Nepali Times

Obama cites Medication for Nepal

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
Susana Shrestha at the GES 2016 in Palo Alto California.

Sumana Shrestha at the GES 2016 in Palo Alto, California.

Medication for Nepal (MFN), the innovative volunteer-run health initiative started by Nepali social entrepreneur Sumana Shrestha, has been praised at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Palo Alto, California.

In a speech to program participants from around the globe over the weekend, President Barack Obama said: “We’ve helped more than 17,000 entrepreneurs and innovators connect with each other, access capital, find mentors, and start new ventures … the Tanzanian startup that helps farmers reduce their harvest losses. Or the company in Nepal that’s helping to improve charity health care.”

Shrestha began MFN during the height of the five-month Indian Bockade, during which it delivered 9.5 tons of life-saving drugs to 15 districts across Nepal, effectively saving thousands of lives and building an outreach to 2.5 million of the poorest Nepali citizens.

MFN uses an innovative, technology-based peer-to-peer network that captures transparent data sets about medicine shortages in remote areas of Nepal, and delivers donated medication through coordination with numerous organisations, volunteers, and district health communities. A web-based platform also allows micropayments for as little as fifteen cents, which enables broader participation and reach.

“The strength of MFN lies in the use of technology to be transparent and reduce the cost of service delivery, in addition to a method of social innovation that takes an inclusive approach to engage people to help. The key is in collaboration, and empowering locals to take charge of their problems. The model of charity needs to change,” said Shrestha.

MFN was one of the eight participants from Nepal to participate in the GES hosted by Obama, which saw 700 successful entrepreneurs out of 5,000 applicants from around the globe. It was the only delegate from Nepal — one of the 36 participants around the globe — to be involved in the GES Spark the Fire Pitch Competition, and one of the 150 selected for GES+, a day-long event focusing on the most promising youth and women entrepreneurs.

Sumana Shrestha was also praised by FUBU founder and 2015 Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship Daymond John in a blog published on the White House website: ‘I’m excited to meet people like Sumana Shrestha, who started Medication for Nepal, an organisation that uses technology to tackle inefficiencies and high health care costs, ensuring medical access for the most vulnerable populations in her country.’

Dr KC is mentally ill: CIAA

Monday, June 27th, 2016
Pic: Krishna Hari Pushkar/Twitter

Pic: Krishna Hari Pushkar/Twitter

Spokesperson for the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Krishna Hari Pushkar in an interview with the BBC Nepali Service after the anti-graft body dubbed Dr Govinda KC — who is set to go on a hunger strike from 10 July to demand the CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki’s impeachment — as a “mentally ill” person.

BBC Nepali Service: Why is a constitutional body so angry about allegations made by an individual? 

Krishna Hari Pushkar: We just wanted to make two things clear. First, Dr KC is mentally ill…

Is it Dr KC or you who is mentally ill?

It is Dr KC.

Are you the spokesperson for an institution that certifies someone as mentally ill? 

Under the influence of the mafia and organised criminals, Dr KC has been creating trouble for the country and the government by launching his fast-unto-death campaign in instalments.

If he is influenced by organised criminals, why not take action against them?  

This is why we have recommended that the state provide medical treatment for Dr KC. Only a mentally ill person can hurl the kind of accusations that he has levelled against a constitutional body like the CIAA, its Honourable Chief Commissioner and Commissioners.

If Dr KC has maligned someone, a constitutional body like the CIAA should know the correct way to react.

He is an orthopaedic surgeon, but how many surgeries did he perform in the last four years? Has he done anything to improve the condition of the hospital where he works? Go and see how dirty the kitchen and toilets are at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH). He is not doing what he is supposed to do, but is going on hunger strikes without any valid reasons. As a government employee, is he supposed to create trouble for the government? He is mentally ill.

Can a constitutional body issue such an irresponsible statement against an individual? 

What you need to understand is this: an individual should not spread terror in the country, level baseless accusations against others and create trouble for anyone because of his mental illness. He is writing nonsense in the newspapers under the influence of those who are being investigated by the CIAA.

Who are the organised criminals and the corrupt that you refer to in your statement?

Some of them have already been proven guilty by the special court. The rest are still being investigated by the CIAA. And Dr KC is speaking on their behalf.

Can the CIAA label those who are still being investigated as organised criminals and corrupt? 

Those who have been proven guilty by the court can definitely be called criminals and corrupt. Dr KC is now saying exactly what those who are being investigated by us used to say. By launching hunger strikes every now and then, he has ruined the TUTH. Patients are dying there due to lack of treatment.

In its statement, the CIAA says it is keeping an eye on Dr KC’s activities. Is that a threat? 

We have been keeping a close watch on what Dr KC is up to. He has created chaos and anarchy not only in the Teaching Hospital but also in the medical sector.

Who has a cleaner public image? Dr KC or CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki?

The Honourable Chief Commissioner Karki’s decisions and activities are legal. If you think Dr KC has a cleaner image because he distributed cetamol tablets in villages, this is a job meant for Assistant Health Workers. He talks about reforms while his own hospital remains in a sorry state. He has no right to defame a constitutional body and its Honourable Commissioners, and create trouble for the government.

Preparing for local polls

Monday, June 27th, 2016
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PM KP Oli at the Election Commission on Monday. Photo: RSS

Prime Minister KP Oli has instructed the Election Commission (EC) to be ready to hold elections for local government bodies by the end of this year.

Accompanied by Home Minister Shakti Basnet, Law Minister Agni Kharel and Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi, PM Oli visited the EC office on Monday, and asked Acting Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav about the feasibility of organising local elections within the next six months.

Yadav said conducting local elections in December 2016 would be possible, as the EC does not require more than four months for preparations. However, he said some laws — most importantly, the Local Body (Election Procedures) Act — need to be amended in the next two months.

Yadav also asked Oli to complete the composition of the EC without delay, to facilitate election preparations. The EC, which usually has one Chief Election Commissioner and four commissioners, currently has only one commissioner apart from Yadav. The government has already recommended Yadav as the new Chief Election Commissioner, but the deferral in setting up of a Parliamentary Hearing Committee has also hindered his promotion.

PM Oli requested that Yadav begin election preparations, promising to amend the necessary legislation and appoint three commissioners at the EC promptly, according to the National News Agency.

The government had already decided to hold local elections by December 2016, provincial elections by May 2017 and parliamentary elections by December 2017. Law Minister Kharel said on Monday that the date for local elections will be announced ‘soon’.

However, the main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) has threatened to boycott such elections, saying that it is not the right time to elect local bodies because a committee set up by the government is redrawing the boundaries of local administrative zones.

Madhesi parties have also refused to participate in local elections, saying polls must be held only after amending the newly promulgated constitution.

Although local elections are supposed to be held every five years, Nepal has not held any for the last two decades. Since 2002 — when district, municipality and village councils elected in 1997 were dissolved without new elections — cartels of unelected politicians and government officials have been disbursing money meant for local development, without any accountability to local people.

KC demands Karki’s impeachment

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Govinda KC, who has been leading a campaign to reform Nepal’s medical sector, has demanded impeachment of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lokman Singh Karki.

Accusing Karki of protecting the corrupt, forcing responsible authorities to resign and overstepping his jurisdiction by interfering in the entrance exams of the Kathmandu University, KC has demanded that Parliament begin a process to impeach him right away.

At a press conference in Kathmandu on Sunday, KC threatened to embark on a fresh hunger strike from 10 July if his demands were not met. He has also pushed for other demands, most importantly endorsement of the Medical Education Act after some of its key provisions are amended.

In response to KC’s statement, the CIAA said he is ‘suffering from a mental disorder’ and asked the government to ‘provide medical treatment for him’.

KC, an orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), has been campaigning against irregularities in the medical sector for over five years. He has undertaken a fast-unto-death as many as seven times – often for more than one week.

KC had compelled the government to form a committee to formulate a medical sector education policy. The committee, headed by eminent education expert Kedar Bhakta Mathema, has already submitted its report, but the Act based on this report has not yet been passed by Parliament.

In an article published in Kantipur last month, KC criticised Karki for abusing his power in order to subvert the achievements of the campaign against corruption in the medical sector. He wrote: ‘A constitutional body responsible for promoting transparency and accountability is itself opaque and abets impunity.’

KC, admired by many for his honesty and integrity, is a relentless crusader and has never ended a hunger strike without an agreement with the government. But this time, his demand will not prove easy for the government to fulfill.

To sack Karki by impeaching him requires the support of three-fourths of the Members of Parliament (MPs), hence all the major parties need to reach a consensus.

Implications of Brexit for Nepal

Friday, June 24th, 2016

On Friday morning within hours of the ‘Leave’ win in Britain’s European Union (EU) referendum, the British pound had fallen by 13% and stocks plummeted in trading when East Asian bourses opened.

The result of the referendum will reverberate not just in Britain but will also be felt around the world, including in Nepal through remittances, aid, trade and tourism.

British citizens of Nepali origin — who number 95,000 — will see their earnings drop, and the British pound that they send home to relatives will have less value. There are many ex-Gurkhas and families who have moved to the UK, as well as other migrants.

Rising xenophobia against foreigners will also impact on Nepali residents in the UK through greater social vulnerability, as well as through tighter immigration policies on new migrants.

The weakening of the EU as a result of UK’s exit will mean that effort towards regionalism elsewhere in the world, including South Asia, will also suffer. The European common market and European Parliament were pointing the way towards economic growth and equity through supra-nationalism. A weaker EU would indirectly mean a weaker rationale for SAARC and SAFTA, and therefore a diminished role for Nepal in pushing for regionalism.

Britain is the largest bilateral donor to Nepal, and also helps through multilateral agencies such as the UN as well as INGOs, including Oxfam, Save the Children, ActionAid, WaterAid. Any weakening of the UK economy and a rise of right-wing politics will lead to cutbacks in the official aid budget. A weakened EU may also be forced to reduce its own developmental outlays.

On foreign policy, Nepal may hope to benefit from greater focus by London, which had been forced to look at the world partially through European, American or Indian eyes. The takeover of so much of foreign policy by the EU and European Parliament — among other reasons — meant that London became less significant for Nepal.

Kathmandu has been irritated with the inability of Brussels to speak out during the Indian Blockade, and when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to London, Nepal figured in their joint communiqué. As Nepali officialdom saw it, with the rise of the EU, Whitehall seemed to give up its independent Nepal policy: becoming a part of EU and American strategy for Nepal.

Nepal could now demand more attention from the UK as a historical friend of Nepal, and in whose military Nepali citizens have served, and still serve. The hope in Kathmandu is that London has an independent focus on Nepal rather than through the prism of Brussels, Washington DC or New Delhi.

Manik Acharya in London


Fast-track survey in Valley

Friday, June 24th, 2016
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PM KP Oli walks out of Parliament after the main opposition Nepali Congress party prevented him from addressing the house on Friday. The NC has obstructed the proceedings in Parliament from Thursday, demanding the government explain the delay in post-earthquake reconstruction. Photo: RSS

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has announced that it will adopt a fast-track method to conduct a survey of earthquake-affected households in the Valley.  This came in the wake of mounting pressure from the main opposition party Nepali Congress concerning the government’s sluggish reconstruction procedure.

The NRA said it will seek reapplications from those whose houses were destroyed in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur by last year’s quake.  Subsequently, it will carry out the survey as a method of authentication, in lieu of a house-to-house exercise.

NRA spokesperson Ram Thapaliya said: “We will only survey the households destroyed in the Valley after receiving the reapplications.  Earthquake-affected persons who had not previously registered as victims should also submit applications, to be eligible to receive the government grant of Rs 200,000.”

Thapaliya added that the NRA will publish the list of applicants who receive Earthquake Victim Identity Cards in the Valley, and perform the survey in those households. “This is to verify who the genuine earthquake victims are, and to save time as well.”

The NRA submitted its progress report to Prime Minister KP Oli on Friday, as the main opposition party Nepali Congress has been disrupting the proceedings in Parliament, demanding clarification for the delay in reconstruction efforts.

Nepali Congress MPs obstructed Oli when he attempted to address the House on this topic today, asserting he had not engaged in prior consultation with them. The House was adjourned until the further notice.

According to the report, it will be a costly and lengthy process if a house-to-house survey in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur is carried out, as was done in the other 11 affected districts. Utilisation of the verification model in the Valley will expedite the process.

The NRA recently completed a detailed assessment in the 11 most-affected districts — Gorkha, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Ramechhap, Dhading, Kavre, Dolakha, Rasuwa, Okhaldhunga, Sindhuli and Makwanpur — and approximately 533,454 households have been found eligible to receive grants.

Shreejana Shrestha


Flight to Kabul

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
kabul flight

OPERATION KABUL: Captain Srawan Rijal (left) with his brother and co-pilot Subash Rijal in the cockpit before taking off from Kathmandu to bring back the bodies of 12 Nepalis killed in the blast. Pics: Nepal Airlines

Within an hour of the decision by Prime Minister K P Oli to bring back the bodies of the Nepalis killed in the Kabul bus bomb on the morning of 19 June, Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa had got the logistics moving. Nepal Airlines had been informed to have an aircraft ready to go, and the Embassy in Islamabad was informed to connect with the Afghan authorities to have the bodies ready at the airport.

The job of readying the aircraft and route permissions was given to Nepal Airlines under the charge of Capt Srawan Rijal, who has been the pilot liaising with Airbus of the airline’s acquisition last year of two 320-200s. It was 9:30 pm by the time the route permissions started coming in for the countries the plane would overfly. The Indian permission came first, and then the Afghan. But the Pakistan permission was delayed.


The Nepal Airlines plane lands in Kabul to bring back the bodies.

The airline did not have any detailed airways navigation maps for Afghanistan or the final approach chart for Kabul airport. Capt Rijal worked hard to get all the permits and charts ready. He then had to program the onboard computers with the route for the journey to Kabul and back.

Kathmandu Airport closes at 12 midnight, and it was impossible to get everything ready. Nepal Airlines obtained special permission to take off finally at 3:30 am on Tuesday 21 June. By the time the plane had flown the 3.5-hour journey to Kabul the sun was rising and the crew readied the plane for the intricate descent over the Hindu Kush mountains.

kabul radar

The plane had to make a snaky approach from the south and come down to 12,500 ft to avoid high mountains.

With the terrain, Kabul airport also has restrictions due to security. The plane has to make a snaky approach from the south and come down to 12,500 ft to avoid high mountains and then make a steep descent down to the airport at 5,900 ft to avoid military activity.

“It was one of the most challenging landings I have made in my career,” Capt Rijal told Nepali Times. “It was like flying into the war zone that it is.”


The crew members in Kabul.

Occupying the right-hand seat in the cockpit was Srawan Rijal’s brother, Capt Subash Rijal. The two come from a family of pilots: their father is a veteran of Nepal Airlines and their other brother is also a pilot with the airline. Capt Subash Rijal is Operations Director and was involved in all the planning of the Kabul mission.

Also on board were Nepal Army medical personnel and staff from the Ministry of External Affairs.

The plan was to have just a two-hour turnaround in Kabul, but although the coffins with the deceased Nepalis were ready to be loaded, the 24 Nepalis who wanted to take up the government’s offer to fly back to Nepal needed time to get their exit permits at immigration.

It was noon local time when everything was ready for the return journey. The flight attendants made sure the Nepalis on board were comfortable and listened to their stories.

Capt Rijal is full of praise to the government and Nepal Airlines management who pulled all the stops to complete the operation successfully.

“It was because all the departments coordinated well that we pulled it off,” he said, “and I was proud to be part of an operation to take the national flag carrier to help evacuate the bodies of our citizens at such a tragic time. We carried out our responsibility to the nation.”