Nepal Communist Party: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was admitted at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital on March 3 for his second kidney transplant, scheduled for March 4.
On February 26, NCP decided to send Bamdev Gautam, its secretariat member, to the National Assembly. However, Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, rejected the party’s secretariat decision to recommend Gautam, which created another major rift within the party. NCP co-chair, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, however, downplayed “simmering differences” in the party. Senior leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, also downplayed the recent fissure within the party and urged the supporters to not worry about it.
Experts have warned against the unconstitutionality of Gautam’s nomination to NA and the desired constitutional amendment to allow NA members to become Prime Minister.
Yubaraj Khatiwada, who completed his two-year tenure as an NA member and resigned from his post on March 3. He is set to be reappointed on the same post on March 4. Meanwhile, the uncertainty over Bamdev Gautam, who was supposed to replace Khatiwada in the NA, will be addressed only after PM Oli returns from surgery.
At a program on March 1, a member of the student wing of the Netra Bahadur Chand-led CPN hurled a shoe targetting Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The 22-year Ratan Tiruwa is a son of the former CPN-Maoist cadre, who was killed during the Maoist insurgency.
NCP Battle Lines: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s rejection of the party Secretariat’s decision to recommend Bamdev Gautam for the National Assembly draws new battle lines in a drawn-out power struggle with Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Preempting the Secretariat’s decision, Oli had already decided, on Tuesday, to recommend Yubaraj Khatiwada, the finance minister, for another term in the National Assembly. It was widely believed that Gautam would replace Khatiwada in the Upper House, as the latter’s two-year term ends on March 3.
Two sources close to the prime minister told the Post that Oli’s decision was less about Gautam and more about Khatiwada, as some party leaders have long wanted to remove the finance minister. A number of Khatiwada’s decisions have seriously affected some business communities and they have been lobbying to remove him. However, the prime minister is convinced that Khatiwada has maintained strict fiscal discipline, the party leaders said.
Despite the fact that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will be undergoing a kidney transplant on Wednesday, Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, which was expected to decide on the officiating prime minister in Oli’s absence and the Bamdev Gautam affair, ended with no clear conclusion on either. Oli will be admitted to the hospital on Monday but unlike in the past, when Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel took over the prime minister’s duties, there was no clarity on who will be overseeing day-to-day governance.
Nepali Congress: Referring to the leaked audio in the security printing scandal, NC President, Sher Bahadur Deuba questioned, in the parliament, who the accused Baskota was alluding to when he mention ‘we’ in the audio tape.
NC senior leader, Ram Chandra Paudel, accused Deuba of gaining influence by distributing money and posts, as the NC general convention approaches. Deuba’s exercise, Paudel claims, is against the electoral code of conduct.
Federal Parliament & National Assembly: On February 27, NCP lawmaker Lalbabu Pandit questioned the whereabouts of the Citizenship Bill in the parliament.
One-third members of the National Assembly completed their two-year tenure on March 3. To fill up the posts that would be vacant on March 3, National Assembly elections were held in all seven province in January. A member, however, would be appointed by the President on Government’s recommendation.
Transitional Justice: At the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali claimed that Nepal’s transitional justice process has gained significant progress and that the TJ Commissions have been working independently, which is a blatant lie since no real progress has been made, and the system has become politicized. The victims have said that they would not cooperate with the new bodies unless the Transitional Justice Act is amended as per Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling.
Tharuhat Movement: Three protestors of the Tharuhat Rastriya Morcha were arrested in Dhangadhi on March 3. Accusing the government for the lack of seriousness about their demands, the Morcha had called for a strike in the far western districts until March 4.
PM Oli defends Baskota: PM Oli said that there is no concrete evidence that can be held against Baskota. “He has said that it is not his voice, the baseless allegations leveled at him by an amateur person does not establish anything,” the Prime Minister said in Banskota’s defense.
Oli’s Kidney transplanted: Prime Oli underwent a second kidney transplant on March 4 in Kathmandu. Oli underwent his first kidney transplant in 2007 at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi after both his kidneys failed.
Visit Nepal 2020: Unwilling to abandon its Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, Nepal is among the few countries that have not restricted air travel to and from China in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Air services have hit rock bottom since February. On February 29, Minister for Travel and Tourism Yogesh Bhattarai said that the government has decided to cancel all promotional activities overseas for the time being because of COVID-19 outbreak.
Envoy to China Recalled: Prime Minister Oli, in an unexpected move, decided to recall Nepal’s Ambassador to China Leelamani Paudyal. “What I can confirm for now is that Paudyal has been recalled,” said Surya Thapa, press advisor to Oli. He did not give any specific reason for this sudden move. News sources say that Oli was unhappy with the Paudyal and recalling him was in the making for some time.
Bill on legalization of marijuana registered in Parliament: Five decades after the Nepal government criminalized marijuana cultivation and consumption, a private bill has been registered at the House of Representatives seeking the legalization of medical, primarily for medical use and for export.
The private bill registered by Sher Bahadur Tamang, a Nepal Communist Party lawmaker and former minister for law and justice, envisions permitting licensed farmers to cultivate and sell cannabis. The global legal marijuana market is expected to swell to a USD 73.6-billion industry by 2027, with the medical marijuana segment accounting for more than 70%.
A private bill, in contrast to a public bill, is a bill introduced by an individual lawmaker rather than the minister. Private bills reflect the concerns of the lawmaker or a political party while public ones reflect government policy.
Finance Minister resigned, reappointed: Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada resigned on March 3, the day his two-year term in the National Assembly ended. Khatiwada was also handling the Communication and Information Technology portfolio ever since Gokul Baskota resigned on February 20.
The resignation as finance and communication and information technology minister was accepted by the President on March 3 itself and was reappointed again a day later. Khatiwada’s reappointment as minister will be based on a constitutional provision that allows an unelected member to become a minister.
Lack of customs offices: The residents of several villages bordering with India and China are compelled to visit Khalanga in Darchula to pay customs even for the smallest goods brought from neighbouring countries due to lack of customs office along the border. Although the Tigram border came into operation three years ago, people have been evading taxes due to lack of customs office, however.
UAE Ambassador meets Speaker Sapkota: Ambassador of United Arab Emirates Saeed Hamdan Mohammed Al-Naqbi today paid a courtesy call on Speaker of the House of Representatives Agni Sapkota. At the meeting held at the Office of the Speaker in Kathmandu, the duo discussed issues on bilateral relations.
EU-Nepal trade investment: Commerce secretary Baikuntha Aryal, acting executive director of international trade centre Dorothy Tembo and head of the European Union Delegation to Nepal, Veronica Cody jointly inaugurated the EU-Nepal Trade Investment Program. The programme aims at enhancing the export of coffee and pashmina. The program will together be implemented by the EU, the government of Nepal and ITC.
New Indian Envoy arrives: Vinay Mohan Kwatra was appointed as the India’s new ambassador to Nepal. Kwatra arrived Kathmandu on March, 2 to assume his office where he was welcomed by the embassy officials. Kwatra has formerly served as a joint secretary at the Indian PMO and was India’s ambassador to France. He has also headed the Policy Planning and Research Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India.
Security & Strategic Affairs
COVID-19: Most of the 175 Nepalis, rescued from Wuhan, the epicenter of coronavirus, have started leaving for home after testing negative for COVID-19, a disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus. The Nepali government has suspended the visa-on-arrival regime for nationals of five countries – China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran which have been badly affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic. The restriction will be applicable from next week.
A day after the Nepal government banned on arrival visa to travelers from countries hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Education has decided not to issue no-objection certificates for study in the six countries. Starting March 3, the Abroad Study Permission Section of the Ministry stopped providing students with the permit to study in China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Singapore. The notice from the ministry says the number of restricted countries could change depending on the World Health Organization’s report.
A total of five patients suspected of having contracted COVID-19 who were under observation at the isolation ward of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, were released after the reports of their throat swab and blood sample came back negative.
The Supreme Court issued an interim order to the government asking it to stop flights to and from countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak for a few days or a month, if needed, in order to protect public health.Nepal’s civil aviation body on Tuesday recommended the government to implement stringent travel restrictions in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak stating that their recommendation is based on the guideline of the World Health Organization which says that the epidemic cannot be controlled by restricting flights, but the government needs to take extra precautionary measures with regard to health, particularly at airports”.
With the increase in the cases of new coronavirus outbreak around the world, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has stepped up the health screening process for the passengers arriving in the country since Sunday. The country’s sole international airport which had been checking the body temperature of passengers with the help of a ‘thermal scanner’ has added ‘thermal gun’ to take the body temperature from March 1 to enhance the health screening. The airport has also started broadcasting information related to COVID-19 coronavirus in Nepali, English, and Chinese languages. The TIA has also arranged the spraying of liquid sanitizer on passengers.
India flew 124 passengers from Diamond Princess, a quarantined ship, in Japan. Amongst them, one passenger is a Nepali national. India agreed to airlift them on the condition that they would remain in a quarantine facility in Manesar, India for 14 days.
MCC Debate: The Nepal Communist Party’s three-member task force has recommended amendments to the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal Compact but “legal experts believe that any significant changes to the compact could not be made without violating the Vienna Convention or leading the US to pull out”. According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a treaty once signed cannot be revised later by altering its primary purpose and objective and both Nepal and the United States are signatories to the convention, even though both haven’t ratified it. Although the ruling party has yet to clarify what specific changes the task force recommended, The US Embassy in Nepal has already clarified that there is no longer any prospect for amendments to the compact.
Co-chair of the ruling Party, Dahal, made a statement regarding the MCC. He said that if the United States did not agree to revise the Millennium Challenge Corporation programme, Nepal would not endorse it. MCC could be endorsed only as per the recommendations made by the NCP taskforce led by Jhalanath Khanal, he added. US officials, however, have said that there is no possibility for the revision of MCC.
Gender and Social Inclusion
Death of Migrant Workers: According to the data from the Foreign Employment Board, a total of 7,467 Nepali migrant workers have died in the last 11 years in destination countries. Most of the deaths have been reported in the Gulf countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab of Emirates, Kuwait, Malaysia, and South Korea. A majority of these deaths were sudden and unexpected but termed as natural deaths. Government records show that in the last fiscal year alone, 100 death cases were presented in categories under ‘other’, ‘unknown’, and ‘under investigation’. Government hasn’t been investigating these cases.
The Bagmati province government is going to conduct a special maternal and child health program in remote areas of the province from this fiscal. This program will cover 14 wards of seven districts. According to the Ministry of Social Development, 70 million will be allocated for the two-year program.
Rape: Krishna Das Giri also known as Sidhha Baba, a spiritual guru, who was accused of rape, has been sent to judicial custody. He surrendered at the Sunsari District Court on the March 3. According to Sunsari District Police, he will be taken to Eastern Regional Jail in Jhumka. 
Trafficking: Nepali government in 2017 issued an order banning Nepali citizens from travelling to the Gulf for jobs as domestic workers to protect them from illegal trafficking and violence. To make the ban more effective, the Nepal government asked the Indian government to make it mandatory for Nepali women to show a No Objection Certificate at the immigration desks at the Indian airports. After that they have been migrating through Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives which makes them more vulnerable.
Province and Local Governments
Provincial Affairs: Ruling parties of Province 2 have registered a proposal at the provincial assembly to finalize the name and capital. Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress have their own proposals as well. The provincial assembly has the authority to name the province and designate its capital by a two-third majority but the ruling parties lack the numerical strength to decide. The provincial assembly will decide the longstanding issue of name and capital of the province through voting on March 13.
Province 2 has been putting forth their disagreement on various decisions of the federal government in the past. Yet again, the province charged that the federal government’s decision to sell the land belonging to Birgunj Sugar Mill has interfered with constitutional rights of the province and, hence, is moving court on the decision. Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut has also accused that the federal government, time and again, of intervening on provincial jurisdiction and attempting end the essence of federalism.
Province 2 government and the employees are at odds over the pending payments to user committees who carried out development works in the last fiscal. The employees have been indifferent in releasing the payments citing lack of undue processes and procedures. The government has yet to release payment of Rs 860 million to 814 user committees.
Despite public commitment of the Chief
Minister on various occasions, Province 5 has failed to improve the budget
expenditure pattern. In the last seven months of the current fiscal, the
expenditure stands at 22.72%, the monthly expenditure of the eighth month stood
at a meagre 4%, giving no signs of improvement in the expenditure.