Nepali Times

Public feedback in CA

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
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The report on public feedback on the draft constitution has been tabled in a Constituent Assembly (CA) meeting on Tuesday.

Pramila Rana, Chair of the CA’s Citizen Relations and Public Opinion Collection Committee, submitted the report to the CA Chair Subhas Nembang despite sloganeering by Madhesi and Janjati lawmakers.

The 94-page report contains 186,946 suggestions collected directly from people and through website, email, post office and fax. The CA members had reached their constituencies to seek public feedback on the draft. As many as 184,674 people had participated in programs organised to collect public feedback.

People have mostly favoured directly elected executive, religious freedom, demarcation of federal provinces before the constitution and citizenship either in the name of father or mother.

The CA will start deliberation on the report from Wednesday and forward it to its Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC). The CPDCC will choose suggestions to be incorporated in the draft constitution.

The four political parties have already decided to stick to the 16-point deal, hinting at possibility that the demand for directly-elected executive will not be addressed. The draft constitution has adopted the Westminster system of governance.

However, some top political parties have hinted that the more accurate Nepali word for secularism will be used and it will be defined as religious freedom.The CA has already published its schedule to promulgate the new constitution by mid August.

 


Waiting in the rain

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
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Sahina Shrestha in PANCHKHAL

Looking down at the newly-declared municipality of Panchkhal from the Arniko Highway is a sight that has come to define the landscape of the 15 mountain districts affected by the earthquake three months ago. Hundreds of bright spots of light reflect the morning sun off new tin roofs of temporary shelters.

Just off the road in Ward 5 of Panchkhal, 56-year-old Dev Kumari Mijar has been living since April in a hut fabricated entirely of corrugated tin sheets. Her brick home nearby bears the scars of the earthquake and is too unsafe to live in.

56-year old Dev Kumar Mijar stands in front of the remains of her two-storey house.

56-year old Dev Kumar Mijar stands in front of the remains of her two-storey house. Pics: Gopen Rai

“That is where I have been living since the earthquake,” said Dev Kumari, pointing to her shed that has it roof and walls made of corrugated sheets. The Rs 15,000 that the government gave out was not enough, so she had to sell gold ornaments to buy another Rs 14,000 worth of tin. “I don’t know if I can afford to rebuild my house,” she said, adding she couldn’t afford to tear it down either.

Kamala Mijar, 29, finally received her Rs 15,000 last month after being given the runaround by local officials. But even that money is not enough to buy roof sheets and timber to build a temporary shelter. As a single mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Kamala cannot even afford to complete her unfinished shelter. Rebuilding her destroyed home is a distant dream.

Kamala Mijar stands in front of her unfinished temporary shelter.

Kamala Mijar, 29 stands at the doorway of her unfinished temporary shelter.

“I barely save anything from what I earn. I have to send my daughter to school and manage the household,” said Kamala, who started living alone after her husband took a new wife.

Up the hill, 80-year-old Bal Bhadra Mijar hasn’t received his Rs 15,000 because his name was not on the list of those made homeless. Wrinkled and gaunt, he lives in a bamboo and tin shelter, looking out at the ruin of what used to be his house which he has no hope of rebuilding.

Kamala Mijar, 30 sums up the dilemma of many here: “I had to borrow Rs 80,000 to build this bamboo and tin shelter, there is no way I can rebuild my house for another 3-4 years.”

Kamala Mijar, 30 spent Rs 80,000 building a temporary shelter.

Kamala Mijar, 30 spent Rs 80,000 building a temporary shelter.

Everyone here has heard that the government has promised Rs 200,000 for those with damaged houses, but they have no idea where they can get the rest of the money. “It would be a great help if the government could hurry up with the grant,” says Dev Kumari Mijar, “it would be start.”

There is a lot of confusion here, as elsewhere, about the mechanism for distributing housing grants. Some have been told the initial Rs 15,000 will be deducted from the larger sum, while rumours are rife that those who have started reconstruction will not get the money. This has led many to keep living in shelters even if they can afford to rebuild.

But in the absence of the Reconstruction Authority, the housing grants are in limbo and there is confusion even in various branches of government about how it will be distributed.

“We have already allocated the budget and the policy is in place,” explained Ramsharan Pudasaini, spokesperson for Ministry of Finance, “but the guidelines and the standards for it are still being prepared.”

Another official at the ministry said the money cannot be disbursed unless the Reconstruction Authority has been formed, but insisted that the full amount will be given out in installments and the Rs 15,000 will not be deducted from it.


“I gave it all I had”

Monday, July 27th, 2015
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Interview with Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal, Himal Khabarpatrika, 26 July-1 August

Himal: Are you happy with your tenure as Chief Secretary?

Leela Mani Paudyal: My motto in life is to lead by example, so I have always prioritised my work and fulfilled it to the best of my ability. Unlike the security forces, civil servants are not under the jurisdiction of a Chief Secretary. The position doesn’t have power and resources. A Chief Secretary’s job is to  coordinate between agencies, conduct meetings of the council of ministers and act as a bridge between the government and the political parties. Another important role is to serve as secretary of the constitutional council.

Were you prepared for the job?

It wasn’t decided that I would be the Chief Secretary until the last moment. After I got appointed I made sure not to compromise on issues of corruption, public administration, and to be impartial and efficient.

Don’t you think you could have done more?

For one year during my term we didn’t have a parliament. Bombs went off to stop elections. It was a tough situation. I couldn’t work everywhere, but I did the best I could with what I had.

How much political pressure was there? 

There were a lot of pressure but I stood my ground. I had quite a few arguments with political leaders. The issues of public land as well as transfers got a lot of attention.

Instead of delegating, you did things yourself. Is it because you didn’t have faith in others?

As I said before I believe in leading by example. Because a lot of civil servants volunteered during  the Clean Bagmati campaign, many others joined us. If I had just given orders this wouldn’t have been possible.

Should a Chief Secretary be limited to policy-making or get feet dirty cleaning up rivers? 

The country goes downhill when you say one thing and do another. Political leaders make the policy, a Chief Secretary alone cannot do it. For example: when the Civil Service Act to sack government employees possessing Diversity Visa (DV) and Permanent Residency (PR) of foreign countries was first taken to Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, the minister called it my agenda.

Are you saying the role of the Chief Secretary should be broader?

The Chief Secretary should be involved in hiring, promotion, and transfer of government officials and the transfer and promotion of security personnel.

Do you have a favourite successor?

No, those are just rumours. All candidates went through all the selection process. I have even overlapped with them so they get exposure.


Labour recruiters end strike

Sunday, July 26th, 2015
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gopen

Labour recruiters have agreed to end their three-week-long strike following an agreement with the government.

After a series of failed talks, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), which is an umbrella organization of labour recruiting companies, has agreed to accept the government’s zero-cost migration policy for three months.

According to the NAFEA’s General Secretary Rohan Gurung, labour recruiters accepted the zero-cost policy for three months after the government agreed to review it on the basis of a report to be submitted by a joint task force comprising representatives from the both sides.

After a meeting on Saturday, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) formed a task force led by acting labour secretary Surya Prasad Shrestha to review the zero-cost policy. The Shrestha task force will also have members from the NAFEA and prepare a report after visiting Malaysia and six other Gulf countries within two months.

Labour recruiters had earlier asked the government to scrap the zero-cost policy and implement it only after a thorough study. But they showed flexibility after Labour Minister Tek Bahadur Gurung refused to withdraw the policy.

After the zero-cost policy came into effect on 6 July, labour recruiters have stopped sending migrant workers to Malaysia and the Gulf countries. They have even prevented the pro zero-cost labour recruiters from seeking labour permits from the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).

With the signing of a 31-point agreement between the MoLE and the NAFEA, labour recruiters are expected to resume their service. But some NAFEA officials have objected to the agreement, saying they were not consulted.

 


Amrit at O2 Academy Brixton

Sunday, July 26th, 2015
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While visiting London in 2007, Nepathya’s frontman Amrit Gurung had pointed out the Wembley Arena and told his daughter he wished he could play there one day. His daughter laughed at him. “Dreaming is free,” he remembers thinking.

But Gurung and Nepathya ended up performing at Wembley Arena in front of 10,000 fans in 2013. Two years later, the Nepali folk rock band is getting ready for another gig on 8 August at O2 Academy Brixton which has a capacity of 4,500.

Amrit Gurung during Nepathya's performance at Wembley Arena on 3 August 2013

Amrit Gurung during Nepathya’s performance at Al Nasr Leisure Land, Dubai on 21 May 2015

As last time, a large part of the audience will be Nepalis resident in Britain many of them descendants of Gurkha soldiers in the British Army. This time, Gurung hope there will be some Nepali veterans in the crowd because he will be performing the old Gurkha song Naina Taala, which is in Nepathya’s tenth album being released soon.

All the songs in the new album were recorded at one go, with all the instruments at the same time on one track so it will have the feel of a live performance. “The sound quality of this tenth record may not be as good as the previous ones, but playing together at the same time enabled us to convey intimacy in our sound,” Gurung told us.

Nepathya at the Wembley Arena on 3 August 2013

Nepathya during a concert in Nepal

Nepathya band members are eager to meet the British public again, this time also to mark the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Gurung says what he loves the most during his concerts is the interaction with the audience.  “I’m not as enthusiastic about studio recordings,” he admits.

Musicians of Nepathya before going on stage © Sudhira Shah

Musicians of Nepathya before going on stage © Sudhira Shah

The second concert in London and this new approach of recording prove that 25 years after its creation by a group of college mates, and as band members come and go, Gurung and Nepathya continue to innovate. Gurung says that is the way young Nepali musicians should engage in music: “To succeed, you have to create and recreate yourself and be original.”

In 2013, Gurung remembers being nervous before the Wembley Arena concert, but now he feels there was no reason to be. “It’s your performance that counts,” he says, “if the audience doesn’t feel your music, it doesn’t mean anything it’s in the Wembley Arena or anywhere else.”

Nepathya at the HBF Stadium of Sydney, Australia on 4 April 2015 © Sudhira Shah

Nepathya at the HBF Stadium of Sydney, Australia on 4 April 2015 © Sudhira Shah

Nepathya has performed to packed audiences all over Nepal, in Israel, in the Gulf, Hong Kong, South Korean, Finland and Australia in the past few years. Gurung admits that 25 years ago, he never felt the band would last as long as it did. Since then, he has worked with 19 different musicians and is the only founding member who remains.

Gurung says: “Dreaming is free, but hard work also pays off.”

 

Stéphane Huët


Strike cripples life

Friday, July 24th, 2015
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People walk to their destination during a general strike called by CPN Maoist on Friday. Pic: Devaki Bista

Normal life has been thrown out of gear due to a general strike called by a Maoist party on Friday.

The Netra Bikram Chanda ‘Biplav’-led CPN Maoist, a breakaway faction of the UCPN (Maoist), has enforced a nationwide general strike against the India-China Lipulek deal and the draft constitution.

The CPN Maoist has criticised the government’s failure to exert diplomatic pressure on India and China to revoke the Lipulek deal. The party says Lipulek is part of Nepal and the India- China bilateral deal to use it as a trade hub is against Nepal’s sovereignty.

The CPN Maoist, which boycotted the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, has also rejected the draft constitution.

Old Bus Park in the capital seen empty on Friday as an affect due to the general strike called by Netra Bikram Chand-led CPN (Maoist) on Friday accross the country. Photo: Kumar Shrestha, RSS

Kathmandu’s Old Bus Park wears a deserted look on Friday. Photo: Kumar Shrestha, RSS

Biplav’s cadre vandalised five vehicles in Kathmandu and one in Lalitpur early Friday morning to enforce their strike. They also set a passenger bus on fire in Dhading district. In Nepalgunj, they set two parked buses ablaze.

In Kathmandu Valley, only a few vehicles were seen plying the streets. People were forced to walk to their destination as public vehicles were off the streets.

Police had rounded up 75 striker enforcers from Kathmandu and Lalitpur. But they were released later. Police SSP Narayan Singh Khadka said they were arrested because they were carrying petrol in bottles and jerry canes.


Advice from the grassroots

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
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From the Nepali Press

Milijuli Nepali Episode 64, BBC Media Action,  July 16

All pics: BBC Nepali

All pics: BBC Nepali

People in the earthquake zone are busy these days with rice planting, household work and rebuilding homes. That doesn’t mean one should careless about their health though. The people who suffered injuries during the earthquake are now gradually healing and getting back to their lives. Presenter Sabita Biswokarma  and psychologist  Jivan Kumari Bhattarai talk with Hari Maya Maharjan of Harisiddhi, Lalitpur. Maharjan was buried along with her other family members in the ruins of her house for more than four hours before being rescued. She stayed in hospital for a few days for treatment and is now living in a temporary tent set up near her maternal home. Maharjan’s sprained hand still hasn’t healed, but she hopes to start working as it recovers.

online1

BBC Nepali: You were buried for four hours in the rubble after the earthquake and then rescued. Your son and a grandson were also rescued. How are you now?

Maharjan: My hand hurt a lot, bit is a lot better now. I want to get back to work, but what to do, I can’t. I have to work to feed myself. These days I don’t have any appetite, I can’t sleep either. I keep worrying about how to take care of my family, how we will survive this, raise children and where to get money to pay their school fees at the end of the month. I keep fretting about such things. I want to work. Otherwise how will we manage at home? We have to look after the household, we have to work.

What have you decided to do?

After harvesting the paddy if there is enough straw, I’ll make straw slippers to sell.  I can make 5-6 pairs per day and sometimes even as many as 10 pairs. If my hands heal, I will find other work and if there isn’t enough straw to make slippers. If you stay and do nothing your mind will be only focus on pain.

online2

We now turn to psychologist Jivan Kumari Bhattarai for advice in the case of Hari Maya’s Maharjan. She has tried to change and adjusted quickly. Some people need a little more time to adjust.

What kind of a role should family members, neighbours and specialists like you play so that it will be easier to the survivors?

Jivan Kumari Bhattarai: We should see what can be done, what specific things are necessary in a particular locality, or the kind of skills that they would need. It could even be skills they had learnt in the past, and engage them in farm work. It doesn’t have to be paddy planting only, we could teach them to farm in different ways. We have to communicate, talk to them about their economic conditions what is required to be done and how to do it. If we talk with them and engage them to come up with solutions, they’ll adjust sooner.


 

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