Nepali Times

Almost there

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Two weeks after electing the Prime Minister, the country is likely to have a cabinet of ministers by the end of the day.

After late night talks on Sunday, the two largest parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were able to chart the tentative shape of the new government and the portfolios the parties will head. Out of the 26 ministries, the two parties are likely to get 10 portfolios each. NC will take charge in Ministry of Defence, Finance, Communication, Cooperatives, Local Development and Education, among others. CPN-UML has laid claim on 10 ministries including Ministry of Home, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Health and General Administration. Smaller parties that have supported NC are also in line to head some ministries. The final allocation is expected to be formalised within today.

Internal talks are underway since early morning today to formalise the deal made between the two parties and pick the candidates for the ministerial positions. NC Parliamentary Party is meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar to endorse the deal.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was finally able to convince CPN-UML to join the government after conceding the Home Ministry. The meeting of the two parties on Sunday focused on allocating ministries. The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

Untangling the Home Ministry knot

The power sharing talks between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have concluded on Sunday deciding that the two largest parties need to discuss the matter again on Monday.

Today’s talks focused on allocating ministries to NC and UML. The NC has already decided to assign Home Ministry, the main contention between two largest parties, to the UML.

The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

In today’s talks, Gautam along with UML Secretary Bishnu Poudel took part in the talks on behalf of UML, while NC Secretary Krishna Prasad Situala led the NC team in the talks.

The next round of talks on Monday will start early in the morning at 7 a.m., it is learnt. It is expected that the talks will conclude soon, paving way for the swearing in ceremony of UML and NC’s new ministers in the evening, the same day.

Read also

Whose Home is it anyway?

The year of living dangerously

Watered down

Friday, July 18th, 2014


Bikas Thapa, Annapurna Post, 18 July

Nepal has received from India a proposal themed on ‘Power Development’, the ratification of which would put Nepal’s water resources in its southern neighbour’s control.

According to points III and IIIa of the new proposal, only companies okayed by India would get to invest in hydro projects, Nepal itself would only be permitted to invest in partnership with India, and third-country investment would be disallowed.

Last week, energy Minister Radha Gyawali called water resource experts and former water and energy ministers to discuss the possible effects of this proposal on Nepal. Former Water Resource Minister Laxman Prasad Ghimire of Nepali Congress, one of the participants at the presentation, told her India’s proposal was an insult to Nepal.

In 2010, Nepal had sent India a proposal titled ‘Cross-border Interconnection for Electric Power Trade’, which sought to define the ways in which Nepal and India might trade power generated from hydroelectric projects developed by various investors in Nepal.

Succeeding governments have since been waiting for a reply. But according to former Minister for Water Resources, India’s late and unprecedented ‘reply’ is a disguised attempt to capture Nepal’s resources.

“For starters, they haven’t even acknowledged the fact that our government sent them an official proposal,” said Gyawali. “Their own proposal completely ignores the principles and possibilities of mutual benefits. Instead, they are trying to do to us what they’ve done in Bhutan.”

The controversial document is being seriously investigated into by the Ministry of Energy. But it hasn’t alerted other ministries nor has it made the proposal public. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also oblivious. At the meeting with experts, only points III and IIIa were discussed.

Minister Radha Gyawali says budget preparations, UML general convention, and the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s treatment have distracted discussion and decision on the subject. But she refused to make the contents of the document public.

“All decisions will be taken through diplomacy,” she told Annapurna Post on Thursday.

Politicians and bureaucrats have been looking forward to what changes Narendra Modi’s premiership will have in the way Nepal is treated by India. But a participant in the meeting told us on the condition of anonymity: “This proposal shows that India bureaucracy has remained the same despite Modi’s victory and Nepal’s interests will continue to be hampered.”

Drama, tragedy, irony and surprises at the Cup of Cups

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Just days before the first World Cup game on June 12 in Sao Paulo, as final touches were being given to stadiums, walls being painted at bus stations and chairs being polished at airport, the scene was looking very similar to an Indian wedding, where the bride’s house is a picture of chaos till the groom’s party arrives at the doorstep. And then they begin to play music and suddenly everything falls into place. It’s the best example of organized chaos.

That’s how Brazil was looking before the ball started rolling a month ago. But, as in Indian wedding the scene changes with the arrival of the bride, here too everything began playing to some invisible music after local hero Neymar sent the ball into the Croatian goal for the first time. Then the World Cup began to work like a well-oiled machine, with every cog working to perfection.

It was the most emotional world cup ever, with both winners and losers shedding tears in equal proportion.

The opening had its share of drama as the Brazilian team arrived with tears in their eyes. Several legs were trembling when 70,000 people sand the national anthem in one voice. Many had bitter taste in the mouth when some moneyed sections of the crowd threw curses at the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff. But as Brazil romped home 3-1, everything was forgiven.

Then it was a roller-coaster ride of football at its best. Played under falling rain of Amazon or the northeast sun baking their backs or chilly winds of Brazilian south, the World Cup was a goal feast, with 2.7 goals scored per game – the highest ever. New stars and new names emerged as some old reputations were destroyed and great expectations failed to materialize.

The World Cup saw a new world order emerge. Even before the tournament entered the knock-out stages, European football powers like Spain, Italy, England and Portugal had been sent home. And making their entry into the last of 16 were Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria. After the quarter-finals, even France and Belgium were on their way back, while South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina were moving smoothly, looking all set for a dream final at the Maracana.

But the Cup of Cups needed a bit of tragedy too. That happened in the first semi-final, with Brazil losing the game to Germany 7-1. With that humiliation, Brazil also lost the awe it had. With 0-3 loss to Holland in the third place play-off, Brazil’s humiliation was complete. Only consolation for 200 million Brazilians was that their arch-rival, Argentina, lost the final to Germany.

But the irony of the final was that Lionel Messi, who failed to score in all the four knock-out games, got the Golden Ball Award for being the “best player of the tournament”, while Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez and Arjen Robben failed to make the cut. That made even Argentine great Maradona call the award a “marketing gimmick”.

And then there was a big surprise. Brazil lost the game on the pitch, but it won off it. Before the tournament, they were predicting that the World Cup would be a disaster, but by the time it ended on July 13, everyone had good things to say about the “Cup of Cups”. The stadiums were excellent, with perfect atmosphere. The flights had been on time and lines at airports short and quick. The hotels had been warm and efficient. And even the much-maligned taxi drivers were friendly and helpful.

But the biggest positive for Brazil in this World Cup has been its people. As they travelled across this country, several European journalists were wondering why the people are “so nice and always smiling”. Those who came here fearing robberies and mugging on the streets have gone back with the memories of singing, dancing and partying on the streets.

Of course, Brazil’s loss in the semi-finals brought down the people’s enthusiasm.  But all those who predicted chaos and violence in case of Brazil’s loss have been proven wrong. Brazil accepted the defeat with great dignity. Brazil lost the World Cup but it won over the world off the field.

In South Asian countries, we joke that in the end, everything will be fine and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end yet. But in Brazil, everything was fine even before the end.

Shobhan Saxena

Read also:

The best World Cup? It looks like so

In goals we trust 

When football comes home 

Gold for Sapana

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
Photo: Basil Edward Teo

Photo: Basil Edward Teo

Devaki Bista, Himal Khabarpatrika, 13 July

When Nepali Times met 16-year-old Sapana*(pic, right) last month, she was training hard for the 8th World Taekwondo Cultural Expo in Korea and showed no sign of her traumatic past. This week, she has returned from the tournament with a gold medal.

For the seven other Nepali participants, who like Sapana were also victims of sexual violence, her victory was more than just a sporting success. But for Sapana, winning was still not enough to make her smile.

In 2012, Sapana, then 14, was raped by Sagar Bhatta and Amar Awasthi as she was travelling for her SLC examinations in Patan, Baitadi. The Baitadi District Court announced a Rs 50,000 fine and 13-year jail terms for Bhatta and Awasthi.

But this April, an appellate court in Mahendranagar released the two rapists. Once out, they threatened her father to not make any further appeals. Sapana moved to Kathmandu, where she stayed with Rakshya Nepal, an organisation that helps in rehabilitating sexual abuse victims.

Government lawyer Prakash Bahadur Bhandari, who has been fighting Sapana’s case, says he is not satisfied with the court’s decision and will appeal for justice again. Sapana herself can’t believe what has happened.

“What were the judges thinking when they let them go free,” she asks.

After years of counselling, Sapana was able to sit her SLC examinations this year and passed with first division grades. For someone who always topped her class, going back to school wasn’t difficult, but she was often haunted by the assault that changed her life two years ago. In between her studies – she wants to be a lawyer – she also took up Taekwondo lessons and earned a blue belt. Her gold medal this week has been well-earned.

*Sapana’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.


Read also:

Fighting spirit, #711

Prakash raising livestock

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
.................................................................................................................., 15 July


Prakash Dahal livestock farming

Prakash Dahal at his pig farm. Credit: Kamal Rimal

The controversial son of Maoist Chairman Prachanda, Prakash Dahal, has now turned a livestock farmer. Prakash bought a pig farm from Maoist leader Gopal Kiranti in March, and had previously also bought a dairy farm in Chitwan.

Prakash says his latest foray into livestock farming is aimed at encouraging Nepali youth to look for jobs within the country, and not leave for work aborad.

“I would like to request all the youngsters who toil in Gulf countries to work hard in Nepal,” said Prakash, who has in the past been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

When the Baburam Bhattarai led government sanctioned Rs 20 million for an expedition team to Everest that included Prakash in 2012, the decision was bitterly criticised. The same year, Prakash eloped with Maoist student activist Bina Thapa Magar who was also a member of the same expedition, leaving behind his wife and son in Kathmandu.

Maoist leaders Prakash Adhikari, Ranjit Tamang and Indra Bhushal are Prakash’s partners in the business. Prakash was actively involved with the party for 15 years but doesn’t hold any post today. “I realise I have made mistakes in the past, and I am
now working to correct those and change myself,” wrote Prakash in his Facebook status. In the same post, he claims all his family property were spent on the building of the party and he had to borrow money for his business from his maternal uncle.

“I do not have any responsibility in the party, neither am I in a position to do anything,” he writes. But in a conversation with this magazine, Prakash said he would like to take forward his political career and business together. Prakash says his next venture is beekeeping and plans to buy some hives soon.

Removing obstacles

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
Photo: Bikram Rai

Photo: Bikram Rai

Laxman Biyogi in Nagarik, 14 July

The government has said it will take action against individuals and groups opposing infrastructure development. In his budget speech on Sunday, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat announced a special program to deal with those who create obstructions to energy, hydroelectricity, and infrastructure projects.

Acquiring land for transmission lines and highway has become a big problem in the past few years and projects of national pride have been delayed. Various individuals, political parties, and ‘development’ organisations have obstructed hydropower and infrastructure projects. The construction of transmission lines sections in Thankot-Bhaktapur and Khimti-Dhalkebar, the Kathmandu-Tarai fast-track, and North-South highways have been delayed for years because of disagreements over property evaluation.

The government will now be able to take legal action against those who delay national international obstruction on any ground. There are plans to draft a law that will deal with land acquisition and property evaluation. The government will also amend the Environment Conservation Act so that pending projects will soon be able to begin their Environmental Impact Assessments. Mahat has allocated Rs 26.17 billion for the energy sector. He also announced load-shedding would end in the next three years because projects like the Upper Tamakosi, Trisuli IIIA, Chameliya and Kulekhani III would get special provisions in the budget.

Mahat also said the private sector would get subsidies for investment in hydropower. Private companies that complete construction in the next nine years will be exempted from income tax for 10 years and will only have to pay only half the total income tax for the next five years.

The budget has set aside Rs 26 billion for infrastructure development. It has special provisions for a detailed project report for the Kathmandu-Tarai fast track to be completed within six months. It has allocated money to open up the tracks for the Mid-Hill Highway and also construct 20 bridges on it. Money has been set aside to connect Dolpa and Humla by road. More than 525km new road will be pitched and 498km gravelled in the next 12 months while 227km new dirt tracks will be opened up.

Read also:

Progress on hold, #714

“Everyone forgot us”

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

The revolution that was supposed to liberate his community from oppression devoured Ram Ratan Chaudhari’s family

Conflict Victim Ram Ratan Chaudhari

Conflict Victim Ram Ratan Chaudhari

On 14 February, 2001, Ram Ratan Chaudhari was resting outside his house in Fatehpur village of Banke district when a group of Maoists jumped him, held a gun to his head and took him away. His family members were locked inside, nobody could come to his rescue.

Chaudhari was then taken to a spot 200 metres away, his hands tied at the back, kicked to the ground and beaten black and blue. When he asked for water, the torture got worse. With a wooden plank placed beneath his feet, a heavy log was dropped on his legs crushing the bones. Chaudhari fell unconscious, and was given up for dead. When he came to his senses, the Maoists were gone.

“It took four hours for help to arrive,” Chaudhari, who was then a technical assistant, recalls. His family carried him to Agaiya in Rapti from where he was taken by ambulance to Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalganj. He got a blood transfusion, but the hospital couldn’t treat him so he was brought to Kathmandu, a 12 hour bus journey away. Once in Kathmandu, Chaudhari heard that the Maoists had come looking for him at the hospital in Nepalganj.

Few days before his abduction, Ram Ratan had received a letter from the Maoists asking for a ‘donation’ to the party. Like many others he didn’t want any trouble so he readied an envelope with the money and waited for it to be collected. But nobody showed up. It was only much later that Ram Ratan found out he had been nearly beaten to death for failing to pay the extortionists on time.

Chaudhari spent almost six months at Kathmandu’s Teaching Hospital. He was able to sleep only face up, couldn’t turn, stand or sit. Upon hearing about her son’s critical condition, Ram Ratan’s mother was so stressed and depressed that she died two months later. Ram Ratan was still too sick in hospital to perform her last rites.

On the 13th day of his mother’s death, the Maoists attacked his village house, took off with most of the family’s belongings and captured his farm. His ailing father Heeramani and brother-in-law Khushi Ram were severely beaten. Due to fear of repercussions, none of the villagers helped the injured.

It was only two days later that the APF sent a truck to take the injured to the same hospital in Nepalganj where Ram Ratan had been taken few months previously. The attack on his son, the death of his wife, the looting of his house and property and his own injuries was so traumatic that Ram Ratan’s father passed away soon after.

After he was able to move about painfully, Ram Ratan returned to Nepalganj since there was nothing to return to in his village. He finally went back in 2007, and built a small house, he never got his captured land back which is now occupied by Jit Bahadur Tharu, Bhim Bahadur Tharu, Bharthari Tharu and Rati Ram Ujuri, who are all affiliated to Mohan Baidya’s CPN-M party.

During the conflict, Jit Bahadur Tharu was a Maoist leader and walked around the villages surrounded by bodyguards, and adjucated in revolutionary people’s courts. Today, he owns Ram Ratan’s seven bighas of land.

Ram Ratan still has yet to receive the compensation conflict victims are entitled to, and there has been no support from the government for his hospital expenses. “The Maoist government only provided relief and compensation packages to their own supporters, not for people like us who suffered under them,” he says.

Ram Ratan is still unable to walk properly. He says: “The Maoists destroyed my family and future. Everyone has forgotten us.”

Tufan Neupane in NEPALGANJ

See also:
“They should have just killed me” Laxman KC

The conflict’s first victim Dhanbir Dahal

Nine years later still in shock Michelle J Lee

Post-conflict stress syndrome Taylor Caldwell

No discrimination

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Interview with Man Bahadur Nepali, the newly appointed Chairman of the National Dalit Commission , 6 July, Himalkhabar Patrika

Himal: How do you feel after being appointed the chairman of the National Dalit Commission?
Man Bahadur Nepali: This is an opportunity to prepare future plans to uplift the Dalit community.

What are your main priorities?
The Dalit Commission does not yet have a legal standing. So we need to have a fully empowered commission. We need short-term and long-term plans by bringing together the government, non-government and all stakeholders in one platform.

What steps has the commission taken to address Dalits’ issues since it was formed 12 years ago?
The Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2011 is the biggest achievement of the commission. However, it hasn’t been properly enforced. The efforts of the commission to guarantee the economic, social and political rights of the Dalit community are commendable.

Why do the minorities and marginalised communities among the Dalits feel left out?
Nine castes in the hilly region and seventeen castes in the Terai region fall within the marginalised Dalit category and the nature of suffering differs from place to place. Majority of the people below the poverty line are Dalits and even among them, most are the marginalised Dalits. We need to increase their access to education and health by improving their economic and social status.

What are the main challenges of the commission?
Racial discrimination and untouchability is an embarrassment for a modern and civilised society. Although racial discrimination has been eradicated legally, this is not the case in practice. The main challenge now is to have a state without racial discrimination.