freedom from suppression

News Digest (July 02– July 08, 2020)

CESIF Nepal Democracy & Governance, Economy & Development, Gender & Social Inclusion, International Relations & Foreign Affairs, National Security & Climate Change, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, Policy Analysis, Thematic Areas Leave a Comment

Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) dispute & the Standing Committee Meeting: After the President prorogated the parliamentary sessions recommended by the cabinet, amidst an ongoing standing committee of the ruling NCP, the intra-party dispute within NCP has climaxed to a peak, with Dahal-Nepal faction demanding Oli’s resignation as both party chair and PM while Oli adamant on not quitting either. PM Oli is trying to misuse the president’s power, accuses NCP leader Jhalanath Khanal.[1]

Interpreting that Oli is trying to split the party, the party co-chair Dahal suspended the standing committee meeting until July 4 to allow some time to try and forge an agreement with Oli and prevent the party from splitting. The day-long exercise on July 3 ended without any progress.[2] After briefing the meeting to other secretariat members, Dahal-Nepal alliance concluded that they will resume the meeting and move ahead with the secretariat’s majority if no agreement us made by 11 am on July 4.

Prime minister Oli has been extending his arms for support from NCP’s sister organizations; meeting student and youth leaders in July 2, 2020, Oli asked them to create a ‘favorable environment’ for him, amidst the growing pressure on him.[3] Again, the standing committee meeting scheduled for July 4 was postponed till July 6, as the leaders failed to draw an agreement.[4]

After the July 5 meeting between Oli and Dahal failed to reach an agreement, another ‘decisive’ meeting between the two was to happen on July 6, before the standing committee meeting kicked off. The standing committee meeting is likely to get further postponed if the leaders fail to reach an agreement.[5]

The standing committee meeting has been postponed yet again, until July 8, 2020. The decision was made to buy more time to try and reach an agreement and avoid party split.[6] The standing committee meeting scheduled for July 8 was postponed for the fourth time, until July 10, 2020.[7]

In a meeting with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, NCP’s senior leaders clarified that there have been no discussions in the party about impeaching the President—something Prime Minister Oli accused the Nepal-Dahal faction of conspiring along with his resignation.[8] NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and NCP leaders Jhalanath Khanal, and Madhav Nepal met the President at Sital Niwas on July 5, 2020.[9]

Amidst NCP’s growing internal crisis, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi met NCP’s senior leader and chief of its foreign affairs Madhav Kumar Nepal late night on July 5.[10] Ambassador Hou had also held a meeting with president Bhandari on the same day.[11]

Millennium Challenge Corporation: MCC’s future seems uncertain, as the parliamentary session comes to an unexpected halt following NCP’s internal struggle. The compact was supposed to be ratified by the federal parliament within the current session.[12]

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) & Sarita Giri: On July 7, the Janata Samajwadi Party co-chairs Mahantha Thakur and Upendra Yadav, along with leaders Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Rajendra Mahato met the NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba at his residence in Budhanilkantha.[13]

The JSP taskforce—led by party chief secretary Ram Sahaya Prasad Yadav—recommended to remove Sarita Giri from the party and, therefore, the parliament—for going against the party whip to vote for constitutional amendment.[14] The party decided to take away even her general membership, which automatically strips her membership in the parliament according to the Political Party Act of 2016.[15]

Giri claimed that the party’s decision to oust her is unconstitutional and that she will go to the court to challenge the decision.[16] On the same account, the National Human Rights Commission member Mohana Ansari stated that JSP’s action against Sarita Giri violates freedom of expression.[17] The JSP is set to send Lila Sitaula to replace Sarita Giri in the parliament.[18]

Nepali Congress: Nepali Congress expressed its displeasure with the government’s unilateral decision to end the parliamentary sessions.[19]

NCP leader Subas Chandra Nembang met NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba and NC leader Minendra Rijal at Deuba’s residence in Budhanilkantha. Although the meeting was said to be regarding appointments in the constitutional bodies, many speculate it to be Oli’s ploy to lure Deuba for a possible alliance if the NCP splits.[20]

On July 6, the Central Working Committee of the opposition Nepali Congress decided to hold the party’s 14th national convention in Kathmandu from February 19 to 22, 2021.[21]

Governance

Government urged to guarantee citizen’s health right: The National Human Rights Commission has urged the Government of Nepal to guarantee the right to health to every citizen amid the spike in COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the country. Issuing a press release on July 5, the rights body expressed grave concern regarding the finding of traces of SARS-Cov-2 in drainage water of Kathmandu valley during laboratory test of samples and said it could be an indication that the urban area had already experienced community transmission of COVID-19 as opined by researchers.[22]

Increase PCR tests – NHRC to the government: The National Human Rights Commission has urged the government to increase the number of PCR tests to identify more vulnerable areas and people. They asked the government to ensure additional measures to prevent and control the spread of Coronavirus. It has also expressed concern about the condition of human rights during the COVID-19 crisis across the country, and urged the government to enhance the quality of quarantines in the country.[23]

Government issues higher education facilitation framework: The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has approved the ‘Alternative learning in higher education facilitation framework, 2077’ and introduced the framework for implementation through the University Grants Commission. The framework has made arrangements for an alternative process regarding teaching, learning, research, examination and evaluation at university-level higher educational institutions. The Cabinet meeting held on July 3 took the decision, and the bodies concerned have been urged to follow it.[24]

Sarita Giri to be recalled as Member of Parliament: Samajbadi Party decided to recall leader Sarita Giri as lawmaker and party member for defying the party’s decision to unanimously endorse the constitutional amendment to revise the national map of the country. A three-member panel led by party general secretary Ram Sahay Prasad Yadav recommended that the party sacked Giri from both as a lawmaker and the party member, and the meeting of the officer bearers of the party took the decision accordingly on July 7, said Bishwodip Pandey, deputy head of the party’s Publicity Department. Giri had registered an amendment to the constitutional amendment bill registered by the government in Parliament on May 22.[25]

Bill proposes cross country power trade via private companies: The government proposed letting private companies trade electricity with parties outside the country. The government recently registered a bill to amend the existing electricity law in the National Assembly. The bill proposes that private companies interested in trading and exporting electricity have to acquire a license from the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation. Provincial and local level governments will also be allowed to issue such licenses for small-scale projects.[26]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Japan grants MUSD 300 to Nepal: Nepal accepted a grant worth MUSD 300 from the government of Japan. The funds have been processed to the school sector development program.[27]

Renewal of temporary quotas: The Cabinet meeting on June 29 decided to renew the temporary quotas of ‘joint secretary and undersecretary for Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the United States, Geneva for the fiscal year, 2076/77’.[28]

Chinese Ambassador meddles once again: Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi was once again spotted talking to ruling party leaders amid increasing intra-party tensions. She is scrambling to keep the party’s unity intact and held a conversation with leader Madhav Kumar Nepal on July 5.[29] These meetings with high officials at the time of political unrest have drawn criticism. Foreign Ministry also revealed that the President’s office had violated the Foreign Ministry’s code of conduct.[30]

Oli government’s foreign policy condemned: Following the deteriorating relations with India and other external disputes, experts and opposition party have termed Oli’s foreign policy as ‘disarray’ and ‘disoriented’. Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajbadi Party on July 7 concluded that Oli government’s foreign policy is decreasing Nepal’s credibility in the international sphere. The oppositions opined that the ruling NCP’s policy is a double standard and is tilting towards one neighbour due to which India-Nepal relations have reached a new low. The tensions with India have left everyone worried.[31]

Security

Nepal’s Covid-19 tally crosses 16,000 with 35 recorded deaths: A 45-year-old male from Ramaroshan Rural Municipality-5 in Achham district of far-western Nepal tested positive for COVID-19 after his death.[32] An 85-year-old man from New Baneshwor in Kathmandu who had tested positive for the virus on June 30 passed away on July 1.[33] A 44-year-old male of Palungtar Municipality-7, Gorkha, died during the course of treatment on July 4.[34] A 75 year-old man, a resident of Devdaha Municipality passed away while undergoing treatment on July 1.[35] A 29-year-old man from Nisikhola Rural Municipality ward 3 in Baglung succumbed to the virus on July 5.[36] All these deaths added up to the mortality of COVID-19 to 35.

According to the Ministry of Health, so far, 255,728 polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted across the country. The ministry also said a total of 6,811 individuals have recovered from the virus.[37]

Seven crew members of Nepal Airlines test positive for COVID-19: Nepal Airlines confirmed that seven flying crew members including three pilots have tested positive for COVID-19 on July 6. According to the spokesperson for the airlines, the seven members have been placed in isolation to prevent further spread. Airlines have been asked to assess their own risk and accordingly formulate policies for crew of flights whose members tested positive.[38]

Shahid Gangalal National Heart Center suspends services after detection of virus in patients: All services except emergencies have been halted at Shahid Gangalal National Heart Center in Kathmandu after Coronavirus was detected in some patients. Some 20 patients seeking surgery at the hospital were tested and seven of the test results came back positive. An official at the Health Ministry said that the health workers who were exposed to the patients will be tested, and the in-door patients will be managed before the hospital is allowed to resume its services. Health Ministry officials, who have so far claimed that the infection does not spread from asymptomatic patients, are now saying there is a high risk of community transmission.[39]

A destructive monsoon season to collide with the pandemic: In the first few weeks of the monsoon onset in Nepal, 35 people have lost their lives due to landslides in different areas. This is indicative of a destructive rainy season for the country already hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and a locust invasion. The government’s monsoon action plan warns that the country might be battered with extreme water-induced events in the last week of June and the first week of August, which is also expected to be the time of peak COVID-19 cases.[40]

Protesters call of hunger strike following a12-point agreement with Health Ministry: The ‘Enough is Enough’ youth-led campaign has called their hunger strike off following a 12-point agreement with the Health Ministry on July 6. The campaign began with a protest on June 9 in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. The protesters had asked for better quarantine conditions, more PCR testing and financial transparency over COVID-19 spending. Discontinuing the use of rapid diagnostic tests and increase polymerase chain reaction testing to detect the presence of the virus had been a major demand of the campaign which has been included in the agreement.[41]

Provincial and Local Governments

Budget and development issues: On July 3, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Planning, Gandaki Pradesh, passed their annual budget worth Rs 38.84 billion for the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78 and allocated Rs 14.34 billion for recurrent expenditure and Rs 19.99 billion for capital expenditure. The budget focuses on a specific program to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including infrastructure, agriculture, education, tourism sectors.[42]

Bagmati Pradesh passed the Appropriation Bill by the majority of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) for the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78. However, all opposition parties disagreed on the Appropriation Bill claiming that it was not made public for the discussion among the MPs. Bagmati Pradesh presented a budget of Rs 51.42 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. Apart from this, the Chief Minister of the province, Dormani Paudel, also appealed everyone to support the government’s task.[43]

Agriculture relief packages: The Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative, Province 1, is going to distribute Rs 100.39 million to the farmers affected by the lockdown. Similarly, the provincial government allocated Rs 50.34 million for animal husbandry and Rs 40.69 million for agriculture as a financial support for the current fiscal year 2076/77.[44]

The Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture, and Cooperative, Province 2, will pay four months interest of farmers affected by the ongoing lockdown. The interest will be paid to the farmers who have taken loans of up to Rs 500,000. The provincial government has allocated Rs 360 million for this program. The ministry said that 80,000 farmers will benefit from the program.[45]

Coronavirus response: The number of people staying in quarantine centers has been decreasing in Province 2. On July 2, the number of people in quarantine across eight districts has reduced to 3,770. However, two weeks ago, 15,581 people were being quarantined.[46]

In Province 5, the Rapti Institute of Health Sciences in Ghorahi was charging Rs 5,500 per person for PCR tests. But the institute stopped their testing from July 4 after the local level refused to pay. The institute has also sent a letter to all local level authorities asking them to pay for the Coronavirus test. [47]

According to the Ministry of Social Development of Sudurpashchim Pradesh, there has been rapid increase of COVID-19 patients within a week. There were more than 2,000 cases in a week.[48]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

NHRC recommends to legalise same-sex marriage: The report released by National Human Rights Commission on July 1 recommended the government to legally begin acknowledging same-sex marriages and open legal channels thereof. The discrimination faced by transgender community in society is persistent and the government lacks in taking sufficient action to ensure their rights. The report recommends the federal government to enforce a Special Act, include provisions for ‘positive discrimination’, provide scholarship and hostel facilities to the transgender community until higher education, and establish funds to support individuals willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery.[49]

Custodial death: Durgesh Yadav, who was accused of rape, was found hanged in the police custody of Lalitpur Metropolitan Police Range on July 1. The accused was taken to Patan Hospital following the incident, where the doctors pronounced him dead. The man, after being arrested on July 4, was kept in a separate room for COVID-19 test.[50]

Ministry develops guidelines for rehab centres: The Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens came up with guidelines for functioning of rehabilitation centres for the safety of vulnerable persons from COVID-19. The guidelines will remain in force until Nepal is pronounced Coronavirus free. As per the guidelines, all the centres are required to incorporate precautionary measures to curb the spreading of the virus.[51]

Migrant workers

Repatriation of migrant workers: As per the new guidelines in effect, 1,242 stranded Nepali migrant workers stranded overseas were repatriated on July 2, via eight chartered flights.[52] 917 Nepali nationals and two dead bodied were brought back on July 3.[53] A total of 1,082 migrant workers were rescued from five destinations via seven flights on July 4.[54]

Issuance of labour permits to migrant workers: The Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Social Security decided to recommence the issuance of labour permits on July 3, to migrant workers who are stuck in the country because of job breaks and those who were willing to go back. However, the labour migrant experts heavily criticised the government’s decision. [55] The workers are required to undertake a COVID-19 test and comply with the health standard protocol to acquire labour permits.[56]

Rise in exploitation risk for women migrant workers amidst pandemic: Labour migration experts and human rights workers say that women migrant workers are facing harsher impact of COVID-19 pandemic amongst other migrant workers in several destination countries. Ashok Rana, Chairperson of National Network for Safe Migration, said that the condition of women migrant workers is critical, and they are at a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus along with other kinds of exploitation.[57]

ILO doles out grants to support migrant workers: On July 4, the ILO confirmed to provide Rs 51 million as grant to the Non-resident Nepali Association (NRNA) to repatriate stranded Nepali nationals from Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia owing to COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will further be utilised to study the impact of COVID-19 in the labour market.[58]

Image by John Hain from Pixabay


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46566/2020-07-03

[2] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46612/2020-07-04

[3] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/07/04/oli-asks-party-s-sister-organisations-to-help-create-a-favourable-environment-for-him

[4] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/07/04/159383741296651216.html

[5] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/pm-oli-dahal-to-continue-dialogue-tomorrow-forms-an-unofficial-task-force/

[6] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/politics/264711-1594008332.html

[7] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/08/380683/

[8] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/879037

[9] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/dahal-nepal-khanal-visit-prez-bhandari-in-shital-niwas/

[10] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46711/2020-07-06

[11] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/chinese-envoy-holds-meeting-with-ncp-leader-nepal-ahead-of-crucial-standing-committee-of-the-ruling-party/

[12] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/878945

[13] https://www.setopati.com/politics/210736

[14] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/07/07/159411548506483766.html

[15] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46826/2020-07-08

[16] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/07/380542/

[17] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/07/380519/

[18] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/07/380494/

[19] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46553/2020-07-03

[20] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/subas-chandra-nembang-meets-sher-bahadur-deuba/

[21] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nc-decides-to-hold-its-14th-general-convention-in-kathmandu-in-february/#/.XwPvnRl8eWQ.twitter

[22] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/govt-urged-to-guarantee-citizens-right-to-health/

[23] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/nhrc-urges-govt-to-increase-pcr-tests/

[24] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/government-issues-higher-education-facilitation-framework/

[25] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/07/07/sarita-giri-to-be-recalled-as-member-of-parliament

[26] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/bill-proposes-cross-country-power-trade-via-pvt-companies.html

[27] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/02/109138/

[28] Ibid.

[29] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/06/110003/

[30] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/06/chinese-ambassador-making-the-rounds-at-a-time-of-internal-crisis-invites-much-criticism

[31] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/07/the-oli-government-s-foreign-policy-is-lopsided-and-lacks-coherence-say-opposition-parties-and-experts

[32] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-logs-30th-coronavirus-related-death/

[33] https://en.setopati.com/social/153325

[34] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/qatar-returnee-dies-of-covid-19-in-gorkha/

[35] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-logs-two-more-covid-19-related-deaths-on-saturday/

[36] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nepal-s-covid-19-death-toll-reaches-35/

[37] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/06/with-35th-covid-19-death-and-180-new-cases-nepal-s-tally-reaches-15-964

[38] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/06/seven-nepal-airlines-crew-members-including-three-pilots-test-positive-for-covid-19

[39] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/07/patients-seeking-treatment-in-non-covid-hospitals-are-testing-positive-for-coronavirus

[40] https://kathmandupost.com/climate-environment/2020/07/06/after-covid-19-and-locust-invasion-country-braces-for-monsoon-mayhem

[41] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/07/satyagraha-campaign-signs-12-point-agreement-with-health-ministry-calls-off-hunger-strike

[42] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46608/2020-07-03

[43] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46598/2020-07-03

[44] https://thahakhabar.com/news/102178

[45] https://radiokantipur.com/economy/2020/07/07/1594125532?fbclid=IwAR3q0p4g452jdERWhTcfWueQamOcLusGv1-K5pLaTosSKY3BEdV5tir-DIM

[46] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/quarantine-facilities-emptying-in-province-2/

[47] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/07/06/15939988119865266.html

[48] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/05/109865/

[49] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/01/national-human-rights-commission-recommends-that-nepal-legalise-same-sex-marriage?fbclid=IwAR0wvbZ-R4hRnnzH0J7yCUJg0wIxjJ2Vyw9Dq_IqlDSA9U5MThv_KsZlnCA.

[50] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/alleged-rapist-found-hanged-in-lalitpur-police-custody.html

[51] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/05/exploitation-risk-for-women-migrant-workers-has-increased-during-pandemic-labour-migration-experts-and-rights-activists-say

[52] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/1242-nepalis-evacuated-from-various-countries/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2iuUC2DqvlJ14xMxk6-njZ5yollijYqi0pWT6T3q4wwt-2dDF9NLF4IDs#Echobox=1593763558

[53] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/917-nepalis-stranded-abroad-rescued/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3IqcAhflhJk8m8QAdbUzHTNpSm1A9rFTCjDjZpLag2YNNZU6Vj5oo1fp0#Echobox=1593850825

[54] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/over-1000-nepalis-return-home-on-repatriation-flights/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1KnkFe0yJVwMHfI4OuJqIpgP2olHKwH3LxxTUKZ9ffi_8GZbO3JdNz2iw#Echobox=1593933018.

[55] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/22/labour-migration-experts-criticise-government-decision-to-resume-foreign-employment

[56] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/03/government-starts-issuing-labour-permits-to-migrant-workers-on-job-break-and-with-renewed-contracts

[57] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/05/exploitation-risk-for-women-migrant-workers-has-increased-during-pandemic-labour-migration-experts-and-rights-activists-say

[58] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ilo-agrees-to-provide-rs-51-million-in-grant-to-nrna-to-evacuate-stranded-nepalis-abroad/?fbclid=IwAR3tNrq0aQBRvWf2qQ5cpxBD-3CppHUTRCrk7_ehoX09vXdhrcT4JIX3jDQ

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