Life struggles

News Digest (May 28 – June 3, 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

National Republic Day: On the occasion of National Republic Day, PM Oli stated that nobody can return from Republicanism and that the country is gradually moving towards maturity.[1]

However, in an interview on May 28, 2020, NCP’s Subhash Nembang admitted that Nepali people have not truly felt Nepal as a Republic.[2]

Constitutional amendment: Constitutional amendment to revise Nepal’s map in the emblem seemed to get politicized when the government withdrew the agenda from parliamentary discussion and put the blame on Nepali Congress, which in turn accused Oli for a political mal-intention.[3][4] The amendment bill to update emblem in the constitution was tabled in the federal parliament on May 31, 2020.[5]

Nepali Congress decided to vote in the favor of the government-registered constitutional amendment. The NC also instructed the parliament to re-register the old constitutional amendment proposal led by Sher Bahadur Deuba.[6]

The government has sought a shortcut ‘to get constitution amendment bill passed’. The Minister of Law and Justice stated that she requested the Speaker to expedite the process ‘to ensure that the amendment bill is endorsed at the earliest’.[7]

The Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) registered its private bill seeking to amend the constitution to address the demands of the Madhesis, Janajatis, and other marginalized groups, which had been stalled earlier.[8]

Federal Budget of the fiscal year 2077/78 BS: While NCP’s Madhav Nepal and Pushpa Kamal Dahal praised the government’s budget allocation for its socialism-oriented and need-appropriate nature, Dr Baburam Bhattarai criticized it for failing to address the main problem—COVID-19 pandemic.[9]

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) leader Rajendra Mahato stated that the new budget is a continuity of an imperialist planning.[10] On the same account, Nepali Congress too expressed that the budget overlooks the country’s current situation.[11]

Sajha Party, which has advocated to end the constituency development fund and use it for coronavirus-related programs, was ‘concerned over the government’s plan to give continuity’ to it.[12]

There was dissatisfaction among even the NCP’s leaders as leaders Surendra Pandey, Ghanashyam Bhusal, and Narayan Kaji Shrestha expressed concerns over the budget. Their criticisms seem to revolve around the budget’s lack of enough focus on COVID-19, agriculture, and the constituency development fund.[13]

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC): NCP secretariat meeting decided to suspend all the activities related to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) until the compact is endorsed by the parliament.[14] 

Referring to the earlier remarks about the construction of transmission lines, irrespective of the American grant, NC lawmaker Dr Minendra Rijal questioned how Nepal will manage the fund if parliament does not endorse the MCC compact.[15]

The Rukum incident: To investigate the Rukum murder case, Nepali Congress recommended the formation of a committee led by a Dalit MP.[16]

Military deployment over the COVID-19 fear: On June 1, 2020, PM Oli met President Bidya Devi Bhandari to discuss military deployment to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.[17] 

Governance

Finance Minister unveils a budget of Rs 1,474.64 Billion for the fiscal Year 2077/78: Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada presented a budget of Rs 1,474.64 billion in the joint session of the House of Representatives and National Assembly on May 28, 2020. The budget has majorly focused on reviving the economy following the effects of COVID-19. The government has prioritized the health sector and raised the budget for the Health Ministry to Rs 90.69 billion for the fiscal year 2077/78. Compared to the previous fiscal year, the budget size is reduced by 3.8% while the economic growth in the upcoming fiscal has been projected at 7%.[18]

Budget announces substantial tax exemptions for micro and small industries:  Minister Khatiwada announced tax exemption for micro and small enterprises that are hit the hardest by COVID-19. Khatiwada announced that the enterprises would be eligible for income tax exemptions from 25 to 75%. Enterprises with fixed assets up to Rs 100 million are considered micro, cottage, and small industries, according to the Industrial Enterprise Act. Small entrepreneurs have welcomed the tax exemptions.[19]

Government planning ‘Labour Bank’ to link employers and workers: The government is preparing to establish a real time database to connect job seekers with prospective employers. This is to help construct the country’s labour force profile. ‘Labour Bank’ will also be linked to the Employment Management Information System (EMIS). EMIS is currently being used by employment coordinators at all local governments to maintain a database of unemployed people for employment opportunities under the Prime Minister Employment Program.[20]

Won’t release MCC grant unless Parliament approves, clarifies minister: Minister Khatiwada clarified that the government will release the funds received under the controversial Millenium Challenge Corporation, a deal signed with the United States government, only when the Federal Parliament endorses the deal. The 2017 deal still awaits its implementation as the Parliament has not endorsed it, apparently owing to differences within the ruling party.[21]

Attorney General not to ‘spoil’ Rukum murder case: Attorney General Agni Kharel says there will not be any weakness in prosecuting people behind the alleged murder of six Dalit men in Rukum West after the investigation. Speaking in a meeting of the Law, Justice, and Human Rights Committee in the House of Representatives on June 2, Kharel asked everyone to trust the process and that the evidence will not be tampered with. He also iterated that there would not be any shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution.[22]

Tax payment deadline: The government is unlikely to extend the deadline for paying various taxes for the months of April and May after it ends on June 7. Earlier the government extended the deadline twice. The Inland Revenue Department recently issued a public notice reminding the deadline is at the door.[23] However, on June 3, the deadline was extended till June 21.

High-Level Panel to decide on easing Lockdown by June 5: A High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 formed under Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Ishwar Pokharel will decide whether or not to ease the lockdown by June 5. Pokharel held discussions with industrialists, construction entrepreneurs, bankers, and sector experts to consult about the modality of lockdown in the coming days. It is known that the high-level committee will consult doctors before taking a call on the lockdown modality to stem the threat of COVID-19.[24]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

India replies to the diplomatic note: On May 29, India replied to Nepal’s diplomatic note and called to settle the border issue through diplomatic dialogue. India didn’t fail to mention the friendly relation both the countries have shared till now. Anurag Srivastava, the spokesperson for Indian External Affairs, said, “India is open to engaging with all its neighbours on the basis of mutual sensitivity and mutual respect, in an environment of trust and confidence. This is a continuous process and it requires constructive and positive efforts.” These statements come after Nepal released its new political map including the disputed Kalapani region which India refused to accept.[25]

Indian nationals require a work permit: The government has decided to make work permit mandatory for all foreign nationals working in Nepal, including Indian citizens. This move may hinder the remittances India had been receiving from its nationals working in Nepal. The figure was approximately Rs 400 billion.[26]

Security

Nepal reports it fifth and sixth COVID-19 deaths: Nepal reported death of a 56-year-old man from Bungmati in Lalitpur as the country’s fifth Covid-19 death on May 28. The man was admitted to KIST hospital on May 24 and tested positive for the virus the following day.[27] On May 28 itself, the country reported the death of a 35-year-old man from Arghakhanchi as the country’s sixth COVID-19 death. The man was a migrant worker from India who had died on May 23 and tested positive for the virus on May 28.

Environmentalists say that budget backtracks on promises and fails to address environmental concerns: Environmentalists have raised concerns over the Minister Khatiwada’s budget speech for the fiscal year 2077/78 on May 28. According to them, not only has the government failed to make transformative changes that prioritize the environment sector, it has also backtracked on earlier commitments. People are concerned about government’s decision to impose massive taxes on electric vehicles as it will discourage potential buyers on purchasing green vehicles.[28]

Nepal’s COVID-19 death toll reaches eight and tally reaches 2,099: Nepal reported its seventh and eighth COVID-19 related deaths on May 31.[29] According to the Health Ministry, a 35-year-old man from Dullu Municipality who died in a quarantine facility in Dailekh on May 30 tested positive for the virus.[30] Similarly, a two-year-old girl from Bajura who died early morning on May 31 also tested positive.[31] Nepal reported 288 new Covid-19 cases on June 2, the highest in a single day, taking the national tally to 2,099.[32] The Health Ministry confirmed that the virus has been reported in 61 districts so far with Kapilvastu having reported 337 cases, the highest number of cases for a district.

Provincial and Local Governments

Provincial policies and programs: On May 31 and June 1, Gandaki Pradesh and Sudurpaschim Pradesh presented their policies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year focusing on Coronavirus control and its effect and the development and infrastructure sectors respectively.[33] [34] Members of Parliament complained that there is no concrete plan to prevent and control the COVID-19 pandemic. MPs also claimed that maximum of the old plans have prioritized policy and programs.[35]

Karnali Pradesh barred two assembly members: Secretariat of the provincial assembly of Karnali Pradesh barred two assembly members from attending the meeting as they breached the COVID-19 code of conduct. The secretariat had made a rule or Coronavirus control that the assembly members will not visit anywhere during the budget session, but the two assembly members visited places with high risk of Coronavirus. The secretariat also urged the two assembly members to stay at home quarantine for a week and get themselves tested and then attend the meeting.[36]

Coronavirus Response: The government has decided to buy five large capacity Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machines as the available 20 PCR machines have not been enough to carry out tests throughout the country. The Ministry of Health and Population recommended to buy the machines. The RT-PCR machine can test 1,500 people per day.[37]

Province 2 Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut accused the federal government of lack of coordination to control and prevent the Coronavirus. Raut also claimed that the ministers of the federal government did not contact them to know the situation in the province.[38] 

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Maternal mortality amid lockdown: Maternal mortality increased by 200% amid the lockdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. In the last two months, 24 women have lost their lives due to birth complications, compared to 80 women in the last year. The lockdown has created limitations on reproductive health care and services. The institutional delivery rate has also declined.[39]

Rukum incident: The body of the sixth missing person of Rukum incident was also found in the Bheri River. According to a local, the body was badly beaten before being thrown into the river.[40] Meanwhile, the United Nation and Amnesty international in Nepal have urged abrupt and effective investigation of the deaths.[41] Similarly, Nepali Congress demanded a parliamentary committee lead by a Dalit member of parliament to investigate the case.[42]

Rising dengue cases: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of dengue, a vector borne disease, has been rising. According to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, 65 cases of dengue have been reported in 23 districts since January. However, there is a lack of testing kits throughout the country.[43]

Gender responsive budget: House of Representatives’ Women and Social Development Committee directed the federal and provincial governments to bring a gender-responsive budget for the fiscal year 2077-78, and conduct gender audits in the implementation process.[44] The government has increased the budget for the women, children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. However, old programs have been given continuity in the upcoming fiscal year. According to the rights activists, the government didn’t provide much concern to the impact of the pandemic on various groups as the programs remained the same.[45]

Nepali migrant workers waiting for entrance at Karnali border: Nepali migrant workers coming from India have been stranded at the border as the provincial government made the rapid diagnostic test mandatory before going home. Thousands of Nepali have been living there without food and water waiting for their turn to get tested.[46]

Huge influx of returnees in Sudur Paschim risks community spread and food shortage: More than 56,000 Nepali migrant workers have returned from India via two border points in Sudur Paschim. Due to the poor quarantine facilities, low preparedness of government, and poor testing rate, the risk of transmission has increased.[47] Similarly, there will be a high risk of food shortage at the province as there is increase in demand of food due to high influx of returnee migrants. Also, there is low productivity of food in the province to fulfil its food demand.[48]

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay


[1] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/05/28/159063441954586449.html

[2] https://ekantipur.com/Interview/2020/05/28/15906335815047251.html

[3] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44180/2020-05-28

[4] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/28/removal-of-constitution-amendment-from-parliamentary-agenda-leads-to-finger-pointing-between-parties

[5] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/amendment-bill-to-update-emblem-tabled/

[6] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44404/2020-05-31

[7] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/01/government-seeks-shortcut-to-get-constitution-amendment-bill-passed

[8] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/jsp-n-registers-private-bill/

[9] https://nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44303/2020-05-29

[10] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/05/31/363490/

[11] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/05/31/363397/

[12] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/shaja-party-concerned-over-continuity-of-constituency-development-fund/

[13] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/01/even-ruling-party-leaders-are-not-impressed-with-the-budget

[14] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/44403/2020-05-31

[15] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/06/01/363951/

[16] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/06/869341

[17] http://annapurnapost.com/news/senaa-pricaalnko-prstaav-lier-shiitlnivaasmaa-prdhaanmntrii-olii-157487

[18] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/finance-minister-presents-budget-of-rs-1474-64-billion-for-fy-2020-21/

[19]https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/29/budget-announces-significant-tax-exemptions-of-up-to-75-percent-for-micro-and-small-industries

[20] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/02/government-to-set-up-labour-bank-to-link-employers-and-workers

[21] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/mcc-grant-wont-be-released-unless-parliament-approves-clarifies-minister.html

[22] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/wont-spoil-rukum-murder-case-attorney-general.html

[23] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/govt-unlikely-to-extend-june-7-tax-payment-deadline.html

[24]https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/high-level-panel-to-decide-on-easing-lockdown-by-tomorrow/

[25] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/29/on-boundary-row-india-says-it-s-open-to-engage-with-nepal-on-the-basis-of-mutual-sensitivity-and-respect

[26] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/28/100148/

[27] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/28/nepal-reports-its-fifth-covid-19-death-and-156-new-cases-national-tally-crosses-1-000

[28] https://kathmandupost.com/climate-environment/2020/05/30/budget-failed-to-address-environmental-concerns-and-new-challenges-environmentalists-say

[29] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepals-covid-19-fatality-toll-advances-to-seven/

[30] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepals-covid-19-fatality-toll-advances-to-seven/

[31] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/31/two-more-deaths-takes-covid-19-death-toll-to-eight

[32] https://kathmandupost.com/health/2020/06/02/with-288-new-cases-the-highest-in-a-single-day-nepal-s-covid-19-tally-jumps-to-2-099

[33] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-4/2020/05/31/159094019820038775.html

[34] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-7/2020/06/01/159101817606785260.html

[35] https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-6/2020/06/01/159099689853062759.html

[36] http://www.ratopati.com/story/132534/2020/6/1/karnali-province

[37] https://www.setopati.com/social/207952

[38] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/06/02/15911044085554198.html

[39] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/27/a-200-percent-increase-in-maternal-mortality-since-the-lockdown-began

[40] https://kathmandupost.com/karnali-province/2020/06/02/soti-incident-sixth-missing-body-found-after-10-days

[41] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/un-ai-demand-impartial-probe-into-rukum-incident/

[42] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/06/01/159099054969581532.html

[43] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/dengue-cases-on-the-rise-country-lacks-testing-kits/

[44] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/bring-gender-responsive-budget-hor-panel/

[45] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/05/29/159072475656113223.html

[46] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/26/thousands-of-nepalis-without-food-or-shelter-await-entrance-at-the-karnali-border

[47] https://kathmandupost.com/sudurpaschim-province/2020/06/01/massive-influx-of-returnees-in-sudurpaschim-risks-community-spread

[48] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/05/27/surdurpaschim-braces-for-a-food-shortage-with-influx-of-returnees-to-the-province-amid-pandemic


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