Sugarcane harvesting

News Digest (February 8-14, 2020)

CESIF Nepal Democracy and Political Parties, Development, Infrastructure, Corruption, Foreign Policy, Gender and Inclusion, News Analysis, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, Security, Climate Change Leave a Comment

DOMESTIC POLITICS

The Ruling Party: The 3-member taskforce formed by NCP to study the MCC compact demanded a 10-day extension on the deadline, which expired on February 12. Team leader Jhala Nath Khanal expressed that the assigned period of 10 days was too short to complete the task.[1]

NCP commemorated ‘People’s War’ on February 13 at their party headquarter in Kathmandu. Prime minister and party co-chair, KP Sharma Oli, who skipped last year’s event, had decided to attend this year’s ceremony but decided not to show up again this year.[2],[3]

At the annual condolence meet, NCP co-chair and ex-Maoist supremo, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, asserted that “the federal democratic republic was established as a result of the 10-year armed conflict waged by the then CPN-Maoist”.[4] He also claimed that imitating the People’s War is not possible as the country is already heading towards socialism.[5] He was hinting this to the Bipab group.

At the commemoration event, Dahal also claimed to be in constant touch with the late NC President Girija Prasad Koirala over the telephone, where Koirala requested him to ‘make bigger raids’ and to ‘attack district headquarters’.[6] Nepali Congress, however, expressed serious concerns over Dahal’s remarks. Accusing Dahal of trying to distort history several years after Koirala’s demise, the opposition party called his ‘statement’ irresponsible and unfortunate.[7]

Baluwatar Land Scam: Criticizing the government for selectively targeting their leaders in the Lalita Niwas Land Scam, Nepali Congress continued their obstruction in the parliament. The opposition party accused the government of influencing CIAA and for giving clean chits to Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai, the then prime ministers who ‘approved the proposal’ to validate the Baluwatar land transfer.[8][9]

A writ petition was filed at the Supreme Court challenging the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority’s decision not to indict former Prime Ministers Nepal and Bhattarai, and NCP General Secretary Bishnu Paudel’s son Navin Paudel for their possible involvement in the land grab scams. The hearing on the bench of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on February 14,[10] asked the constitutional anti-graft body to furnish a written response on why it did not lodge corruption case against the two former prime ministers within 15 days.[11] 

The federal parliament session finally resumed on February 11 after NC withdrew their protest.[12] NC also obstructed the province assembly of province 1 on February 9 to protest against the discriminatory indictment of NC Vice-president and parliamentary party deputy leader Bijay Kumar Gachhadar in the ‘Lalita Niwas Land Scam case’.[13] The CIAA had filed a corruption case against 175 individuals, including Gachhadar, for their role in transferring government-owned land at Lalita Niwas, Baluwatar, to individuals’ names. The Nepali Congress has been protesting the ‘selective’ indictment in the parliament and outside. The government is facing criticism for using the anti-graft agency to protect some ruling party leaders while the primary opposition has accused it of being guided by vendetta.[14] Legal experts claim that CIAA has “weakened its corruption case against 175 individuals by exempting Nabin Poudel and Kumar Regmi”.[15]

Nepali Congress discontinued the obstruction of House proceedings while resorting to peaceful protests from road and assembly.[16]

OPPOSITION POLITICS

AAP Victory in Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party won the Delhi election and earned a hat-trick, stunning India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party. AAP won 62 seats, largely on the basis of its delivery on basics, like reliable electricity and water supply and improvements to health and education. It’s evident from AAP’s win in Delhi that parties need to win the hearts of the people by raising issues of social justice and development rather than professing lofty ideologies, say analysts. Surya Raj Acharya, the spokesperson for the Sajha Party, said that they understand that raising their voice through social media alone is not enough. Bibeksheel Nepali, an alternate party that has been involved in Nepali politics since the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013, also said that they are raising the voice of the people to the extent they can.[17]

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Palm Oil Ban Lifted: India imposed a ban on the import of palm oil from all nations in January 2020. However, it exempted Nepal from this imposition recently. The lifting of ban implies Nepal can resume the export of palm oil, which accounted for approximately 30% of total exports. Licenses to import around 88,000 tonnes of refined palm oil from Nepal were issued to about half a dozen firms in India. The ministry has not yet received any official letter from the Indian government though.[18]

NAC’s Operations to China: The Nepal Airlines Corporation was to begin operations to Narita, Japan and Guangzhou, China from March 2020. Following the coronavirus epidemic, NAC has pushed back the inauguration to mid-May 2020. The virus may not be contained until then, but NAC can at least remain positive and make necessary arrangements. Nonetheless, it seems to be using the novel infection as an excuse to delay the operations because it remains unequipped.

LPG for Indian Households: Currently, 71.9 million Indian households are using LPG. Now, the government is aiming at 80 million households to receive the LPG connection- increase by approximately 10% and has therefore increased LPG subsidies. Considering Nepal imports 100% gas from India, will the increase in Indian demand affect Nepal’s import and consumption, it is to be seen?

SECURITY AND STRATEGIC AFFAIRS

Nepal ranks 111th in GHIS: In a recent report by the Global Health Index developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Nepal has been ranked 111th in the health security index. The only countries in South Asia ranked higher than Nepal are India, Bhutan, and Pakistan at 57, 85, and 105, respectively. The report, however, has claimed that Nepal’s laboratory systems, real-time surveillance, and reporting, epidemiology workforce and data integration among human, animal, and environmental health sectors are not robust. [19]

Corona Outbreak: The death toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic climbed past 1,500 on Friday, February 14, but the number of new cases fell, creating newfound fear that the outbreak could peak later this month. The number of infections has been steadily rising.[20] The epidemic has threatened to harm the world’s second-largest economy, with ANZ bank warning that China’s first-quarter GDP growth would slow to 3.2-4.0%, down from a previous projection of 5%.[21]

Nepali citizens are being evacuated from the Hubei province of China on February 15, 2020. While location to quarantine the evacuees has been arranged, but safety kits and human resources to facilitate the evacuation and quarantine process are yet to be managed. Countries including India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have already evacuated their citizens; and rescuing citizens from the epicenter of the epidemic has not been easy for Nepali Authorities.[22] The Ministry of Health and Population has said that the government is on high alert over the possible spread of coronavirus in areas where Nepali citizens being rescued from Chinese cities are going to be quarantined.

Five Nepali students who were returning home to Nepal on their own have been held at Beijing airports on suspicion of coronavirus infection. One male student said that he was held after fever was detected in him as Chinese officials quarantine passengers whose body temperature is above 37.1 degrees Celsius.[23]

Suspected cases of coronavirus like diseases in Gumba Village, Jugal Rural Municipality in Sindhupalchowk district bordering China created a panic across the country as patients being treated for the common cold and viral fever became suspected carriers of the novel virus. The patients that were undergoing treatment have already been cured after the viral fever outbreak.[24]

DEVELOPMENT AND GOVERNANCE

Budget Review: Stepping back from its announced annual expenditure target of Rs 1.53 trillion for 2019/20, the government has now revised the expenditure amount to 90.4% of the earmarked volume. In a mid-term review of the annual budget, the government has reduced the total budget to Rs 1.38 trillion and downsized the capital expenditure to Rs 326.81 billion against the allocated amount of Rs 408 billion. [25]

Climate Change: The government of Nepal is setting up a “Think Tank Group” on climate change. The group will comprise representatives from the government, independent technical experts, academicians, and representatives from non-government sectors.  It will cover the thematic areas like agriculture and food security, forest, water resources, tourism, industry and transport, drinking water, and urban settlements.[26] 

A recent NASA report has hinted at Nepal’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. It says that changing rainfall patterns could trigger a higher risk of landslides in the higher Himalayan region of Nepal. Rising demands of water and excessive melting of glaciers could eventually create a risk of water shortage for 1.4 billion people.[27]

Migration: Six Nepali migrant workers were killed and two were injured while working at a housing construction project in Kuwait. They were employed with Kuwait-based Universal Leaders Trading and General Contracting.[28]

Maternity Leave: In 2018, the government adopted the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act. This act secures legal protection for paid maternity leave, prohibits discrimination against women, and ensures job security during pregnancy and after childbirth. Despite strong legal provisions, nearly 70% of organizations in the country either do not provide any maternity leave or just a few days. Women can, however, file a case against their employees, but they choose to quit the job instead of taking any action.[29] Equality is yet to be achieved in deeds. When the right holders withdraw the battle against inequality, it gets further delayed.

Health Insurance: The government had announced the Senior Citizen Health Insurgence Programme on the occasion of Nepali New Year 2076 BS. However, it has been implemented in only 52 districts so far. Health Insurance Board claims that the rollout across the country was delayed due to a lack of employees.[30]

PROVINCE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

Provincial and local governments: On February 6, Nepali Congress obstructed the fifth assembly meeting of Province 1, because NC leader’s dissatisfaction with the ruling party’s nature in the Lalita Niwas land grab case. NC claimed that the ruling party and the CIAA showed discrimination against parties and leaders.[31]

President Bidya Devi Bhandari approved two separate bills related to the operation and adjustment of police. The bill paves way for the formation of the provincial police.[32] 

Provincial Treasury Comptroller Office (PTCO) of Gandaki Province spent only 9.10% budget in the first six months for the current fiscal year. The province spent a capital budget of up to 8.35% and recurrent budget at 9.9%.[33]


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/36184/2020-02-12

[2] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/oli-to-attend-people-s-war-day-event-for-first-time/

[3] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/oli-skips-people-s-war-day-function-this-year-too/

[4] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/revolution-through-imitation-of-people-s-war-impossible-prachanda/

[5] Ibid

[6] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nc-objects-to-dahal-s-claim-that-late-girija-koirala-asked-him-to-step-up-offensives/

[7] Ibid

[8] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nc-obstructs-house-for-third-day-in-a-row/

[9] http://annapurnapost.com/news/147856

[10] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/cj-rana-to-bench-writ-seeking-to-charge-bhattarai-nepal-paudel-in-lalita-niwas-case/

[11] https://en.setopati.com/social/152332

[12] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/house-meeting-resumes-as-main-opposition-nepali-congress-withdraws-its-protest/

[13] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/02/09/158124730587924598.html

[14] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nc-obstructs-house-for-third-day-in-a-row/

[15] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/02/13/failure-to-indict-poudel-and-regmi-in-land-grab-could-set-a-dangerous-precedent-say-legal-experts

[16] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/main-opposition-nc-to-resort-to-peaceful-protest/

[17] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/02/13/aam-aadmi-s-resounding-win-in-delhi-could-be-a-lesson-for-nepal-s-alternative-political-forces

[18] https://kathmandupost.com/money/2020/02/13/india-lifts-ban-on-imports-of-refined-palm-oil-from-nepal

[19] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-ranks-111th-in-health-security-index/

[20] https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/12/china-virus-death-toll-tops-1100-new-cases-fall/

[21] https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/12/china-virus-death-toll-tops-1100-new-cases-fall/

[22] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/nepal-likely-to-evacuate-its-citizens-from-coronavirus-hit-china-on-feb-15.html

[23] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/5-nepali-students-in-china-barred-from-boarding-flights-home/

[24] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/no-case-of-coronavirus-like-disease-reported-in-jugal-rural-municipality/

[25] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/government-lowers-budget-numbers-but-claims-it-will-meet-growth-target/

[26] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/govt-set-to-establish-think-tank-group-on-climate-change/

[27] https://kathmandupost.com/climate-environment/2020/02/13/climate-change-to-cause-frequent-landslides-in-the-himalayan-region-including-nepal-says-nasa

[28] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/six-nepalis-killed-at-kuwait-construction-site/

[29] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/02/13/despite-robust-legal-provisions-pregnant-women-still-find-it-difficult-to-get-maternity-leave

[30] https://ekantipur.com/business/2020/02/11/158138752963344538.html

[31] https://www.karobardaily.com/news/politics/28890

[32] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/02/12/158147057695123404.html

[33] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/35868/2020-02-09

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