, the decision to deploy Nepal Police and Armed Police Force to securitize the border in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 was made. Besides, PM Oli has ordered the security forces to strictly not allow a single Nepali citizen to enter the country from India at any cost.[26]

China’s Hou Yanqi intervened in the ruling party’s internal conflict: On May 1, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi desperately intervened in Nepali politics by holding dialogue with the ruling NCP while the party was at the verge of splitting. Moreover, China’s Xi Jinping also spoke with President Bhandari amidst internal party feud. China intrusion in Nepal’s domestic affairs has been widely criticized as the recent events only demonstrate China’s interest in Nepal.[27]

Security

Four children killed in Rolpa bomb blast: A stray bomb claimed the lives of four Children in Gairigaun of Triveni Rural Municipality. According to authorities, the victims died on the spot while the boys were returning from grazing their goats from the nearby forest.[28]

Three injured in Nawalparasi after APF team uses force for violating lockdown orders: Three people, including two minors in Nawalparasi were injured after APF hit batons charged them for disobeying lockdown. The injured are undergoing treatment at Prithvi Chandra Hospital and the locals have demanded action against officers involved in the altercation.[29]

A woman who tested negative for the virus dies in an isolation ward: A woman, who was undergoing treatment in the district hospital, Accham, in Bajura died in the isolation ward on April 30, 2020. She was admitted to the ward after showing symptoms for COVID-19 but had tested negative in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.[30]

18 Indian labourers flee from a quarantine facility in Jhapa: 18 Indian labourers fled from a quarantine facility in Jhapa on May 3, 2020, after being detained as they were heading towards India through Prithvinagar a month ago. Locals complained that the facility was poorly managed and that the temporary police post was not informed on time after 18 people had left the quarantine.[31]

Authorities in Banke struggling to contact trace after 15 new cases of COVID-19 in Nepalgunj: 15 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Nepalgunj on May 3, 2020 and are being placed under isolation at Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Khajura. Authorities are now focusing on control tracing to curb the spread of the virus. However, the District Public Health Office in Banke is finding it challenging to trace the travel history and all the people the infected have come in contact with.[32]

Health workers involved in treatment of Covid-19 patients in Dang working without protective gear: Health workers involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Dang lack protective medical equipment and are at risk of catching the virus. Although WHO recommended to use PPEs only when they are necessary in order to minimize shortage, health workers argue that hospital administration are denying the protective gear to doctors and nurses even in indispensable situations.[34]

Labs across the country running out of COVID-19 test kits: Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, Kathmandu, ran out of rapid diagnostic kits on May 5, 2020, and has halted the conduction of tests on COVID-19 suspects. The hospital administration has directed staff that the PCR tests only be conducted on those that have a travel history to areas affected by the virus and those who have come in contact with the infected.[35]

Nationwide lockdown to be further extended without restrictions on essential services: The high level coordination committee for the control and prevention of COVID-19 recommended extending the ongoing nationwide lockdown in the light of rising numbers of cases in the country. The committee dismissed the idea of categorizing the districts into different zones in order to ease the lockdown. However, the committee has decided to lift restrictions on essential goods and services.[36]

Provincial and Local Governments

Budget Issues and Development Issues: According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Planning (MoEAP), seven ministries of Gandaki Pradesh have formulated policies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year. The Province has plans to increase the budget size for the coming fiscal year. The Province was able to spend only 30% of the budget in the current fiscal year.[37]

After the decision of the federal government to continued work on the big projects during the lockdown, dozens of development works have started in province 1.[38] Similarly, local governments in Chitwan have also started development works adopting high precautions.[39]

Karnali Pradesh sealed for a week: On May 5, after the number of COVID-19 positive cases increased in Province 5, a meeting of the Provincial Disaster Management Center decided to seal off all borders for one week to control the possible spread of COVID-19. The meeting also decided that all local governments have to keep a record of the people who have traveled abroad, based on which the government will quarantine and test them.[40] 

Shortage of Coronavirus test materials and test: Lack of RDT kits in Bardiya has hampered testing on 2,427 people who have already spent 14 days in quarantine. The CDO of Bardiya has demanded kits from concerned bodies but has not been availed so far.[41]

Karnali Pradesh complained to the federal government that it has not received required laboratory materials and the doctors have not been able to test 4,700 people under quarantine.[42]

On May 5, Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital Birgunj, Parsa, started the COVID-19 test through PCR method. Although the hospital received a PCR machine on April 15, the test could not be done due to lack of of operating machine.[43]

Relief package distribution: Hom Narayan Shrestha, chairman of the National Association of Rural Municipalities in Nepal (NARMIN), informed that the local governments are facing shortages of the relief package because of limited sources in local governments and extension of lockdown. According to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, only 1.35 million families out of six million have received relief packages so far.[44]

There was a dispute at two local levels in Siraha during corona relief package distribution on May 3. The dissatisfied group claimed that the real poor families have not received the relief packages.[45]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Employment opportunities for returnee migrant workers: The Federal Parliament’s Development and Technology Committee directed the government to provide employment to migrant workers who have lost their jobs overseas due to COVID-19 pandemic and are likely to return home. The government estimates around 300,000 migrant workers could return home.[46]

Dengue, Measles outbreak: Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, 10 cases of dengue and five cases each of measles-rubella have been identified in Gandaki Province.[47] Similarly, eight cases of measles have been reported in Urlabari Municipality, Province-1.[48] Meanwhile, the Gandaki Province Health Directorate started a measles-rubella immunization program. A special immunization campaign started in Dhading district as well after the death of two children.[49]

Lockdown affects vaccination against diarrhea: Due to the nationwide lockdown, the government’s plan to conduct rotavirus vaccination program among children has been affected. The government was planning to introduce the program from June, incorporating it in the National Immunization Program. According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016, 39 out of 1000 children below five died due to diarrhea.[50]

NHRC formed human rights monitoring committee:The National Human Rights Commission formed a Joint Human Rights Situation Monitoring committees in all 77 districts to monitor overall human rights situation amidst the pandemic. It constitutes representatives from the National Human Rights Commission, Federation of Nepali Journalists, Nepal Bar Association, and NGO Federation of Nepal and will submit its report to the government along with suggestions.[51]

Large number of industries didn’t provide salaries to its workers amid the pandemic: According to a survey conducted by Whole Industry Trade Unions Nepal (WHIN), a large number of employers didn’t provide salaries to their workers for the month of Chaitra (March/April). The study was conducted among workers from 219 companies in Province-1, Province-2, Bagmati Province, Gandaki Province, and Province-5. Over 70% of the employees did not receive their salaries for the said month.[52]

Photo: K. Kliche from Pixabay


[1] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/04/30/158820810554847434.html

[2] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/42381/2020-04-30

[3] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/04/859853

[4] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/42395/2020-04-30

[5] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/42560/2020-05-02

[6] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/42529/2020-05-02

[7] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/42627/2020-05-04

[8] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/05/860831

[9] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/05/04/158861146911842529.html

[10] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/05/05/1588642649912450.html

[11]  http://annapurnapost.com/news/aptthyaaro-ghddiimaa-miler-aghi-bddhnuprch-prdhaanmntrii-olii-bhiddiyoshit-154690

[12]  http://annapurnapost.com/news/154684

[13] http://annapurnapost.com/news/155028

[14] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/nepali-congress-president-sher-bahadur-deuba-seeks-stimulus-package-for-media/

[15] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/cabinet-recommends-to-president-to-call-budget-session-from-may-8/

[16] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/speaker-holds-consultation-with-stakeholders-for-conducting-parliament-meetings/

[17] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/05/861003#.XrDjkdgg_mQ.twitter

[18] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/budget-session-scheduled-to-begin-on-may-8/

[19] https://kathmandupost.com/money/2020/05/03/in-light-of-covid-19-pandemic-and-its-consequences-upcoming-budget-to-focus-on-creating-jobs

[20] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/pm-addresses-nam-virtual-summit-on-covid-19/

[21] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/govt-prepares-to-reopen-factories-in-three-steps.html

[22] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/05/government-considers-bringing-back-nepali-migrant-workers-from-covid-19-affected-countries

[23] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/30/92783/

[24] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/01/92830/

[25] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/04/93597/

[26] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/03/93514/

[27] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/05/02/in-a-series-of-meetings-chinese-envoy-calls-for-unity-among-ruling-party-members

[28] https://risingnepaldaily.com/main-news/four-children-killed-in-rolpa-bomb-blast

[29] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-5/2020/05/01/three-injured-in-a-clash-between-apf-personnel-and-locals-in-nawalparasi

[30] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/woman-dies-in-isolation-ward-of-achham-hospital/

[31] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/18-indians-flee-quarantine-facility-in-jhapa/

[32] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-5/2020/05/05/authorities-in-nepalgunj-focus-on-contact-tracing-after-15-positive-cases-for-covid-19-were-confirmed-on-sunday

[33] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/security-on-nepal-india-border-to-be-tightened/

[34] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-5/2020/05/06/dang-s-health-workers-lack-proper-medical-gears-to-tackle-covid-19-1588732431

[35] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/06/labs-across-country-running-out-of-covid-19-test-kits

[36] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/06/hed-despite-calls-to-ease-the-lockdown-high-level-committee-recommends-extension

[37] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-4/2020/05/03/158848396212749054.html

[38] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/05/05/158868981209859002.html

[39] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/05/861017

[40] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/karnali-the-only-province-in-nepal-free-of-coronavirus-sealed-off-for-one-week.html

[41] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-5/2020/05/04/158858973332878102.html

[42] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/05/06/158873879072443882.html

[43] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-2/2020/05/05/158869067061441658.html

[44] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/05/861305

[45] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-2/2020/05/04/158859306576585559.html

[46] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/give-jobs-to-returnee-migrants-house-panel/

[47] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/dengue-measles-rubella-cases-on-the-rise-in-gandaki-province/

[48] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/05/03/158850844765042333.html

[49] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/special-vaccination-campaign-kicks-off-in-dhading/

[50] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/lockdown-hits-immunisation-drive-against-diarrhoea/

[51] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/human-rights-monitoring-panel-formed-in-all-districts/

[52] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/04/over-70-percent-of-industrial-workers-denied-pay-survey-finds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *