Puppeteering

News Digest (July 09– July 15, 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, Thematic Areas Leave a Comment

Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) & the Government: Political parties and leaders questioned the government’s and NCP’s self-decision and inefficiency to deal with the heightened geopolitical interests of the major players—China, India, and the United States—in Nepal.[1]

In the long internal struggle of the NCP, which saw a series of postponement and rescheduling of the standing committee meeting due to heated disagreements between the Oli and Dahal factions, PM Oli seemed to have thrown the final punch at Dahal; he lessoned Dahal that he should wait for the party’s general convention if he wants to head the party alone and for the elections if he wants to be the prime minister.[2]

In his June 10 address to the nation, PM Oli expressed that NCP’s crisis is an internal matter that will be solved through discussion and dialogue.[3] He also sent a message to India that the Nepalis will defend the sovereignty and national integrity of the country to the fullest.[4]

The NCP senior leader Jhalanath Khanal claimed that the party’s future will be at risk if Oli rules as the prime minister for five years.[5]

Displeased with the ‘unconstitutional’ struggle to pressurize Oli for resignation, civil society leaders urged the leaders to not bypass parliamentary procedures and oust the PM through political bargains.[6]

The postponed standing committee meeting, Chinese ambassadors’ meeting with almost all senior leaders including the president, and Dahal’s visible softening on his stances indicate that the NCP crisis has temporarily stalled and that the party is moving towards an agreement.[7]

PM’s Ayodhya Comment: Speaking on the birthday commemoration of Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya on July 13, Prime Minister Oli accused India of introducing ‘fake’ Ayodhya and also claimed that Lord Rama was Nepali. He stated that the real Ayodhya, Rama’s birthplace, lies in Nepal, somewhere west of Birgunj, Parsa.[8]

The opposition Nepali Congress criticized the PM and urged him not to divert the public attention to Ayodhya but to rather focus on Limpiyadhura.[9] Several party leaders, including his communist counterparts, criticized Oli for making the unthoughtful comment on Ayodhya and Rama. Bamdev Gautam, the NCP vice chair, suggested that the PM self-criticize for the same.[10] 

The Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) & Sarita Giri: After her party expelled Sarita Giri from the party and, therefore, from the parliament, she filed a complaint in the Election Commission, stating that the action violated the ‘set norms’ because the Central Committee has the authority to sack an individual from the party, not the working committee.[11]Defending the party’s decision, however, JSP leader Baburam Bhattarai said that Giri deserved the punishment.[12]

After some media reports claiming that the JSP will not vote for the MCC,[13] the party released a statement and clarified that it has not made any official decision on MCC yet.[14] 

Others: Suryaraj Acharya and Mumaram Khanal quit the Sajha Party over dissatisfaction within the party.[15]

The appointment for some 40 positions in 11 of the 13 Constitutional Commissions remains uncertain due to the lack of a political consensus.[16]

Governance

Nepal government decides to resume public transportation, taxi service, within districts: The government has decided to allow the operation of public vehicles within respective districts and inside Kathmandu Valley. Amid the wide-spread protest from the public transport operators against the government for not letting them operate vehicles, the cabinet meeting held on June 9 decided to allow transport operators to resume public transportation in short routes across the country.[17]

PM KP Sharma Oli ‘claims’ the real Ayodhya is in Nepal: Speaking at an event organised to commemorate poet Bhanubhakta’s birth anniversary in his official residence, PM Oli made a comment that India is manipulating cultural and historical facts by creating a fake Ayodhya in India, which in fact is a village west of Birgunj. PM Oli, as usual, in his pursuit of over-glorification of the ‘national-identity’, went on to claim that science and knowledge originated and developed in Nepal. This is not the first time that the head of the government made such exaggerated remarks.[18]

MoFA tries to ‘correct’ Oli’s ‘Nepali Ram’ statement, says it was not political: After receiving criticisms from several quarters, the Foreign Ministry, on July 14, clarified that Prime Minister’s claims on Ayodhya were non-political and had no intent of hurting sentiments. Issuing a press statement the next day, the MoFA stated that the government has taken note of the ‘interpretations’ of the PM’s remarks which were not meant to debase the significance of Ayodhya and the cultural value it bears. PM Oli’s ‘claim’ comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Nepal and India are at a sensitive juncture over border issues.[19]

Government urged for effective handling of natural disaster: The National Human Rights Commission called on the federal, provincial and local governments for more effective search, rescue, and relief operations to benefit people affected by rain-induced disasters. In a press release, the rights body underscored the urgency of appropriate arrangement for disaster preparedness, immediate relief and medical treatment of disaster victims and relief distribution. At least 73 people have been killed in landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains across the country since the onset of monsoon on June 12, according to National Emergency Operation Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs.[20]

House committee to seek clarification from minister on procurement deal with Omni: The Public Account Committee of the House of Representatives has decided to summon Minister for Health Bhanubhakta Dhakal after recording statements from officials involved in the controversial deal to procure COVID-19-related medical goods and equipment through Omni Business Corporate International. In their statements on July 14, all three officials— health minister’s advisor Dr Khem Karki, former health secretary Yadav Koirala, and former director-general of the Department of Health Service Mahendra Shrestha—involved in the procurement decision, which landed in a controversy over exorbitant pricing of the goods, defended themselves when asked about their questionable roles in the deal.[21]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Nepal cable bans Indian channels: Following an “insulting” video of PM Oli on Indian media and alleged conspiracy with Hou Yanqi, few Indian news channels went off the air on July 19 in Nepal. The arguments made by the Indian media are termed “baseless”. Government spokesperson Yubaraj Khatiwada said that the government is within its rights to seek remedies as the media is responsible for damaging Nepal’s reputation and has further asked news channels not to broadcast such misleading news.[22]

India had sent a diplomatic note after Nepal’s new map: According to a member of the National Assembly, India had sent a diplomatic letter to Nepal following the endorsement of Nepal’s new map which included disputed territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura. On June 24, Nepal received the note which objected its move to include alleged Indian areas. Neither the Ministry of Foreign affairs nor has Delhi revealed about this note.[23]

Sending diplomatic note over Indian media is immature: On July 10, the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi submitted a letter to India’s Ministry of External Affairs over Indian media’s “objectional” matter about Nepal and PM Oli. Experts opine that sending a diplomatic note over private media’s content might hamper bilateral ties and even press freedom. Even though the content was condemnable, Nepal could have resolved the issue without employing diplomatic channel.[24]

PM Oli asserts real Ayodhya is in Nepal: PM Oli while speaking at the birth anniversary of poet Bhanubhakta, claimed that India is manipulating historical and cultural facts. Oli alleges that India faked Ram’s birth in Ayodhya, who was actually born in a village near Birgunj named Ayodhya. Furthermore, Oli didn’t provide any archaeological evidence backing his statement. Co-chairperson of Rashtriya Prajatantra Party opined that PM Oli is hell-bent on spoiling Nepal-India ties by making such statements.[25]

BJP condemns KP Oli: India’s ruling BJP condemns PM Oli’s baseless claims that real Ayodhya is in Nepal. PM Oli’s claim has offended BJP leaders as it is a matter of sensitivity for them and have said they will not allow anyone to play with religious sentiments.[26]

Foreign Ministry scrambles to do damage control: Following the controversial remarks by PM Oli on ‘Ayodhya’, Foreign Ministry released a statement on July 14 clarifying PM’s stance and that Oli didn’t mean to hurt any religious sentiments.[27] However, some experts shared that the remarks have already worsened Nepal-India ties at the people level as well. PM Oli touched a “raw nerve” by commenting on Lord Ram’s Ayodhya.[28]

Security

Nepal reports 39th Covid-19 death as national tally of cases crosses 17,000: A 50-year-old man, resident of Gokarneshwor Municipality-4, Kathmandu, who died on July 9 tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital had sent swabs for testing after his death and the result that arrived on the evening of July 10 showed he was infected.[29] A 45-year-old male, who was undergoing treatment at Patan Hospital, tested positive for the virus on July 6. He died during the course of treatment on July 9.[30] A 60-year-old male, resident of Sankhamul in Kathmandu-10, died during the course of treatment on July 10.[31] A 36-year-old man from Paroha Municipality in Rautahat district died of the virus on July 15 while undergoing treatment. His swab test results came back positive on July 15. [32]  These are the 36th, 37th, 38th and the 39th Covid-19 related deaths respectively reported in Nepal.According the Ministry of Health, total of 11,025 people, or 64.2 percent of total cases, have been discharged and the total number of PCR tests performed so far has reached 298,829.

Public health experts express concern over lack of a risk communication strategy: Public health experts pointed out that even after months into the pandemic, authorities lack a risk communication strategy. According to WHO, these include strategies such as real-time exchange of information, advice and opinions between experts or officials and people who face the threat to their survival, health or economic and social well-being. They have warned that the failure to communicate with people properly and provide them with accurate information could lead them either to overreact to the risk or undermine it.[33]

Health experts suggest the country is yet to see a major covid-19 crisis: Health experts warned that the nation might see a major coronavirus crisis as the government has reduced the sample collection and daily testing range while claiming that there has been a decline in number of cases. However, health experts say that the decline in the number of infections does not support the government claim, as the Health Ministry has reduced the daily test numbers in recent days.[34]

Health experts warn that water-borne diseases might kill more people than the virus: According to the Health Ministry, there has been a hike in number of cases of water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, typhoid, dengue, malaria and scrub typhus in health facilities across the country since the onset of monsoon. With Covid-19 cases found in almost all districts and all resources focused on this pandemic, public health experts have warned that more people could die of water-borne diseases than the coronavirus.[35]

The onset of monsoon wreaks havoc in various parts of the country: The onset of monsoon has wreaked havoc in a country already struggling to deal with a pandemic. Heavy and continuous rainfall triggered floods and landslides in different parts of the country, claiming more than 40 lives and displacing scores of families. According to officials, teams from the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, and Nepal Police have been mobilized to search for the missing.[36]

Provincial and Local Governments

Natural disaster: On July 10, the joint meeting among the Chief Minister of Province 2 and security agencies alerted the people of the risk of floods. All districts in Province 2 are under high risk due to continuous rainfall. Meanwhile, the security agencies have mobilized rescue teams in disaster-prone areas.[37] Similarly, the helicopters are on standby for rescue and relief services for flood victims.[38]

The Chief of Bagmati Pradesh urged that the provincial government should provide immediate and effective rescue and relief services to the victims of natural disasters—landslides and floods. Meanwhile, the government informed that the Disaster Management Team is ready to assist the victims. Apart from this, a team from three ministries—the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest, and Environment, and the Ministry of Social Development reached and observed the flood-hit and landslide-hit-areas in Sindhupalchok.[39]

The government of Province 1 committed to provide relief packages, compensation, and free-treatment services to the floods and landslides victims. The government distributed relief from July 13. Reportedly, more than 1,500 people have been displaced from floods and landslides over province 1.[40]

Coronavirus:On July 8, the Ministry of Health and Population allowed Coronavirus test in all provincial government laboratories by the PCR method. The government established at least one hospital in each of the provinces. Through the Corona test facility at provincial levels, anybody can be tested with COVID-19-like symptoms by paying Rs 5500 per person.[41]

Reportedly, three hospitals in Kathmandu are testing Coronavirus without the approval of the MoHP. Additionally, the hospitals are collecting extra charges in the Coronavirus test than normal which is Rs 5500.[42] Apart from this, the MoHP has allowed two private hospitals to collect swabs and Coronavirus tests flouting its own rule not to have any private hospitals collect and test the swabs by themselves.[43]

Budget Issue: On July 8, despite the dissatisfaction of opposition parties, the Provincial Assembly of Sudurpashchim Pradesh passed its annual budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78. The opposition parties demanded the provincial government the expenditure of Corona control and urged that it should be investigated also. Similarly, the opposition parties claimed that the government passed the budget without following parliamentary rules.[44]

Local governments of Province 5 are allocating budget by giving major priority to the infrastructure development in the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78. The local governments allocated one-third budget for infrastructure development and the rest on economic, social, environmental, and disaster management sectors. According to the last two year’s budget expenditure, the local governments had prioritized the budget in infrastructure development.[45]

On July 12, the government of Province 2 unanimously passed its annual budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2020/21.[46] The next day, the government of Province 1 unanimously passed the Police Bill.[47]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Redistribution of labour permits: Around 1000 re-labour permits were issued by the government for foreign employment after the redistribution of permits commenced on July 9. Majority of the permits were given to workers going to Malaysia, Japan, Qatar, and the UAE. However, no new workers were issued permits to work abroad. Workers who wish to re-join foreign employment can go back in rescue flight with the approval as stated by Kumar Dahal, Director General at the Department.[48]

Repatriation of migrant workers: A total of 3,322 Nepali migrant workers were rescued from Malaysia and Philippines by Nepal government on July 12 via 21 different chartered flights. Along with them, 30 dead bodies were also brought back.[49] The first phase of repatriating Nepalis stranded in various nations was completed on July 12. A total of 26,396 were rescued from 24 countries in the past one month.[50] The second phase of repatriation is to commence on July 15. As per the government’s decision, 42 flights will be operated for the purpose. The COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) has published the schedule for repatriation from July 15 to July 21.[51]

Hurdles of seeking education amidst pandemic: Children in Achham have no means of attaining education. Online classes do not seem to be an option at all as they are poorly equipped for it. Most children there spend time herding cattle, wandering around, or working at construction sites and are making themselves more susceptible to COVID-19. Parents of these children expressed their concerns regarding the risk of contraction as the newly arrived people in the village have tested positive.[52]

Trafficked Nepali women rescued: 21 trafficked Nepali women were finally rescued by the Nepal Embassy in India after nine months. These women were stranded in Manipur while heading to Gulf through Myanmar and were staying in local shelters. These women were promised lucrative jobs in various countries like Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait. There was delay in rescuing the trafficked women due to the negligence of the Nepali mission. Nepali embassy claims that the delay in the process was caused due to the lockdown in India. The rescues would be handed over the local authorities of Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in Kakadbhitta.[53] 

HRC urged to take up women’s equality in citizenship rights: The National Women Coalition encompassing 44 organisations working for women’s right, has appealed to the Human Rights Council to take on the women’s citizenship rights issue in the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review of the council to be held in January 2021. The issue of ensuring equality in citizenship rights has arisen on account of the emerging debate concerning the 7-year cooling off period proposed for a foreigner woman married to a Nepali man to attain Nepali citizenship.[54]

Prolonged lockdown worsens plight of Rautes: The Raute tribal community have not been to carry out their traditional occupation of carving wooden utensils and selling them to earn their living, and they have no means of making money for their daily expenses due to the restrictions in movement. Owing to the fear of corona virus, the people from other communities have not allowed them to enter the villages which have made their situation further critical. The social security allowance provided by the government does not suffice and is also not given on time.[55]

Image by Alex Yomare from Pixabay


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46887/2020-07-09

[2]  https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46888/2020-07-09

[3] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47028/2020-07-10

[4] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47030/2020-07-10

[5] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/13/383234/

[6] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/880552

[7] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46964/2020-07-10

[8] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47184/2020-07-13

[9] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/881650

[10] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/881700

[11] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/expelled-from-party-and-parliament-sarita-giri-files-complaint-at-election-commission-writes-to-house-speaker/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1594289622

[12] http://annapurnapost.com/news/160768

[13]  https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47128/2020-07-12

[14] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/13/383030/

[15] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47130/2020-07-12

[16] http://annapurnapost.com/news/160766

[17] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/govt-decides-to-resume-public-transportation-taxi-service-in-short-routes/

[18] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepals-pm-kp-sharma-oli-claims-real-ayodhya-is-in-nepal/

[19] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/mofa-tries-to-correct-olis-nepali-ram-statement-says-it-was-not-political.html

[20] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/govt-urged-for-effective-handling-of-natural-disaster/

[21] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/15/house-committee-to-seek-clarification-from-minister-on-procurement-deal-with-omni

[22] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/09/cable-operators-ban-indian-news-channels-in-response-to-insulting-video-about-prime-minister

[23] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/09/india-had-sent-a-diplomatic-note-to-kathmandu-protesting-against-nepal-s-new-map

[24] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/13/sending-diplomatic-note-to-complain-about-indian-private-media-an-immature-and-wrong-approach-experts-say

[25] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepals-pm-kp-sharma-oli-claims-real-ayodhya-is-in-nepal/

[26] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/indias-bjp-condemns-nepal-pms-comment-on-real-ayodhya/

[27] https://mofa.gov.np/statement-on-clarification/

[28] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/14/amid-soured-nepal-india-ties-oli-is-threatening-relations-between-peoples-of-two-countries-leaders-and-experts-say

[29] https://en.setopati.com/social/153390

[30] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/70-new-covid-19-cases-reported-on-saturday-nepals-tally-stands-at-16719/

[31] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-logs-three-more-covid-19-fatalities-on-saturday-death-toll-hits-38/

[32] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/15/nepal-reports-39th-covid-19-death-and-116-new-cases

[33] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/12/even-months-into-the-pandemic-the-government-has-yet-to-introduce-risk-communication-strategy

[34] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/11/major-coronavirus-crisis-looms-as-health-ministry-reduces-sample-collection-and-test-range

[35] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/13/amid-covid-19-health-experts-warn-of-an-outbreak-of-water-borne-diseases

[36] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/12/landslides-continue-to-wreak-havoc-in-different-parts-of-the-country

[37] https://kathmandupost.com/province-no-2/2020/07/11/province-2-braces-for-floods-as-incessant-rainfall-sends-rivers-gushing

[38] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/880879

[39] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/10/111197/

[40] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47152/2020-07-13

[41] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/07/10/15943861869994464.html

[42] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/881584

[43] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/881372

[44] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/46872/2020-07-08

[45] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/881736?fbclid=IwAR1wIEmCyv2wOfaBGaLpmwQm_kz-4pJed-Iq6CGSBoV-azQrZF2QdMeM_4k

[46] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/province-1-police-bill-passed/

[47] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/07/13/159464393837784755.html

[48] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/08/110599/

[49] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/3-322-nepali-migrant-workers-repatriated-from-malaysia-and-philippines-so-far/?fbclid=IwAR2y4t3jYvXQ0-kT07N7jNc5KPQ7_qDpOSok_hVbEsJXWdcBXIvOBj3Ria0

[50] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/first-phase-of-repatriation-flights-ends-second-to-begin-from-wednesday/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2y4t3jYvXQ0-kT07N7jNc5KPQ7_qDpOSok_hVbEsJXWdcBXIvOBj3Ria0#Echobox=1594624887

[51] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/42-flights-to-be-operated-in-the-second-phase-of-repatriation-due-to-begin-from-wednesday/?fbclid=IwAR3OKzXQZgdDk1gtwoOG2zBD17N0elsrdKdN4QtNxSzBhYiw52ILTbbFs4c

[52] https://kathmandupost.com/sudurpaschim-province/2020/07/10/achham-children-deprived-of-education-with-no-means-to-attend-online-classes

[53] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/13/21-trafficked-nepali-women-coming-home-after-nine-months?fbclid=IwAR2S91hT282tzfx87fFmH6d30L3LhDcd2wcqiGVFXup976JrfTrRqUlEqR8

[54] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/12/women-rights-organisations-urge-human-rights-council-to-take-up-issue-of-women-s-equality-in-citizenship-rights?fbclid=IwAR1khr00DZMLqxmeuIfgWQ6ObI73QUpRn3ssuImQvRmI8MoVsSSlzEnugtM

[55] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/rautes-in-deep-crisis-amid-prolonged-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR1GBzDzMudqw1o6iBcEUzjGPB2QgKUdXjQEAmS5pdrtu2JFbVlNfQZPwqw

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