Democracy under threat

News Digest (October 1-14, 2019)

CESIF Nepal Democracy and Federalism, Gender and Inclusion, Good Governance, International Relations, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, News Digest, Security and Strategic Affairs 3 Comments

DOMESTIC POLITICS

The Ruling Party-NCP: NCP party secretariat meeting advised Speaker of the House, Krishna Bahadur Mahara to step down from both the posts of Speaker and HoR member over allegation of rape on a staffer.  On 30 September, Mahara was allegedly involved in sexual harassment of a female employee.[1] Following the allegation, the video of the victim went viral on social media. NCP party meeting agreed on dismissing Mahara should he refuse to resign.[2] Mahara is in custody arrested, however, he is yet to face the court as was hospitalized after the arrest.[3]

The Government: On October 2, Nepal had a first-ever foreign ministry level bilateral consultation meeting with a delegation from New Zealand in Kathmandu. The two sides exchanged views on promoting economic cooperation.[4]

Likewise, in the sidelines of the visit of the Chinese President, officials of Nepal and China discussed Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and Treaty on Extradition. Earlier in 2006, Nepal and India were close to signing an Extradition Treaty and the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance. Negotiations, however, failed due to disagreements among the parties in Nepal. Similar attempts collapsed in 2008 and 2010.[5]

Opposition Politics: Opposition parties warned the government not to accept Chinese loan for the proposed Kathmandu-Kerung railway. Most of the opposition leaders expressed concerns about the risk of debt-trap that comes along with the Chinese loan.[6]

Leaders of Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar faction in the Nepali Congress emerging powerful in the provincial and local level committees of the party.[7]  However, the party failed to present itself as a strong and responsible opposition in the parliament. None of the ministers of the shadow government have been assigned responsibility. Although the shadow government was formed five-months ago, ministers have not even organized one meeting yet.[8]  At an annual tea reception of NC organized on October 13, both the ruling party and opposition leaders stressed the need for political unity for prosperity and development in the country.[9]

Nepal police arrested former minister and NC leader Mohammad Aftab Alam. Leader Alam is accused of killing dozens of people in a massive blast in Rautahat 11 years ago.[10] 

Parliamentary Affairs: Deputy Speaker of the HoR, Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe is in confusion about whether she should resign or keep the post. The ruling party leaders are in a power struggle to delay the appointment of a new speaker as they have their own vested interests in choosing a new speaker and not wanting to lose the position to any other party.[11]  The Constitution provisions for Speaker and the Deputy Speakers to be from different parties and genders.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Xi’s Visit to Nepal: After months of anticipation, Chinese President Xi Jinping finally visited Nepal on October 12 for a two-day State Visit. This saw Nepal tightening its security by deploying all four security agencies – Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and the National Investigation Department.[12] Nepal had deployed the highest number of security personnel, as many as 15,000, for the visit of a foreign dignitary to provide around-the-clock security.

Nepali President Bidya Devi Bhandari hosted a dinner event where President Xi gave a speech highlighting developments in Nepal-China relations. In his address, the Chinese president mentioned connectivity, infrastructure, Buddhism, and governance as a base for Nepal and China’s friendship. Xi appreciated Nepal’s efforts for development and announced that the Kerung-Kathmandu railway feasibility studies will soon move ahead, despite the difficulties. More transit points between Nepal and China will be opened to facilitate Trans-Himalayan connectivity. China will assist Nepal to transform it from a land-locked to a land-linked country. China will also send in Chinese tourists for the success of Nepal’s Visit Nepal Year 2020. Xi also believed that there will be a flow of Buddhist tourists in Nepal from China to exchange Buddhism ideologies. During the event, Xi announced the support of RMB 3.5 billion (NPR 56 billion) for 2020-2022 to help uplift the living standards of Nepali people.[13]

During his meeting with Nepal’s PM KP Sharma Oli, the two sides signed 18 deals and two letters of exchange to promote bilateral cooperation in multiple fields.[14]

During the high-level bilateral talks held at the Office of Nepali President, President Bidya Devi Bhandari acknowledged the signing of the deals between Nepal and China and expected Nepal to have easy access to the rest of the world.[15] Bhandari also added that Nepal aims to transform into a middle-income country by 2030, and the country is ready to host Chinese investment in Nepal in various sectors including hydropower.[16]

During the meeting with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Xi Jinping said, irrespective of which party is in power, China and Nepal will maintain stable and friendly relations. Deuba maintained that NC was ready to advance friendly interactions with the Communist Party of China.[17] President Xi said that the Chinese people didn’t forget the contributions of the Nepali Congress (NC) to the China-Nepal relationship during the party’s reign.[18]

President Xi met with leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and Jhalanath Khanal, foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali among others.[19]

PROVINCIAL AFFAIRS

Gandaki Pradesh passed six bills in the last budget session. The province government has passed 39 different bills in the last four sessions.[20] Province 1 has prepared its first-ever five-year periodic plan. The plan aims at achieving a per capita of USD 2620 by the end of the plan. The plan has a focus on reducing poverty, accelerating economic growth, and ensuring prosperity.[21]

Province 3 government has made an attempt to improve government hospital services. The Ministry of Social Development has allocated a budget of Rs 9.5 billion for the district hospitals for improvement of services. The improvement was necessary as the district hospital is the referral center.[22]

The government failed to collect revenue as targeted in the fiscal year 2019/20. According to the Internal Revenue Department, indicators appeared negative in the first two months of the current fiscal year compared to last year.[23]

Several local governments in Rupandehi made payments without complying with the provincial plan. Due to a lack of coordination, irregularities have been reported in the expenditure of the budget sent by the federal government. Although the public procurement rules restrict the elected representatives to be a member of the consumer/users committee, the representatives are the members of those committees.[24]

Conflicts: A dispute between two local governments has come afloat on the distribution resources of Mahakali River. The dispute occurred as a consensus could not be reached on the issue of revenue collection and sharing. The two local governments have entered contracts with contractors on the extraction of resources from the same river at the same location.[25] 

GENDER AND SOCIAL INCLUSION

Rape Allegation on House Speaker: A female employee at the Parliament Secretariat has accused Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara of rape. Meanwhile, Speaker Mahara’s secretariat claimed her accusation is false.[26] After the incident, Mahara resigned from the Speaker’s post stating that it would help in the investigation process.[27] After a case was filed against him, police arrested Mahara for further investigation.[28]

Various organizations working for women’s rights and human rights have jointly called on the National Human Rights Commission and the National Women’s Commission to immediately investigate the case.[29] Later, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) formed a three-member team to monitor the progress of the investigation and prepare a report on the case.

Cyber Crime: The number of women facing online sexual harassment is increasing. In the last two months, nearly 70% of the total 353 cases filed with Nepal Police were directed towards women. Increased internet access has led to a greater misuse of social networking sites, resulting in cybercrimes. Women are often blackmailed by their former partners, by photoshopping images on social sites. Some also misuse women’s pictures to create new accounts and trick others.[30]

Dowry related death: A 22-year-old Nepali woman from Biratnagar, Morang was reportedly killed in India by her in-laws over dowry. The Indian police arrested the deceased’s husband, her father-in-law, brother-in-law, and a neighbor in connection with the suspected death.[31]

GOVERNANCE AND DEVELOPMENT

Hydropower Projects: Nyadi Hydro Power Project (30 megawatts) in Nyadikhola River of Marsyangdi Rural Municipality-6 is ready to evacuate power through Khudi Substation of the 220-kV Marsyangdi Corridor Transmission Line in the next seven months. China’s Chachiyang Hydro Power Construction and Installation Company has been constructing the project.[32]

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit to Nepal, the Investment Board Nepal (IBN) and Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation (MoEWRI) awarded the 762-megawatt Tamor reservoir hydropower project to HIDCL-Power China under the public-private-partnership (PPP) model. The project is estimated at USD 1.21 billion, including interest during construction, finance cost, and the 75-kilometer-long 400-kVA double-circuit transmission line from the project site to Inaruwa in Sunsari district. The government has also signed an agreement with Power China to build the 156-megawatt Madi Multipurpose Hydropower Project in Rolpa district. The project is estimated at around USD 39 million. [33]

In a departure from its current policies, hydropower developers are not allowed to take more than 17% profit in any projects now. Before issuing approval to the developers to sign PPA with Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the commission will assess the tentative investment, source of money and its interest rate, clearance of loans and interests, ratio of equity and loan, recurrent expenditure, operational expenditure, maintenance costs, revenue and taxes, and other service charges, additional capital that will be required, among others, to calculate the return and income from now onwards.[34]

The much-awaited 14-megawatt Kulekhani III Cascade Hydropower Project is about to start its operation. Chinese company Jheijian Jialin was awarded the contract to complete the electromechanical and hydro-mechanical works by 2012. The project’s completion deadline has been extended four times since construction began in April 2008. Delays caused a cost escalation by more than 100% of the earlier estimated. After the Kulekhani III project starts commissioning power, the Kulekhani reservoir project’s combined capacity will reach 106 megawatts.[35]

Works at Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project, a 20% progress has been observed in the past four months as more than 80 meters of pipe of the required 372-meter has been fitted so far.[36] However, there are doubts that the project will face further delays which escalated the costs.[37]


[1] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ncp-secretariat-meeting-concludes-advises-mahara-to-step-down-both-from-post-of-speaker-and-mp/

[2] https://en.setopati.com/political/151601

[3] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/mahara-to-face-trial-following-his-treatment/

[4] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/first-nepal-new-zealand-bilateral-consultation-meeting-held-in-kathmandu/

[5] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/10/11/nepal-and-china-to-discuss-extradition-treaty-during-xi-jinping-s-visit

[6] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/opposition-parties-warn-govt-against-debt-trap/

[7] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/gachchhadar-faction-may-emerge-as-powerful-in-nc/

[8] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/10/01/congress-shadow-cabinet-has-largely-failed-to-check-on-government-activities

[9] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/leaders-stress-unity-for-economic-prosperity/

[10] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ex-minister-alam-arrested-in-connection-with-2008-murders/

[11] https://en.setopati.com/political/151605

[12] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/10/11/with-xi-jinping-arriving-kathmandu-beefs-up-security

[13] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/chinese-president-xi-jinping-announces-3-5-billion-in-assistance-to-nepal/

[14] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/list-of-deals-reached-between-nepal-and-china-during-visit-of-chinese-president-xi-jinping/

[15] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/chinese-president-xi-jinping-announces-3-5-billion-in-assistance-to-nepal/

[16] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/chinese-president-xi-jinping-announces-3-5-billion-in-assistance-to-nepal/

[17] http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/13/c_138467300.htm

[18] https://en.setopati.com/political/151635

[19] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ncp-leaders-call-on-chinese-president/

[20] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/26505/2019-10-02

[21] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/26571/2019-10-03

[22] http://annapurnapost.com/news/138581

[23] http://annapurnapost.com/news/138220

[24] https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/10/03/157007505444097022.html

[25] https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/10/14/157102804110267138.html

[26] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/speaker-mahara-accused-of-sexually-harassing-female-employee/

[27] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/house-speaker-mahara-resigns-amid-sexual-harrassment-accusations/

[28] https://www.nepalitimes.com/latest/mahara-arrested/

[29] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/rights-groups-seek-probe-into-krishna-bahadur-mahara-rape-case

[30] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/10/01/online-violence-against-women-in-nepal-on-the-rise

[31] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepali-woman-killed-over-dowry-in-india/

[32] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/75-per-cent-work-on-nyadi-power-project-completed/

[33] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/hidcl-power-china-to-build-762mw-tamor-hydel/

[34] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/hydropower-firms-not-allowed-to-take-more-than-17-per-cent-profit/

[35] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/kulekhani-iii-likely-to-commission-power-before-vijaya-dashami/

[37] https://corporatenepal.com/2019/10/144938/

[36] https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/10/11/upper-tamakoshi-project-makes-progress-on-penstock-installation

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