Nepali Times

Another bus plunge, 20 dead

Friday, August 26th, 2016
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The wreckage of the ill-fated passenger bus which was  traveling from Gaur to Pokhara. Pic: RSS

The wreckage of the ill-fated passenger bus which was traveling from Gaur to Pokhara. Pic: RSS

At least 20 people were killed when a passenger bus plunged into Trisuli River along the narrow Narayangarh-Mugling highway early Friday morning.

According to the police the ill-fated bus was traveling from Gaur to Pokhara when it careened off the highway that is undergoing repairs and fell 200 metres down into river at around 3.30am on Friday. the 17 injured have been rescued and are receiving treatment in various hospitals in Chitwan. The bus was semi-submerged and was first spotted by some police on patrol.

Although the deceased are yet to be identified, Yogendra KC, Genreal Secretary of Prithvi Highway Bus Operator’s Committee which operated the vehicle said most of the passengers were from Abu Khaireni, Damauli, Kairenitaar and Pokhara.

Last week, 27 people were killed in another bus plunge in Kavre, sparking a national debate about the political protection and corruption that sustains bus monopolies on routes. Today’s tragedy has already reinforced those calls.

 

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Highways of death, Santa Gaha Magar

Cabinet expansion

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
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NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba (left) and senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel at an event in Kathmandu on Thursday. Photo: RSS

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is finally ready to give full shape to his cabinet this weekend.

Although he had been elected by Parliament as the new PM last month, Dahal has not been able to expand his cabinet due to an intra-party conflict between the NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel.

Dahal had agreed to give 13 ministerial berths to the NC. But Deuba had not been able to finalise the list of ministers from his party as Poudel demanded five cabinet berths for his faction.

Deuba had already selected seven ministers from his faction, offering four to Poudel’s camp. He had allocated the remaining two seats for Krishna Sitaula and Khum Bahadur Khadka’s camps. But Poudel rejected Deuba’s offer.

Dahal on Thursday agreed to give one more berth to the NC, enabling Deuba to offer five seats to Poudel. The NC will now have 14 ministers in the Dahal cabinet, which already has eight ministers from the CPN (Maoist-Centre).

New ministers are expected to be sworn in on Friday.

 


Save Rani Pokhari

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
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Pic: Gopen Rai

Youth activists staged a demonstration in Kathmandu on Wednesday protesting against the use of cement in the reconstruction of Rani Pokhari, a 17th-century heritage site destroyed by last year’s earthquake.

They gathered at Shanti Batika of Ratna Park, which is adjacent to the Rani Pokhari pond, carrying placards with slogans such as ‘Save heritage’ and ‘Save our identity’. They demanded that the government halt the haphazard reconstruction immediately, and replace cement with local materials.

They flayed the government for trying to cover up the use of cement by not sharing information about the rebuilding. The government is acting like a dictator,” said Sumana Shrestha, one of the protesters. “It did not even bother to organise a public hearing on this issue.”

Protesters claim that the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is using cement in the Rani Pokhari reconstruction without the Department of Archaeology’s approval.

Balgopaleswor Temple, which stands at the heart of Rani Pokhari, was destroyed by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on 25 April 2015. On the first anniversary of the earthquake, President Bidya Bhandari inaugurated the National Reconstruction Campaign from Rani Pokhari.

The KMC has received a budget of Rs 120 million to reconstruct Rani Pokhari, which was built by king Pratap Malla in 1671 to console his bereaved wife after the death of their child.


Bhagvad Gita as opera

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
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Arjuna's Dilemma

The rehearsals for Arjuna’s Dilemma are in full swing. Pic: Eric Garrison

Smriti Basnet

One of the most exciting events in Kathmandu’s cultural calendar is happening next week as world-renowned opera performers offer audiences a trilingual rendition of the Bhagvad Gita.

Arjuna’s Dilemma recreates scenes from the epic Hindu scriptures written four millennia ago with lyrics in Sanskrit, English and Hindi, and a melodious blend of western and Indian classical and jazz, under the stage direction of Deborah Merola.

In a small room in Baneswor, rehearsals are in full swing as the actors glide in synchronised motion across the room, dancing and singing. The chamber opera picks up the story where doubt consumes Pandava Prince Arjuna about fighting the war against his kinsfolk, and he approaches Lord Krishna, the prince’s charioteer and guide, for advice. Originally composed by Douglas J. Cuomo, it will be staged by One World Theatre in Nepal from 3-11 September at the Patan Museum courtyard.

Various engaging and eternal philosophical questions about life, death and faith come up, and it is fitting that the venue for the performance is opposite Patan’s famous Krishna Mandir, which will itself be a focal point during the celebration of Krishnasthami, the god’s birthday, this week.

“The Gita is not a linear story, it has different meanings depending on the interpretation,” explains Merola, who is using an international cast and production team, trained musicians, and theatre artists, to tell this complex and compelling story through a western art form. The swift changes in the set, powerful voices of the opera singers, and soul-stirring rhythms of the tabla, cello, violin and saxophone keep the audience enthralled.

Arjuna's Dilemma 1

A 3D design of the set of Arjuna’s Dilemma to be staged in the courtyard of the Patan Museum. Pic: Greg Mitchell

Premiered in 2008 at the BAM Next Wave Festival, the 70-minute fusion opera was the brainchild of Cuomo, who wanted to pen a piece for his friend Amit Chatterjee to perform in. Having always been interested in and intrigued by eastern religions, Cuomo took the opportunity to explore the sacred text.

“The Bhagvad Gita is an emotional and dramatic text, when I discovered this I decided I would compose something around it,” said Cuomo. “I am hoping that the music is universal enough for people to respond to, because when one is not used to opera the singing may be somewhat unfamiliar.”

The Patan performance will feature a live orchestra, with Jonathan Khuner as the music director. To make it more relevant to Nepal, Merola draws from the experiences and rituals of the country and blends these into the story. The April 2015 earthquake, which devastated the square outside the performance venue, will add poignancy to the performance.

“We have been very clear that we are not coming here as a group of westerners trying to interpret the sacred text. We are bringing in art forms that we are familiar with,” said Merola.

Opera singer Roy Stevens, who will be the voice of Arjuna, learnt Sanskrit only after he came to Nepal, and it will be the sixteenth language he will be singing in. “It is a true collaboration and cultural exchange. The opera is a fantastic piece that finds common ground between two different worlds of music,” Stevens said, terming opera as a “gift for the soul” that can give back honour and respect to Nepali society through this partnership.

Actor Rajkumar Pudasaini, playing the part of Krishna, also feels he has had to push beyond his comfort zone to accommodate an unfamiliar style and form, since the parts are sung separately by professional opera singers. Said Pudasaini: “As theatre artistes, we are trained in the audiovisual medium. In this I have to give my best to convey it only through the visual aspect. That has been a new challenge.”

Arjunas Dilemma

Patan Museum from 3 to 11 September (except 6 and 7 September)

7 pm onwards, Rs 750 and Rs 500 (Adults), Rs 200 (Students)

Ticket outlets: Patan Museum Gift Shop, Siddhartha Art Gallery, Shangri-La Hotel

 


Nidhi returns

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
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Photo: RSS

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi returned from a five-day India visit on Tuesday.

Upon his arrival at Kathmandu Airport, Nidhi told journalists that his visit was successful in strengthening Kathmandu-New Delhi ties, which had reached a nadir after the promulgation last year of Nepal’s new constitution.

“Our ties have become stronger,” he said. “And you will see the proof of it during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s India visit in mid-September”.

Nidhi also said that New Delhi has confirmed Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s Nepal visit, which will be followed by President Bidya Bhandari’s India visit.

President Bhandari was scheduled to visit India earlier, but the then-Prime Minister KP Oli cancelled her visit, after an NC-Maoist attempt to unseat him in May.

During his India visit, Nidhi called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other top Indian leaders.


Showcasing the royal crown

Monday, August 22nd, 2016
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Pic: Nepal

Pic: Nepal

Sitaram Baral in Nepal, 21 August

On 28 January 2009 Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated the Narayanhiti Palace Museum. When the doors of the former royal palace opened to the public, missing from the list of exhibits was an important symbol of the Nepali monarchy: the royal crown. Citing lack of space and a secure display case, the royal crown was locked up in a secure compartment in the saloon room of the palace.

As visitors expressed their interest in viewing the crown, a working committee was created under Narayan Regmi in 2010-11. As per its recommendations, two rooms were prepped with bulletproof windows and CCTV cameras, a special bulletproof showcase was purchased in 2012 and five Nepal Army personnel were stationed to provide security but, four years down the line, the plan has not moved ahead.

Despite the security preparations, the lack of coordination amongst the government agencies over who would be responsible for the protection of the crown when it is on display has been cited as the main reason for the delay.

The museum and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had tried to insure the crown, but the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association deemed the royal crown — with its closely set diamonds and pearls, emerald drops with a cascade of bird-of-paradise plumes — too priceless for valuation. The museum and the Ministry had also approached the Nepal Army regarding the safety of the crown, but never received an official reply. Unofficially, the Nepal Army had put forth a condition that if the crown is put on display, responsibility for its security should be divided amongst the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and Central Investigation Bureau.

Last year, the museum and the Ministry planned for the second time to place the crown on display on the occasion of Republic Day, but that plan took a back seat when the earthquake hit. Plans for its exhibition are now underway for the third time but the security concerns persist.


Dahal’s overtures slammed

Sunday, August 21st, 2016
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Opposition parties have slammed the government for ‘involving India in amending Nepal’s constitution’.

Speaking in the House on Sunday, UML Member of Parliament (MP) Yagyaraj Sunuwar said that it was a shame that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal sent his special envoy to New Delhi to discuss amending Nepal’s constitution.

On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi had handed over PM Dahal’s letter to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the letter, Dahal is believed to have assured Modi that Nepal is ready to amend the constitution to address the grievances of Madhesi and Janajati dissenters.

“The Dahal government has shown that nothing can happen in Nepal without India’s consent,” said Sunuwar. “It is a big shame.”

Nepal Workers Peasants Party (NWPP) MP Prem Suwal also flayed the government for allowing India to intervene in Nepal’s internal affairs by expressing a written commitment to amend the constitution.

Dahal had become PM last month, vowing to resolve the Madhes crisis by forging a consensus to amend the constitution.  And India is believed to have backed his government.

Modi has invited Dahal for a three-day India visit through Nidhi. The two PMs are scheduled to hold a meeting by mid September.

 


 

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