People and Coronavirus

News Digest (July 23 – July 29, 2020)

CESIF Nepal Democracy & Governance, Economy & Development, Federalism, 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 Nepal group of the NCP decided to continue alliance with Dahal, in the favor of party’s system, process, and discipline and against co-chair and PM Oli.[1]  

There has been a growing distance of Dahal-Nepal faction with Oli, again; Dahal claimed that Oli got NCP-UML registered in the Election Commission amid the standing committee meeting. On the other hand, Nepal warned that pride will only cause Oli’s downfall, not the party’s.[2]

NCP’s secretariat member and Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel urged all to start prepping up for the convention, not overlooking the central committee-allocated date for it.[3]

The agenda of Oli’s resignation weakened after some leaders backed off from their initial position fearing a possible party split. However, the Nepal-Dahal group decided to move forward with the standing committee meeting and demand Oli’s resignation from one of the two posts through the meeting.[4]

After PM and the NCP-co chair Oli ‘unilaterally’ cancelled the standing committee meeting scheduled for July 28, the other co-chair Dahal proceeded with the meeting, on his faction’s demand. Running out of options, Oli met NCP deputy chair Bamdev Gautam at the latter’s residence on 28 July 2019, although the meeting was claimed to be a family dinner. On the same day, Gautam had proposed a six-point deal in a bid to avoid party split, a move which was speculated to have brough Gautam under Oli’s fold.[5]

Nepali Congress (NC): Nepali Congress criticized the government for reducing coronavirus tests.[6] NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba met Prime Minister Oli and urged him to roll out ‘special strategy’ for the COVID-19 control.[7]

Prime minister and NCP chair Oli met NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba to discuss constitutional council appointments.[8] With intensified negotiations, the two leaders are set to share spoils in the appointment of some 40 positions of 13 constitutional commissions.[9]

With Deuba making public statements criticizing the government, while also meeting PM Oli to share spoils, NC has demonstrated its dual-policy regarding the government.[10]

The Paudel Group of Nepali Congress accused that Deuba’s exercise for settlement in constitutional council appointment is a part of his game to try and influence the upcoming general convention.[11] 

China’s Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi met NC senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel on 28 July 2019. They were reported to discuss the relationship between Nepali Congress and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).[12]

Three NC leaders including Govinda Raja Joshi were expelled from the party for five years. They were expelled on charge of disciplinary violation, for pitting against the party’s nomination, at the time of election.[13]

Others: The Janata Samajbadi Party leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai proposed to bid goodbye to PM oli and impeach the chief justice, who has surfaced as a ‘defender of crime’ after his controversial decision regarding the ex-DIG who had been serving jail time in charge of his wife’s murder.[14]

Lawmakers recommended the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) not to register baseless and unsubstantiated complaints.[15]  

Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP)’s Sunil Bahadur Thapa, along with his group, entered Nepali Congress to fight against the communists.[16]

Lila Devi Sitaula of the erstwhile Samajwadi Party was appointed lawmaker filling Sarita Giri’s spot in the parliament.[17]

Emphasizing that elections are won by principles and values, not by money, the Chief Election Commissioner expressed his commitment to make the existing election system frugal and effective.[18]

Governance

SC dissatisfied with its verdicts being questioned: The Supreme Court of Nepal has issued a press statement on July 27, saying its attention has been drawn to the recent media reports about its recent verdicts. The court has not mentioned any particular cases but has said that it is noticing the flak that the media reports are showing. The SC said that there are established principles on which the verdicts are grounded upon.[19]

Government may impose lockdown if coronavirus infections continue to spike: A week into lifting the lockdown, the government may impose lockdown if the infections continue to spike. Currently, the lockdown is only imposed in districts along the Nepal-India border. Although public health experts had called for the need to increase the test numbers after the lockdown was lifted, according to Ministry of Health and Population data, only 15,322 tests were performed in four days after the lockdown was lifted, with an average of about 4,000 tests a day.[20]

Government offices neglecting RTI: In a meeting with the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee, Chief Commissioner of the National Information Commission Mahendra Bahadur Gurung said that 29 offices were being run without assigning any staffer as information officer. The commission had carried out a study at 120 offices. So far, it has penalised 24 officials for denying information to the public. Ninety offices out of 120 failed to disclose their progress reports in every three months despite the legal provision. The organisations have been directed to designate information officers and compulsorily disclose information within 15 days.[21]

Bagmati, federal govt at odds over controlling Kathmandu Police: As Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa is making efforts to finalise the structure of the country’s National Police Force as per the new federal model, the ministry and the Bagmati federal government are seen at odds over controlling the police organisation in the Kathmandu valley. Both the federal and provincial government want the force to be under them causing delay to the discussion. Minister Thapa met internal affairs and law ministers of all seven provinces on Sunday to finalise the issue, however, the issue has not been solved.[22]

Supreme Court orders review of the decision by a bench comprising chief justice on Ranjan Koirala case: The Supreme Court has ordered to review the decision passed by the bench of Chief Justice, Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Tej Bahadur KC. The verdict to cut short the punishment by 11 years of former DIG of the Armed Force, Ranjan Koirala for allegedly murdering his wife. Koirala was handed down a life term by the Kathmandu District Court in January 2012, and the decision was upheld by the then Patan Appellate Court.[23]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Indians attacked APF personnel at the border: On July 24, residents of bordering Indian villages attacked the Armed Police Force (APF) after the Force refused to let Indians cross the border which has been sealed due to Coronavirus. The incident occurred at the Sarmujawa Border Out Post in Rautahat where approximately 200 Indians belonging to Koraiya and Kharsawa villages attacked the police. The Indians claimed that the land on the Nepali side belonged to them, and they should be allowed entry. The APF had to fire a shot when a woman attacked a police officer with a sickle. Nonetheless, the situation was soon brought under control.[24]

China-Nepal border closes again: Following floods and landslides in the area, Tatopani border has been closed again. Imports worth Rs 60 billion have been stuck at the border, including health supplies and agricultural products.[25]

Swiss embassy offered 20,000 PCR kits: On July 24, Elisabeth von Capeller, the Swiss ambassador to Nepal, handed over 20,000 PCR kits to Nepali Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dahal. Elisabeth claimed the PCR kits were reasonably priced and of good quality. The embassy further added that the kits were from the first batch of 40,000 PCR kits that the embassy will provide to meet testing demands of the country.[26]

Delay in MCC ratification concerns US ambassador: Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwor Pokhrel and US ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry met on July 26 to receive an update about MCC. The ratification deadline was two months ago but has still not been tabled for discussion. Therefore, Ambassador Berry sought justification for the delay and reiterated the importance of MCC as most countries are seeking this assistance. However, Minister Pokhrel assured Berry that there was an ongoing discussion and the parliament would ratify the terms soon.[27]

China pledges support to neighbours: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has promised that China will prioritize its neighbouring nations while extending provision to fight the pandemic in a video conference with representatives from Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan. Wang stated that the countries must refrain from politicizing the virus and proposed four strategies for regional cooperation in the after-pandemic period. Subsequently, Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali expressed gratitude to China and reiterated the close China-Nepal relations.[28]

Security

Covid-19 national tally reaches 19,063 with 49 deaths: A 60-year-old male from Janakpur died while undergoing treatment on July 21 after showing symptoms like respiratory issues, high fever, and cough. He tested positive for the virus and was placed in ventilator support. [29] A 49-year-old Chinese national, a resident of Pokhara, died on July 22 while undergoing treatment. These were the 41st and the 42nd reported Covid-19 related death in Nepal. [30]

In Birgunj three people died from COVID-19 this week. A 70-year-old man died on July 23 while undergoing treatment at the isolation center. Swabs collected after his death came back positive for the virus.[31] An 85-year-old woman died on July 24 while undergoing treatment. She had been diagnosed with pneumonia when she was brought to the hospital and admitted on July 24 after testing positive.[32] A 17-year-old girl died on July 25. She had visited the hospital after showing symptoms such as shivering, diarrhoea, and breathing difficulties. Her throat swabs were collected on July 23 and came back positive on July 24.[33] A 65-year-old Indian national died on July 26 while undergoing treatment.[34] These were the 43rd, 44th, 45th and 46th reported COVID-19 related death respectively in Nepal.

A 36-year-old man Dhanusha died while being taken to a hospital in Dharan on July 26. A 60-year-old male from Bara died on July 27 while undergoing treatment in Kathmandu. A 65-year-old male from Bajhang died from Covid-19 on July 24 and his swab test results came back positive on July 28.[35] These are the 47th, 48th and the 49th reported Coronavirus related death in Nepal.

According to the Health Ministry, as of July 29, as many as 352,307 PCR tests have been performed in the country and 13,875 individuals have made successful recoveries. Districts of Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Manang and Mustang have no active cases.

Threats of community transmission in the valley as number of cases reach 477: The Health Ministry said on July 28 that an alarming 53 new Covid-19 cases have been reported in Kathmandu valley in a single day. Public health experts have repeatedly warned of community transmission if safety protocols are not enforced strictly. They have also said that the valley could quickly become a hotspot due to its dense population and unregulated movement of people. With the new cases, the number of positive cases in Kathmandu Valley has now reached 477.[36]

Health Ministry warns outbreak of infections, calls for tightening of safety protocols: The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the Ministry of Health and Population has cautioned that the country may see multiple outbreaks in various parts if safety measures are ignored and poorly enforced. This warning comes in light of infections that suggest community transmission in districts neighboring the Indian border and after three deaths were reported in Parsa, Sunsari, and Saptari in the past week. The health ministry and concerned authorities have been requested to regulate people’s movement, especially at land crossings with India.[37]

Government could re-impose lockdown due to upward trend in infections: Health experts say that the risk of the spread of the virus in the country is at an alarming high. With the lockdown lifted, infections have begun to surge in various parts of Nepal and despite warnings from public health experts about cases suggesting community transmission, the number of tests conducted have not increased. The health ministry has insisted that “various other factors are involved” and that increasing testing is not the only solution. However, the resurgence of cases suggests that the government could once again impose a nationwide lockdown.[38]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Acid attack in the capital: Two men were arrested for attacking a 22-year-old woman with acid in Kathmandu on July 23. The offenders were arrested few hours from Dallu after the incident took place. The victim sustained burn injuries on her face and was admitted to Kirtipur Hospital. The health condition of the victim is stable.[39]

NHRC urged to end youth hunger strikes to save lives: NHRC called for attention of the government for the lives of two youths who have been in hunger-strike for last nine days. Enough is Enough, a youth-led campaign, endorsed a 12-point agreement to handle the COVID-19 crisis effectively which includes increasing the scale of PCR tests and transparency in crisis management expenditure among others on July 9. The Youths resumed their hunger-strike on July 18, as the government is lagging behind in implementing their agreement.[40]

Escalating rate of divorce and rape cases: Udaypur witnessed dramatic escalation in number of divorce cases followed by rape cases in the last fiscal year. According to District Court’s registrar, 218 divorce cases were registered in the last fiscal. Lack of awareness and social customs among others are responsible for the increasing rate.[41]

Less impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers than anticipated: The recent assessment submits that number of migrant workers that faced the repercussion of COVID-19 was less than anticipated. The embassies located in the various destinations countries have claimed that the number of affected workers would not substantially rise. The officials state that the impact got diminished due to the efficacious actions taken by the destination countries to prevent economic downfall.[42]

Challenges in implementing repatriation guidelines: The guidelines for repatriation of the migrant workers seem to further delay their homecoming. The migrant workers expressed their discontent towards the guideline, as many workers remain to be excluded from the list of workers being repatriated. Despite the promising provisions in the guideline, there are lapses in the efficiency and execution thereof. The major obstacle is centered on the verification of the eligibility of the workers to come home on government fund. [43]

Provincial and Local Governments

An expenditure of budget in the Last FY: Compared to the other six provinces, the government of Karnali Pradesh spent the lowest budget in the last fiscal year 2076/77. Nearly half of the budget remains to be spent and as such has been frozen. It has failed its target in development, health, education, employment, drinking water, and other sectors. For example, the Office of the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers were unable to spend even 20% of its budget.[44]

According to the Provincial Financial Controller Office, Province 2 spent 46.95% of its budget in the last FY. However, the government spent only 27% till the end of Jestha, and the remaining 19% was spent at the end of the FY in one month of Ashar. Besides, the government had allocated the highest amount of budget for Dhanusha district, but the district did not spend the budget compared to other districts.[45]

According to the Provincial Financial Controller Office, Gandaki Pradesh spent 63.71% of its budget in the last FY. Out of the total budget, 52.80% has been spent on recurrent budget and 70.46% in the capital budget. [46]

The government of Province 1 spent around 70% of its budget in the last FY. Among the expenditure, only 45% budget was spent during 11 months remaining whereas the 26% in one month in Ashar.[47]

Even after the implementation of the budget for the current FY has started, 201 local governments have failed to present their budgetas of now.[48]

Infrastructure Development: The government of Bagmati Pradesh constructed 32 bridges in the past two FY. Thus far, the government spent NPR736.74 million in the bridge construction. Similarly, the government constructed 1306 km road in total.[49]

Lockdown re-imposed: Rajbiraj Municipality of Saptari re-imposed lockdown entirely from July 22, as the Chief Medical Officer suspected that the COVID-19 has spread in communities.[50] Similarly, after a huge increase of Coronavirus cases and deaths in Birgunj, a meeting among the security forces, administrations, and District Crisis Management decided to prohibit the Birgunj Metropolitan City area on July 24. The security forces urged people to go outside only if it is urgent.[51] Similarly, after COVID-19 infection was found in police constable, Inaruwa Municipality of Sunsari also re-imposed lockdown from July 26.[52]


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47834/2020-07-24

[2] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47913/2020-07-25

[3] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48080/2020-07-27

[4] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48087/2020-07-28

[5] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/07/29/high-drama-in-ruling-party-as-factions-led-by-oli-and-dahal-give-conflicting-statements-on-standing-committee-meeting

[6] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/884330

[7] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/07/23/159549048044148502.html

[8] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47915/2020-07-25

[9] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/26/with-over-three-dozen-positions-to-fill-oli-deuba-want-to-share-spoils

[10] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47835/2020-07-24

[11] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/884746

[12] http://annapurnapost.com/news/162284

[13] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/884583

[14] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/24/388000/

[15] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48019/2020-07-27

[16] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/07/27/389524/

[17] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/lila-devi-sitaula-replaces-sarita-giri-in-parliament/

[18] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/elections-are-won-by-principles-not-money-cec/

[19] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/sc-dissatisfied-with-its-verdicts-being-questioned/

[20] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/27/government-may-reimpose-lockdown-if-coronavirus-infections-continue-to-spike

[21] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/govt-offices-neglecting-rti/

[22] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/bagmati-federal-govt-at-odds-over-controlling-kathmandu-police.html

[23] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/27/supreme-court-orders-review-of-the-decision-by-a-bench-comprising-chief-justice-on-ranjan-koirala-case

[24] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/25/114838/

[25] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/24/114677/

[26] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/24/114620/

[27] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/26/115136/

[28] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/27/115412/

[29] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-logs-two-more-covid-19-fatalities-today-death-toll-reaches-42/

[30] https://risingnepaldaily.com/mustread/a-chinese-national-dies-of-covid-19-in-kathmandu                                                                                                                                                            

[31] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nepal-covid-19-death-toll-reaches-43/

[32] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-logs-44th-coronavirus-related-death-today/

[33] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/25/one-more-covid-19-related-death-and-109-new-cases-take-nepal-s-tally-to-18-483

[34] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/27/nepal-reports-3-more-covid-19-deaths-and-139-new-cases

[35] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/28/nepal-reports-one-more-covid-19-death-and-311-new-cases

[36] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/29/public-health-experts-warn-of-community-spread-of-virus-as-valley-reports-53-new-cases

[37] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/26/health-ministry-warns-explosion-of-covid-19-cases-without-safety-measures

[38] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/07/27/government-may-reimpose-lockdown-if-coronavirus-infections-continue-to-spike

[39] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/two-arrested-for-throwing-acid-on-22-year-old-woman-in-capital/?fbclid=IwAR0PcokLfeNpDpyk87CMq4jZ0oxF1WbZ7s1MCliCNFtP4WkOg6298B4iu3Q

[40] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/26/national-human-rights-commission-urges-government-to-save-the-lives-of-youths-staging-hunger-strike?fbclid=IwAR2flu8LajhwJnsMV5TeXl2j_FfHb4ZUy-z2qwN3JKfkMNw6Jq6v0AhW7KU

[41] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/divorce-rape-cases-on-the-rise-in-udaypur/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR25cAxNENNu_c2H7Jpe847I_k1wTeRKUExQGl_J_h29rxeE0YG_8h11JJE#Echobox=1595224104

[42] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/covid-19-crisis-wouldnt-hit-nepali-migrant-workers-as-hard-as-authorities-feared.html?fbclid=IwAR0oW8AC54TvuvcrBkCtzwC8_2waPVtiVta43tuPweDDXvY7Sd0iL20I1qY

[43] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/24/implementation-of-guidelines-to-repatriate-stranded-workers-fraught-with-challenges?fbclid=IwAR1cbwZPW_iLI6bjMeWnNCPtPfF6NnRWt8gqHq5jtyyRXlpJKLbxJNan6rg

[44] https://www.karobardaily.com/news/economy/34321

[45] https://www.karobardaily.com/news/economy/34274

[46] https://www.karobardaily.com/news/economy/34273

[47]  https://www.karobardaily.com/news/economy/34178

[48] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/07/884927

[49] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/47763/2020-07-22

[50] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-2/2020/07/22/159541040408038876.html

[51] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-2/2020/07/24/159559348629381611.html

[52] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/07/26/15957645353906908.html

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