Nepali Times

Morcha disrupts NC program

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
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The Madhesi Morcha has attempted to prevent the Nepali Congress (NC) from holding local party committee elections in Janakpur on Sunday, leading to a clash with police.

Madhesi protesters pelted stones and petrol bombs at police who were escorting NC leader and legislator, Lila Koirala, to the election venue. Police opened fire and threw tear gas shells to disperse agitators. Several protesters were injured in the clash, according to the Morcha.

The main opposition NC is now holding elections for village, municipality and district committees in the run up to its 13th general convention, slated for March 3-6 in Kathmandu.

The NC recently appealed to the Morcha to not disrupt its local party elections in the Tarai, where Madhesi parties have been agitating against Nepal’s new constitution since August last year.

The Morcha did not officially respond to the NC’s appeal. Madhesi leaders said they would not disrupt any party’s general convention but warned of negative consequences if the NC tried to show its strength in the name of organising party programs in the Tarai.

The Tarai region has always been a stronghold for the NC. But it has apparently antagonised Madhesi people by leading the constitution writing process. Madhesi parties fear that the NC could succeed in restoring its relations with Madhesi people in the process of holding a general convention.


Stop and go

Friday, January 29th, 2016
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Pic: Suresh Bidari

Pic: Suresh Bidari

Five cargo trucks entered Nepal through Birganj-Raxaul border on Friday for the first time in four months since the Indian blockade started in late September.

The Indian side sent the cargo trucks carrying machinery early morning on Friday when none of the protesters were present at the border. Likewise, two freight carriers also entered Raxaul from the Nepal side. Last week, businessmen had removed obstructions at the Miteri bridge to bring in a few things on rickshaws and carts.

After the trucks entered through the border point, protesters of the Madhesi front gathered at the bridge and obstructed the movement at the border again.

“It is unlikely the blockade will be lifted suddenly because India would like it to be known that it wasn’t responsible for the blockade and it was due to obstructions by protesters on the Nepal side,” said an analyst.


Stuck abroad

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
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From the Nepali Press

Photo: Nepal

Photo: Nepal

Janak Raj Sapkota in Nepal, 25 January

Bhawana and Mandir Nembang still remember the day when their older brother Shree Bahadur Nembang left for Qatar. The country was in the middle of a civil war and Nembang was among the many that had left their villages to find better opportunities abroad. As it was time to leave and Bhawana and Mandir started crying, Shree Bahadur had promised his younger siblings that he’d return soon. Fifteen years later, the two are still waiting.

On 9 September 2004, three years after he landed in Qatar, Shree Bahadur was admitted to Hamad Hospital following an accident. He then fell into a coma and has not recovered ever since. The loan Shree Bahadur had taken to go to Qatar has multiplied four times over with interest, and the family now owes more than Rs 400,000. “We have no hope of our brother returning nor do we have any means to pay off the debt,” says Mandir. “All our happiness ended with that one incident,” adds Bhawana.

The Nembang family has suffered even more since Shree Bahadur left to find work. Mandir and Bhawana’s parents passed away over the course of waiting for Shree Bahadur to return. And although both the siblings welcome the return of their brother, the process of bringing him back home isn’t that easy.

“Until and unless we can provide the same level of service in government hospitals here, it will be too risky to bring the patients here,” says Raghu Raj Kafle of the Foreign Employment Promotion Board.

Many migrant workers who are comatose and admitted in hospitals abroad have no recourse of being sent back to Nepal. The government does not keep proper records on the number and location of the patients. Some of the comatose workers are yet to be identified.

After pressure mounted from other countries to take back the patients, a government committee was formed to investigate migrant workers in foreign hospitals. The committee found 16 comatose Nepalis in Qatar alone. It has presented a report on what can be done to bring back comatose Nepalis to the Foreign Ministry, and has concluded that the patients need to be shifted to government hospitals here.

Since an air ambulance is required to transfer the patients and payment needs to be made for all the hospital bills, Nepali embassies abroad do not prioritise sending Nepali patients back home. Most afflicted families do not have the means to pay the steep bills. Although Qatar has said it would provide a medical team and an air ambulance to transfer the patients, government hospitals here are ill-equipped to receive them.

Though there is public outcry to open well-equipped government hospitals that would take care of the patients, it is not clear as to who should take responsibility for all the costs. “We cannot bring the patients without paying the bills,” says Kafle. “Who should bear the bills, the embassies or the families? This problem isn’t easy to solve without proper policies in place.”

 


FIFA aside, fans rejoice

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
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2(1)

Nepali football team returns to a hero’s welcome in Kathmandu on Saturday. Photo: Gopen Rai

From the Nepali Press

www.mysansar.com (25 January)

When the Nepali football team lifted the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh last week, Nepal celebrated it as the first international trophy in the last 23 years. The Nepali media reported that it was Nepal’s first international football championship since winning the South Asian Games (SAG) in 1993.

But, because the Bangabandhu Gold Cup is not recognised by FIFA, the governing body of world football, as an international tournament, Nepal still has not officially won a single international football trophy since 1993. If anything, the victory was an international-level trophy won by the Nepali team outside the country.

If Nepali football fans still want to consider the Bangabandhu Gold Cup as the first international trophy since the 1993 SAG regardless of official rulings, it would be an injustice to the 2009 Nepali squad that won the Prime Minister Cup in Kathmandu. Nepal had defeated Sri Lanka 4-2 in a tie-breaker in the final match of that tournament.

Like the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, the Prime Minister Cup was not recognised by FIFA as an international tournament, despite the participation of the national football teams of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Footballers Sagar Thapa and Sandip Rai, who are now facing charges of match-fixing, were members of that squad.

In the last few years, Nepal had not been able to score goals in international tournaments. But in Bangladesh, Nepali managed to score seven goals in just its last two matches, leading to the hoisting of the cup.

But at the end of the day, without official recognition, Nepal is still looking to end a drought of FIFA-accredited international titles.


Oli foresees blockade’s end

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
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Prime Minister KP Oli has claimed that “the Indian blockade against Nepal will be lifted within a couple of days.”

Talking to editors and senior journalists at his official residence in Baluwatar on Tuesday, PM Oli also said that he would not visit India if the blockade is not lifted.

“It would not be appropriate to visit India if this situation (the blockade) persists,” he said. “But I don’t think the question if I will have to cancel my India visit is relevant — the blockade is being lifted soon.”

India has stopped the supply of fuel and other essential commodities since September, citing border-centric protests by Madhesi parties. After Nepal passed a resolution last month to amend the constitution and set up an all-party mechanism to redraw federal boundaries, India has eased border obstructions at other checkpoints, but the Birganj trade point remains blocked.

Only a handful of protesters (and at times just one person) are now staging a sit-in at the Birganj-Raxaul Bridge, where hundreds of protesters would congregate in the early days of the blockade,. However, trucks and containers carrying fuel and cooking gas have not been allowed to pass through this trade point so far.

This is not the first time that PM Oli has stated that ‘India will now lift the blockade’. When asked if his claim would turn out to be hollow this time, Oli said: “I believe in friendship. I believe political parties are honest. They promised me that they would lift the blockade. But they did not keep their promises. But this time I am hopeful because we have fulfilled some demands raised by Madhesi parties. And now they do not have a reason to continue with the blockade.”

On Saturday, Parliament had amended three clauses of the constitution to appease Madhesi constituents. But Madhesi parties have refused to support the amendment, saying it is not sufficient to address their demands.

Madhesi parties have demanded only two federal provinces encompassing the whole southern plains region, but the Big Three parties are against it. As the two sides failed to iron out differences over this issue, negotiations failed and the Big Three parties pushed through the amendment bill without having Madhesi dissenters on board.

Contrary to PM’s statement, Madhesi leaders said they will not call off protests and will continue with the border blockade. “Our agitation will continue,” Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav said. “We are not calling off border-centric protests either.”

 


Madhesis unveil fresh protests

Monday, January 25th, 2016
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Miffed at the way the Big Thee pushed through the first constitution amendment bill, the agitating Madhesi parties have unveiled a fresh protest program.

On Monday, a meeting of the Madhesi Front, a coalition of four Madhes-based parties, decided that it will carry out a candle light vigil and hold various interaction programs from 27 January to 1 February. The Front said it would unveil more protest programs after further discussion.

A statement issued by the Front is silent about whether sit-ins at Nepal-India checkpoints will continue. But the Front leaders said border protests will go on.

Madhesi parties have been agitating against Nepal’s new constitution since August last year. They have also been organising sit-ins at checkpoints since September, providing a reason for India to cut off the supply of fuel and other essential commodities.

After Nepal passed a resolution in December to amend the constitution and set up an all-party mechanism to redraw federal boundaries, India has eased supply of goods through all checkpoints but the one at Birganj. As the most important trade point remains blocked, the crisis of fuel, cooking gas and other essentials continues unabated.

Leaders of the ruling parties had publicly announced that India would resume supplying materials through Birganj after the amendment to the constitution, which was promulgated just four months ago. But they failed to bring Madhesi dissenters on board before passing the first amendment bill.

India has ‘regarded’ the passing of the bill as a ‘positive development’ but is still “hoping that other outstanding issues will be resolved in a constructive manner.”


India says amendment ‘positive’

Sunday, January 24th, 2016
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India has ‘regarded’ the first amendment to Nepal’s new constitution as ‘positive developments’, but is hoping that other issues will also be addressed.

A day after Parliament endorsed the first constitution amendment bill despite opposition from Madhesi parties, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a terse statement: “We regard the two amendments passed yesterday by the Nepali Parliament as positive developments. We hope that other outstanding issues are similarly addressed in a constructive spirit.”

On 20 September, when the constitution was promulgated, India had only ‘noted’ it expressing displeasure over exclusion of Madhesi parties from the statute drafting process. In December, when Nepal passed a cabinet resolution to add clarity to citizenship provisions, amend the constitution to address Madhesi demands for proportional representation and set up an all-party mechanism to redraw boundaries, India had welcomed it.

After India’s previous statement, leaders of the ruling parties had been claiming that the Indian blockade would be lifted once the amendment was passed. But India has not wholeheartedly welcomed the amendment. It has only ‘regarded it’ and pressing Nepal for addressing other demands put forth by Madhesi parties.

Madhesi parties have demanded only two provinces encompassing the whole Tarai region – something the Big Three parties are not willing to agree on.

The Madhesi Front has described the amendment as ‘incomplete’ and refused to call off protests.

Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, a constituent member of the Front, has announced Kathmandu-centric protests. It has also made it clear that border protests will continue.


 

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