Coronavirus and the world

News Digest (June 4 – June 10, 2020)

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

Domestic Politics

The COVID-19 Crisis: National Assembly chairperson Ganesh Prasad Timilsina and the NCP lawmaker Narayan Kaji Shrestha announced that they will not take meeting and (domestic) travel stipend.[1]

On June 5, 2020, the government handed the responsibility of preparing ‘a detailed modality to ease the ongoing lockdown’ to the Ishwar Pokharel-led COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee.[2]

PM Oli said that only the provincial and local governments’ combined efforts will help tackle the pandemic spread in the country successfully.[3]

Police used force—water cannons and batons—against a peaceful protest gathered outside the prime minister’s office in Baluwatar on June 9, 2020. Ten of the protesters, protesting against the government’s negligence and incompetence to handle the COVID-19 crisis in the country, were taken into custody but were released on the same day.[4]

The Border Issue & Constitutional Amendment: After the NMKP’s Prem Suwal registered a constitutional amendment bill in the parliament on June 5, the only party to not have an amendment bill is the RPP; the ruling NCP, NC, RJP, Janamorcha, and NMKP all have their respective constitutional amendment bill registered.[5]

Samajwadi lawmaker Sarita Giri seems embroiled in controversies with her recent statements, one of which involves her displeasure with Nepal government’s issuance of the new political map; her party remains silent and has taken no action against her.[6]

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) expressed its support for the proposed constitutional amendment to revise the national emblem.[7]

The Samajwadi-RJP merger: Janata Samajwadi Party: A lack of understanding between the Samajwadi Party Nepal (SPN) and the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) leaders over leadership management is likely to stall the party unification process.[8]

Keeping aside the leaders’ hierarchy in the party, the new Janata Samajwadi Party—merger of the Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Janata Party—was registered in the Election Commission on June 7, 2020; Mahantha Thakur from RJP and Upendra Yadav from Samajwadi are the executive chairpersons of the new JSP.[9]

Nepali Congress: At the party’s Central Working Committee meeting, Nepali Congress concluded that the government has ‘completely failed in dealing with the COVID-19’.[10]

The parliamentary debate on the constitutional amendment kicked off on June 9. All political parties have now expressed their support in the favor of the amendment.[11]

Governance

Government extends the tax deadline by two weeks after pressure from various stakeholders: The government decided to administer an extension of the deadline to pay various taxes by two weeks. This comes after pressure from various business communities and other stakeholders including the main opposition party, Nepali Congress. Owing to their concerns, the Inland Revenue Department issued a notice on June 3, stating that the deadline has been extended till June 27.[12]

No deputy speaker in House of Representatives this season: It is unlikely that the House of Representatives will elect its deputy speaker during this season. The position has remained vacant for five months. The government is likely to end this season within the third week of June, after endorsing the constitution amendment bill proposed to revise the national emblem. The Nepal Communist Party is unwilling to let the main opposition Nepali Congress get the position even though it does not have any other viable option. NCP’s support is a must for anyone to get elected because the party commands a majority in the House. The constitution requires the speaker and deputy speaker of the House to represent different parties and different genders.[13]

Parliament sees the Constitution Amendment Bill for discussion: Three weeks after introducing the constitutional amendment bill in the Federal Parliament, the government presented it at the Lower House on June 9. The House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a proposal to consider a second amendment to the Constitution of Nepal. The HoR formally accepted the bill for the amendment process to update the country’s new political map. Minister for Law and Justice Shiva Maya Tumbahamhe presented the bill, which was followed by a discussion in the Lower House. Cross-party lawmakers welcomed the bill, saying the map has incorporated parts of land that rightly belongs to Nepal as per the Sugauli Treaty.[14]

New lockdown modality discussed in the Cabinet meeting: PM KP Sharma Oli summoned a meeting of the Council of Ministers in his official residence on June 9. At the meeting, among other issues, a new modality of the nationwide lockdown was deliberated upon. Recently, PM KP Sharma Oli organised a consultation meeting with experts and specialists to discuss the current Coronavirus crisis, response measures implemented, and the way forward. PM Oli took suggestions from sectoral experts including medicine, policies, economy, nursing, and social awareness in order to implement better measures to fight the pandemic.[15]

Violence used against peaceful protesters protesting government’s handling of the pandemic: A peaceful protest program in front of the PM’s residence turned violent as the police baton charged and used water cannons against the protesters. They organized the program demanding the government improve quarantine conditions and make wider use of the PCR tests. They were also asking that the government come up with alternatives to the blanket lockdown imposed on the entire country since March 24. Some protesters were taken into custody for breaking the lockdown.[16]  

After three committee meetings, the government is yet undecided on lifting lockdown: The government, despite holding a series of meetings, has failed to come up with any plans on how it plans to ease the lockdown. The high-level committee to prevent and control COVID-19 held a meeting on June 7, also attended by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, for four hours but ended without any conclusion. Officials familiar with developments say that various committees have presented different modalities to ease the restrictions and the government has yet to decide on one.[17]

Oli urges not to suspect corruption in COVID-19 response: PM Oli, in his address to the House of Representatives on June 10, spoke on a range of issues including the government’s efforts to contain the Coronavirus disease. Oli said that the constitution amendment bill will be approved on the basis of consensus among the political parties.[18]

The PM refused to give details about the spending of Rs 10 billion that his government claims to have spent in COVID-19 response.[19] He also urged leaders of opposition parties and other critics not to suspect if there would be any incident of corruption. A day earlier, opposition Nepali Congress demanded that the government furnish the details of the money spent as well as what all it has done to respond to the pandemic. To allegations that there have been irregularities, Oli said it was wrong to think about corruption while the government is struggling to manage adequate funds to combat the disease.

He also blamed the media for not seeing the positive work of the government, saying that a certain section of the media is doing agenda-based reporting to ‘tarnish’ the image of the government.

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Nepal’s ‘one-China policy’ for Hong Kong: Nepal has stood in solidarity with China’s new national security legislation for Hongkong, which has been criticised worldwide. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bharat Raj Paudyal, reiterated Nepal’s ‘one-China policy’ and clarified that Nepal considers Hong Kong as an ‘integral’ territory of China. Paudyal further justified the law as a country’s means to maintain ‘peace, law, and order’ in a state. He also stated that Nepal would not like to interfere in the internal affairs of China.[20]

China-India decide to resolve border issue bilaterally: On June 6, India and China decided to resolve their ‘month-long border stand-off in eastern Ladakh’ peacefully, whereas, Nepal had been requesting India to resolve the Kalapani dispute since November. India had earlier objected to resolve issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but analysts have now raised questions that if India can resolve the issue with Beijing, it can do the same with Kathmandu. Madhu Raman Acharya, a former ambassador and foreign secretary, claimed that China might be India’s priority at the moment. Furthermore, India seems to be avoiding dialogue with Nepal.[21]

Foreign Minister and EU Diplomats discuss wellbeing: On June 9, Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and Vice President of European Commission Josep Borrell held a telephonic conversation. The two discussed Nepal-EU cooperation and relations in light of the COVID-19. They shared sentiments on human loss and suffering and committed to fighting against the virus in solidarity. Borrell guaranteed Minister Gyawali of constant support from EU for socio-economic development under the framework of cooperation.[22]

India to rebuild schools in Nepal: India decided to rebuild 56 higher secondary schools in Nepal’s Gorkha, Nuwakot, Dhading, Dolakha, Kavrepalanchowk, Ramechhap, and Sindhupalchok districts. The Embassy of India and the Central Level Project Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Education, Nepal signed seven MoUs for the same. The schools will be built under the government of India’s post-earthquake initiative in Nepal with a grant of Rs 2.95 billion.[23]

Britain announces additional funds: The British government declared additional funds to support Nepal in fighting the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country. The funding is to be offered through the British Department for International Development (DFID). DFID earlier announced 8.2 million pounds which has now increased to 10 million pounds. The additional funds revealed for Nepal include the 100 million pounds that the DFID has provided to some developing countries to fight the virus.[24]

Security

National tally crosses 4,000 as Nepal confirms its 15th COVID-19 casualty: Nepal reported its 9th COVID-19 related death on June 3.[25] Later the same day, the swab sample of a 45-year-old man from Palpa, who died on June 2, tested positive for COVID-19 making it Nepal’s 10th COVID-19 related death.[26]

Similarly, on June 5, Nepal reported its 11th fatality due to COVID-19.[27] On June 6, Nepal reported the 12th casualty from Dolpa.[28] Later the same day, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed the 13th COVID-19 death in Nepal. The throat swab sample of a 55-year-old female from Dhangadi who died on June 5 tested positive for COVID-19 on June 6.[29]

Nepal reported its 14th COVID-19 death on June 8 in Syangja.[30] On June 9, Nepal reported its 15th COVID-19 related death in Bharatpur.[31]

The total COVID-19 cases in Nepal reached 4085. According to the Health Ministry, the virus has been detected in people from 72 districts of Nepal. So far, 106,331 PCR tests and 166,158 RDT have been carried out across the country.[32]

Updated testing guidelines defy internationally accepted protocols: The Epidemiology and Disease Control Department issued an update on testing guidelines that mandates only providing PCR tests for symptomatic cases as defined by a fever and/or symptoms of advanced respiratory infection. The guidance also recommends not re-testing any confirmed cases that do not display symptoms after 14 days, whereas the internationally accepted protocol requires two negative PCR tests to rule out the virus.[33]

Minister Aryal says border issues to be resolved through diplomatic efforts: While Nepal’s updated political and administrative map has already been published, the Minister for Land Management, Cooperatives, and Poverty Alleviation Padma Kumari Aryal said that the disputed territories included in the map will be reclaimed through diplomatic efforts with India. She also said that a joint task force comprising the technical workforce of both countries was working to resolve border issues.[34]

Provincial and Local Governments

Shortage of beds: Seti Provincial Hospital at Sudurpashchim Pradesh is facing a shortage of beds to admit the Coronavirus patients and the Coronavirus patients are increasing by the day. The hospital has a 24-bed isolation ward, but it is filled to the capacity. The federal government decided to place Coronavirus patients at Seti Provincial Hospital, but due to lack of beds, doctors are sending the patients back to their homes to self-quarantine or to isolate at local units.[35]

Purchase of PRC machine: On June 8, the Crisis Management Directive Committee of Province 2 decided to purchase four additional PCR machines to expand Coronavirus tests in the province. The Committee will set up four machines at Rajbiraj, Janakpur, Gaur, and Birgunj. The committee also decided to purchase additional 50 thousand VTM kits.[36]

Gandaki Pradesh bought a new RT-PCR machine for Coronavirus test and the machine has come under operation.[37] According to the Ministry of Social Development, Gandaki Pradesh has expended Rs 14 million for the prevention and control of Coronavirus so far and is allocating another Rs 15 million for the Coronavirus response.[38]

Two locals from Kapilvastu filed a writ petition against the Province 5 Office of the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers Province 5, District Administration Offices in Kapilvastu, and Rupandehi including nine offices government for mismanagement of quarantine areas.[39]

Province assembly of Province 2 postponed their assembly meeting for one week after five working members of the assembly were found to be Coronavirus positive.[40]

Policies and Programs: On June 7, Gandaki Pradesh presented their policy and program for the upcoming fiscal year focusing on Coronavirus control and its effect.[41] Similarly, on June 5, the government of Province 1 presented its policy and program for the upcoming fiscal year focusing on agriculture modernization. The government will provide up to Rs 500,000 interest-free loan to the farmers.[42]

Development Issues: The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development of Bagmati Pradesh is preparing to construct Pushpalal Ring Road. The ring road will connect 13 district of the province. Bagmati Province has mentioned the construction of the ring road plan in the upcoming fiscal year 2077/78 BS.[43]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Rukum Massacre: A nine-membered parliamentary committee has been formed to investigate the killings of six Dalit youths in Rukum (west). Members are from all the parties of parliament, and among them, five members are from Dalit community. They will have to submit a report to the parliament within 30 days.[44]

Pandemic impacts on low income group: An employee of Bayalpata Hospital, Achham, Siddharth Auji, self-immolated because of loss of his job. The hospital had fired 33 employees including him giving the reason as financial crisis. According to his colleague, they got the pink slip two months ago. Auji, who was a toilet cleaner at the hospital, was depressed due to the loss of his livelihood option.[45]

Malnutrition among children during COVID-19 crisis: Nutrition rehabilitation center at Dadeldhura stopped their services as it was converted into an isolation ward for COVID-19 patients. According to the Department of Health Services, in a month, 2000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition used to get treatment there. But due to the pandemic, several nutrition rehabilitation centers, total of 22 were converted into isolation wards or doctors quarters.[46]

Criticism of government decision to repatriate migrant workers:  Migrant rights activists have criticized the government’s decision to charge repatriation fees to migrant workers stranded in destination countries amidst the pandemic. The activist have also filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court.[47] As a response to the petition, the Supreme Court asked the government to bring rescued migrant workers for free, but it refused to issue an interim order.[48]

Repatriation of workers from Myanmar and UAE: 195 Nepali migrant workers stuck in the United Arab Emirates and Myanmar were repatriated on June 5 by two international flights. Those repatriated workers were kept in the holding centers made by Nepal Army for health checkups before sending them home.[49] Meanwhile, due to dispute between COVID-19 Crisis Management Center, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, and Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security on whether to repatriate them from Nepal Airlines or any other private or international airlines, the repatriation process is now on hold.[50]

Apex Court orders government to take care of pregnant women: The Supreme Court issued an interim order to the government to provide regular checkups and vaccination to the pregnant women and newborns. Earlier, a group of lawyers filed a writ petition at the court demanding to ensure reproductive rights of women. They also raised other issues such as rising domestic violence amid pandemic and non-representation of women in the High Level Coordination Committee to combat COVID-19.[51]


[1] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/04/365603/

[2] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/govt-directs-pokharel-led-committee-to-prepare-a-detailed-modality-to-relax-lockdown-measures/

[3] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44783/2020-06-05

[4] https://kathmandupost.com/visual-stories/2020/06/09/protest-at-baluwatar-against-government-s-handling-of-the-pandemic

[5] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44782/2020-06-05

[6] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44968/2020-06-09

[7] https://www.setopati.com/politics/208588

[8] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/04/365580/

[9] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44898/2020-06-08

[10] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/06/08/nepali-congress-concludes-oli-government-has-failed-to-deal-with-COVID-19-crisis

[11] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/45037/2020-06-09

[12] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/under-pressure-govt-extends-tax-deadline-by-two-weeks.html

[13] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/house-of-representatives-unlikely-to-get-deputy-speaker-this-session.html

[14] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/09/constitution-amendment-bill-is-presented-in-parliament-for-discussion

[15] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/cabinet-meeting-summoned-to-discuss-new-lockdown-modalities/

[16] https://kathmandupost.com/visual-stories/2020/06/09/protest-at-baluwatar-against-government-s-handling-of-the-pandemic

[17] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/10/even-with-three-committees-and-marathon-meetings-government-undecided-on-lifting-lockdown

[18] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/oli-urges-opponents-not-to-suspect-corruption-in-COVID-19-response.html

[19] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/10/oli-refuses-to-respond-to-demand-that-government-furnish-details-of-rs10-billion-it-has-spent-to-fight-COVID-19

[20] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/03/101725/

[21] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/08/as-india-china-talk-to-resolve-border-stand-off-analysts-question-when-delhi-will-speak-to-nepal

[22] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/10/103249/

[23] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/08/102854/

[24] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/07/102527/

[25] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/06/03/one-more-death-from-COVID-19-pushes-nepal-s-toll-to-nine-alongside-201-new-infections

[26] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/06/04/one-more-death-and-334-new-cases-highest-in-a-single-day-push-nepal-s-COVID-19-tally-to-2-634

[27] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/video-nepals-COVID-19-tally-approaches-3000-11-deaths-reported/

[28] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/nepal-reports-12th-COVID-19-death/

[29] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/health-ministry-confirms-13th-COVID-19-fatality-in-nepal/

[30] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/06/08/nepal-confirms-14th-COVID-19-death-and-314-new-cases-national-tally-reaches-3-672

[31] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepals-Coronavirus-fatality-toll-climbs-to-15-on-tuesday/

[32] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/09/nepal-confirms-15th-COVID-19-death-as-national-tally-crosses-4-000

[33] https://www.nepalitimes.com/latest/trumpism-in-nepals-COVID-19-response/

[34] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/08/102894/

[35] https://kathmandupost.com/sudurpaschim-province/2020/06/04/sudurpaschim-sees-steady-rise-in-Coronavirus-cases-but-hospitals-do-not-have-enough-beds

[36] https://www.setopati.com/politics/208534

[37] https://www.setopati.com/social/208116

[38] https://www.setopati.com/social/208116

[39] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/06/04/159127153978026118.html

[40] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/06/04/159126596343559509.html

[41] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44726/2020-06-04

[42] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-1/2020/06/05/15913304377996409.html?author=1

[43] https://www.setopati.com/politics/208191

[44] https://kathmandupost.com/karnali-province/2020/06/08/parliament-forms-nine-member-committee-to-investigate-soti-killings

[45] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-7/2020/06/08/159159449181585805.html

[46] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/09/malnourished-children-at-risk-as-nutrition-centres-are-requisitioned-for-COVID-19-care

[47] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/04/migrant-rights-groups-slam-government-plan-to-charge-migrant-workers-for-their-repatriation

[48] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/04/migrant-rights-groups-slam-government-plan-to-charge-migrant-workers-for-their-repatriation

[49] https://risingnepaldaily.com/main-news/195-nepalis-rescued-from-uae-myanmar

[50] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/06/09/159166553465181610.html

[51] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/10/supreme-court-orders-government-to-take-special-care-of-pregnant-women

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