Thursday, March 31, 2011

FIs insure Rs 22b slab with DCGC

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Financial institutions (FIs) have insured a total of Rs 22 billion of their deposits with Deposit and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DCGC) as of Wednesday.

On Feb.16, the Nepal Rastra Bank had directed B, C and D class financial institutions to insure their fixed and saving deposits up to Rs 200,000 collected from individuals. However, deposits collected from corporate bodies and deposits exceeding Rs 200,000 need not be insured.

The government, through last year’s budget, had announced that individual deposits up to Rs 200,000 in B, C and D class FIs will be insured to save ordinary depositors from potential bank failures. The need for deposit insurance was felt after the liquidation of Nepal Development Bank.

According to DCGC, a total of 31 B class and 37 C class financial institutions have insured their deposits collected from around 470,000 individuals. “Almost 90 percent of the country’s BFIs have inquired about the deposit insurance process,” said the DCGC. “Most of the Kathmandu-based FIs have insured their deposits.”

A total of 83 development banks and 79 finance companies are operating in the country and they have estimated deposits of Rs 150 billion. “Of the total deposits, Rs 30 billion belongs to individuals,” said NRB Spokesperson Bhaskar Mani Gyawali. “We have not set any deadline for FIs to insure their deposits. As FIs themselves are responsible institutions, we hope all of them will insure their deposits as per their convenience.”

However, D class FIs are yet to get their deposits insured as they were not allowed to collect deposits. Now, D class FIs, including Swabalamban Bikas Bank, Chhimek Bikas Bank and Nirdhan Bikas Bank, have received NRB approval to collect deposits. “They have started the process of insuring deposits,” said Jagadish Chalise, deputy general manager of DCGC.

If an FI having insured its deposits goes into liquidation, DCGC will return individual deposits up to Rs 200,000 to its depositors. The board of the FIs should select a representative to sign agreement with DCGC to insure deposits.

DCGC has set the advance annual premium amount based on FIs’ classes. As per the DCGC provision, national level development banks, regional level development banks, finance companies and micro-finance institutions have to pay Rs 50,000, Rs 25,000, Rs 20,000 and Rs 5,000, respectively, as premium.

The annual premium amount has been fixed at 20 paisa per Rs 100. As per the Deposit Insurance Bylaw-2010, premium will not be refunded to member FIs. FIs failing to maintain capital adequacy ratio will have to pay an additional premium of 10 paisa per Rs 100. Insurance can be claimed if any FI is liquidated. Liquidator can claim a maximum of Rs 200,000 including principal and interest, as per the bylaw.

The government also plans to strengthen the financial status of DCGC, as it has to insure a huge amount.

Resignation was my personal decision: Khanal

KATHMANDU, March 31: Finance Secretary Rameshore Khanal, who surprised everyone by suddenly tendering his resignation, has said he doesn´t want blame anyone for his decision to resign from the post but ruled out any possibility of reassuming the public post.

Talking exclusively to Republica on Wednesday evening, Khanal said, “Since it was my personal and sober decision, I don´t want to blame anyone, especially Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari. I have deep respects for Minister Adhikari,” he said and urged all concerned not to make his resignation a political issue.

Khanal also said that he had no major difference with the finance minister on the issue of VAT frauds.

He said he decided to resign as he was tired of seeing how greed has enslaved people and the society during his 31 years in government service. “Now I want rest and peace,” he stressed and appealed to everyone to take the issue in a normal way.

However, he said he had different opinions about the distributive budget that the present leadership is mulling for the proposed supplementary budget. “I had expressed my reservations as I was in favor of a budget that supports capital formation but the leadership felt I did not cooperate with them,” he said.

Khanal further said he took the decision to resign as he did not want to be a hindrance to the government, he said.

Khanal further said that he wanted this government to continue and bring the constitution on time.

“Nepal needs peace more than ever before,” he said. He further said that he was calling from a place about 20 kilometers from Pokhara where people are unaware about what is happening in Kathmandu. “Our development efforts and revolution have been extensively Kathmandu centric,” he said.

Khanal said he would spend the rest of his life in social service.

Five firms vie for Upper Tamakoshi management

KATHMANDU, March 31: Five international companies have expressed interest in the management of the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Limited (UTKHPL).

Snowy Mountain and Engineering Corporation (SMEC), Australia, Fichtner Engineering and Consulting Services, Germany, Knight Piesold Consulting, USA, Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) Ltd, India and SNC-Lavalin Engineering India Pvt Ltd, India have submitted their applications after the UTKHPL floated another bid reviewing the terms of reference (TOR), required qualification and experience for the applicants for management team.

“We sought applications even from teams of individuals in the first bid, but in the second bid only allowed firms to apply,” clarified Project Director and Officiating Chief Executive Officer of the UTKHPL Mrigendra Bahadur Shrestha. The UTKHPL will now shortlist applicants from among the five firms and seek technical and financial proposals from them for evaluation.

SMEC from Australia and Fichtner of Germany, who have applied again, are the only companies that had applied in the previous bidding which was annulled as the Public Procurement Act 2007 requires at least three applicants for a valid bidding process.

The German firm Fichtner had earlier worked for the 70 MW Mid-Marsyangdi Hydropower Project as consultant while SMEC is the major promoter of 750 MW West Seti Hydropower Project. SNC Lavalin and the Indian government-owned WAPCOS have also been involved in hydroelectricity sector in Nepal in the past.

The UTKHPL had published an advertisement in The Economist on January 15 making it the first public sector hydroelectricity project in the country to seek foreign management team as per the loan agreement with the Employees´ Provident Fund (EPF).

The 456 MW project to be constructed in Lamabagar, Dolakha had courted controversy after the Ministry of Energy appointed Arjun Karki as the executive chairman of UTKHPL against the loan agreement on August 6, 2010.

Then Energy Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat had scrapped Karki´s appointment and the Supreme Court had later upheld the minister´s decision on September 3.

The daily peaking run-of-the-river project will be the largest hydropower project when it comes into operation and will provide 456 MW electricity for four hours a day even during the dry season.

PAC on right track‚ wants cars back

misuse of govt facilities

KATHMANDU: The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee today directed the Council of Ministers and Ministry of Home Affairs to reclaim government vehicles and personal security officers provided to ‘unauthorised persons’ within seven days, saying such practices were in violation of prevailing laws.

PAC also directed the government to work in tandem with the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority to initiate action against those defying its orders. It has asked the government to bring such ill practices — of employing low-ranked police personnel and others as ‘domestic help’ at their residences — to an end.

The PAC meeting, chaired by committee chairman Ram Krishna Yadav, directed MoHA to review the rules and norms within a week and replace them with ‘clear and transparent ones’. Officiating Home Secretary Jaya Mukunda Khanal was present at the meeting.

MoHA record, which was provided to PAC, has found that the government vehicles and PSOs were ‘provided to unauthorised persons’. The record shows as many as 1,355 government employees (belonging to the Armed Police Force, Nepal Police and government offices) have been drafted for working at the houses of incumbent prime minister, chief justice, speaker, deputy prime ministers, ministers, deputy speaker, former prime ministers, ministers, high-ranking government officials (police and civil servants) and even civilians. According to the record, former NC lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh has been using a government vehicle (Ba 1 Jha 7648) and availing himself 120 litres of fuel from state coffers till date. Interestingly, Rubel Chaudhary, a Bangladeshi national and son-in-law of former deputy prime minister Sujata Koirala, has also been provided two PSOs ‘as per the directives from MoHA’. The record, however, does not justify why Chaudhary has been given the facility.

PAC has directed the government not to provide any vehicle facility to those who have already purchased vehicles under the ‘customs duty exemption policy’ introduced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government in 1996. Most of the lawmakers of then House of Representatives (the second one since 1990) had enjoyed this facility.

Existing practice has it that an informal body under a joint secretary’s leadership at MoHA provides such facilities to an ex-official after assessing potential security threats to the person in question. Khanal said the body ‘takes a decision based on the written request by the person concerned’. “It is unfortunate that the government employees, who are recruited for public services, are being used as domestic servants,” said PAC member Rabindra Adhikari.

SC recommends action against former CIAA officials

The Supreme Court has recommended action against former acting chief commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Lalit Bahadur Limbu and commissioner Bed Prakash Siwakoti on charge of corruption, Wednesday.

A single bench of Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha declared Wednesday that action should be taken against Limbu and Siwakoti as they had abused their authority to register public land used by UN Park in Thapathali in an individual's name.

Without mentioning the nature of action, the apex has asked the State Affairs Committee of the parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister to take against Limbu and Siwakoti.

This is the first time action is being taken against officials of CIAA, the body responsible to probe cases of corruption.

Finance minister Adhikari vows to return Khanal back to the ministry

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Bharat Mohan Adhikari has claimed, he will try to bring back Rameshwore Khanal back to the ministry.

Speaking to journalists Wednesday DPM Adhikari said, he is surprised by Khanal's resignation and refuted media reports that he had disputes with secretary Khanal.

I am trying to convince him to return to the ministry through his family and friends, said Adhikari.

Refuting reports that he had disputes with Khanal on taking action against tax evaders, Khanal said, he had instead encouraged action against tax invaders.

PAC summons DPM Adhikari over finance secy's resignation

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the legislature parliament on Wednesday directed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari, chief secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire and revenue secretary of Finance Ministry Krishna Hari Banskota to appear before it on Thursday to furnish clarification on the resignation of finance secretary Rameshwore Khanal.

The PAC summoned them after some lawmakers including those of the Nepali Congress objected to the alleged pressure on secretary Khanal by DPM Adhikari that led to the former's resignation. Adhikari, Ghimire and Banskota have been asked to appear before the PAC at 8 am.

The PAC directive comes a day after Khanal announced his resignation from his post.

He is known to have differences with Adhikari on the ongoing drive against tax evading firms and the supplementary budget being planned by the new government. Khanal is said to be in pressure not to intensify the action against the tax evaders. He was also against the idea of a supplementary budget.

Meanwhile, today's PAC meeting asked the government authorities to retrieve the government vehicles being illegally used by former ministers and senior government officials within a week.

The PAC also directed the authorities to withdraw the personal security officers (PSOs) deployed to ineligible persons including former ministers and retired high-ranking civil servants within a week.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fake vaccinators held in capital

KATHMANDU, March 30: Police apprehended four people for administering fake hepatitis B vaccine to the public in Boudha following the tip-off from the District Public Health Office (DPHO), Kathmandu.

DPHO Chief Bisho Ram Shrestha said the police have handed over the quack vaccinators to Kathmandu District Administration Office for punishment. Claiming such vaccines can have disastrous impact on human health, Shrestha said, "Preventing fake vaccinators from selling unapproved vaccines has become a major challenge for us."

According to DPHO, all vaccines must have quality approval from World Health Organization (WHO) before being administered. Likewise, vaccines must also get approval from the Department of the Drug Administration (DDA). The vaccines administered by the arrested vaccinators had approval from neither of the agencies.

"We have not given consent to any organization in the country to administer hepatitis B vaccines," Shrestha said. The government does not have a policy to give consent for administrating hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccines for hepatitis B, the most common serious liver infection, are administered in Nepal only through those authorized by the government.

The arrested vaccinators were found to possess identity cards of a fake non-governmental organization.

"We confiscated bills and identity cards of ´Heal Nepal´ and ´Janasewa Nepal´ from them," Dhurba Adhikari, a public health officer at DPHO, Kathmandu, revealed. Adhikari said the vaccinators smuggled unapproved vaccines from India. "We do not know about the quality of the vaccines they were using. It could be distilled water or something else," Adhikari said.

The vaccinators were found charging Rs 50 for administering vaccine to children aged 10 years, and Rs 100 to those above the age. DPHO chief Shrestha revealed that such fake vaccinators influence school principals to sell vaccine to students. Due to open border, the DDA faces difficulty in curbing the flow of unapproved medicines into the Nepali market. Though DDA has prohibited pharmacies from selling unregistered drugs, the agency´s latest report indicate their existence in the market.

The government has been providing free hepatitis B vaccine to children since past 10 years. "We administer the vaccine through our regular programs, thus, children below 10 years do not have to take additional vaccines," chief Shrestha said.

Finance Secy Khanal resigns

KATHMANDU, March 30: In a dramatic development, Finance Secretary Rameshore Khanal suddenly tendered his resignation Tuesday. According to an aide, Khanal cited differences with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary in his resignation letter.

Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire did not accept the resignation, and instead, sent him on a leave for 15 days. “Secy Khanal is on leave and will rejoin the office after two weeks,” Ghimire told Republica.

However, sources close to Khanal said that the chances of his resuming office are slim.

Khanal has been pushing for action against fake VAT receipt racketeers and for checking financial crimes. He had also been strongly pushing for corrective measures to control asset-bubble and reinvigorate the economy.

Clearly, his actions had earned him many enemies and mostly the VAT evadors and others had been lobbying to remove him as an obstacle.

“In such a situation, the deputy prime minister and finance minister showed duplicity. This hurt him the most,” the aide said.

In public, Adhikary always expressed his full support to the campaign against tax evadors and financial criminals.

“But in the political circle and to businessmen, Adhikary portrayed Khanal as ´major obstacle,” the aide said.

Minister Adhikary, meanwhile, said he was unaware of Khanal´s action. “I have not met him today. So, I don´t know anything,” he stated.

When Republica asked about his differences with Khanal, he just said, “How could I have differences if I have not met him today.” He refused to talk any further.

Khanal´s day

8:30 am - Khanal was scheduled to hold a meeting with joint secretaries at 8:30 am at the ministry but he skipped the meeting. Everyone was surprised because he would never miss such meetings.

10:30 am - Khanal visited the office of Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire and put in his papers. Ghimire was shocked. He requested Khanal to reconsider his decision. When Khanal refused, Ghimire asked him to take a 15-day leave.

Again, Khanal refused to take leave. When Ghimire refused to accept his resignation, Khanal walked out saying he was in a hurry and would call him in the evening.

11:00 am - Khanal entered his office and ordered a tea. Joint secretaries and other staff were already there. He announced that he was exhausted due to too much work and needed some rest. He thanked the MoF staff for their support.

11:30 - Khanal picked up a hand bag made of jute and walked out of the office. Eyewitnesses said Khanal left Singha Durbar on foot as he had already handed over the key of the government vehicle to the storekeeper before entering the office. He took a taxi to get home.

Yadav to lead MJF-N in govt


KATHMANDU: The central committee meeting of Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal on Tuesday decided to join the government under the leadership of party Chairman Upendra Yadav but only if the party gets at least four ministries. According to party spokesperson Ratneswor Kayastha, the meeting also decided to entrust Chairman Yadav with the task of selecting other members in the Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal-led Cabinet.

Govt shies away from key appointments


KATHMANDU: A number of crucial positions in the country’s constitutional bodies have remained vacant due to government’s failure to make appointments, despite receiving directives from the State Affairs Committee.

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has been operating without a chief commissioner and commissioners. The posts of chief commissioners at the Election Commission and Public Service Commission are also vacant. The country has not had an Auditor General for more than two years.

The previous government had made recommendations to the Constitutional Council, which makes the appointments, last year but the process was stalled when the Supreme Court scrapped the recommendations .

“Filling the vacancies in constitutional bodies is crucial for good governance,” Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang told this daily. “But the Constitutional Council’s meeting has not been scheduled,” Nembang, who is also an ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council said.

Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha, another ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council, also expressed his dissatisfaction over the government’s failure to make the appointments. “I am going on a leave one month prior to my retirement date–– May 5. The government needs to hold the council’s meeting soon,” Shrestha said.

The CIAA’s operations have been hampered due to the absence of commissioners at a time when the anti-graft body is investigating cases such as the purchase of Armoured Personnel Carriers by Nepal Police’s Darfur Mission

However, PM Khanal’s press adviser Surya Thapa said the appointments will be made after the government takes full shape.

55 days gone‚ Khanal´s teething problems far from over


KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal is about to complete two months since he assumed the top post, but he is still floundering to give full shape to his Cabinet, as the two ruling coalition partners — CPN-UML and Unified CPN-Maoist — are mired in intra- and inter-party wrangling.

The two parties have yet to decide who all should be sent to the Cabinet and who should get what portfolios. The home ministry still continues to be the bone of contention.

Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal that struck a deal with the coalition partners last week is yet to join the government. MJF-N is pressing for at least four portfolios, though PM Khanal had promised only three. PM Khanal and MJF-N are yet to reach a deal on other portfolios to be given to the latter besides the foreign ministry.

So, PM Khanal’s kitty is full of issues — who to assign home ministry, how to bring the Nepali Congress into the government, how many portfolios for MJF-N, how to distribute portfolios among ruling partners.

In addition, amid wrangling, PM Khanal is a bundle of nerve as to how to skirt the blame game in which leaders of his and Maoist party are engaged.

Minister Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma of the UCPN-M blamed UML, for the delay in Cabinet getting full shape. “Once UML is ready, we will forward the names from our side immediately,” said Bishwokarma.

Leaders of the coalition partners too have different opinions. A section led by Maoist Vice Chairman Baburman Bhattarai is making a pitch for NC’s inclusion in the government by awarding the party the home ministry. A faction led by Madhav Nepal and KP Oli in UML is voicing the same. But NC has refused to swallow the home ministry bait.

However, some UML insiders are hopeful that PM Khanal would get rid of teething problems soon. “The Cabinet will get full shape within two or three days. Since NC has refused our request to join the government, we will soon decide on the names and portfolios,” said UML Chief Whip Bhim Prasad Acharya.

PM Khanal’s press adviser Surya Thapa said the prime minister was waiting for a decision from the Maoists.

On home ministry row, UML sources said the prime minister ‘might pick someone as the state minister for home affairs’ and keep the portfolio with him for some more time ‘until the dispute is over’.

Secretary walks out on finance minister

KATHMANDU: Has the finance secretary taken the bull by the horns or was it just a reaction in a fit of rage? It will take some time for the truth to come out, but the bureaucratic circle today was taken by surprise when Finance Secretary Rameshwor Khanal left his office, on foot refusing to take the government vehicle, following a tiff with Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary. According to sources, while leaving, Khanal even said he would not return to office.

Though tussles between secretaries and ministers are a commonplace, following today’s incident, rumours were doing the rounds that Khanal had even tendered his resignation. Even the donor agencies were all ears to find out what exactly happened, as they have been closely working with Khanal for quite some time.

When The Himalayan Times tried to find out, Khanal briefly said he was not in the mood to talk. “I cannot speak anything now. I need some rest.” In bureaucratic circles Khanal is known as one of the most disciplined civil servants.

“Khanal was against amnesty to VAT defaulters but Adhikary was hell-bent on saving them, as he was under the influence of the defaulters,” said a highly-placed official at the finance ministry, who was well aware of the brewing tension between the two.

Worried about low revenue mobilistion in the current fiscal, the ministry has come hard on VAT defaulters and was raiding firms almost every day, but the crackdown came to a halt after Adhikary became finance minister, said ministry officials. “VAT defaulters are supposed to pay Rs 1.30 billion to the government, but instead, they influenced the finance minister,” said the ministry official.

“However, the brewing tension today spilled out of the brim at a time when Unity — a pongee scheme that has fled with billions from people — was trying to regroup itself by influencing

political parties and VAT defaulters were pressing the finance minister to transfer Khanal,” added the


Today’s incident is observed by the bureaucrats as an addition in the series of tussles as in recent times they have seen war of words between former energy minister Prakash Sharan Mahat and secretary Shankar Prasad Koirala, former minister for labour and transport management Mohammad Aftab Alam and secretary Dinesh Hari Adhikari, former forest minister Deepak Bohara and secretary Yubraj Bhusal and former deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sujata Koirala and secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai during Madhav Kumar Nepal-led government.

However, bureaucrats believe that there was an urgent need to overhaul the working culture of ministers.

“How can people expect bureaucracy to work for public welfare when ministers pressure secretaries to work to fulfil their partisan and personal interests, that too going against the rule of law,” added the official.

Secretary Khanal at odds with Finance Minister over transfer of senior officials

Secretary of the Finance Ministry Rameshwor Khanal abruptly announced an 'extended' leave on Tuesday, indicating his differences with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari over the recent transfers of senior officials of the ministry.

Finance Ministry joint secretary Bodh Raj Niraula told Nepalnews that secretary Khanal announced leave "for some days" and left office.

Niraula, however, refuted news reports that Khanal had resigned from his post.

According to a ministry source, Khanal took a taxi while leaving the ministry instead of his office vehicle. He told other officials of the ministry that he would not return to the office, the source said.

Secretary Khanal is said to be unhappy with the transfer of officials saying that the transfers made following pressure from the pro-UML union of government employees were unjustifiable.

Khanal is credited with the ongoing action against hundreds of business firms evading tax worth billions of rupees by furnishing fake VAT fake bills.

Govt invites armed political outfits for talks

The government has invited all "armed political outfits" active in the country to the negotiating table.

Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Barshaman Pun informed media persons about the government's call during a press meet organised at the ministry Tuesday.

According to minister Pun, the government would hold talks only with the armed outfits of political nature and not with those involving in criminal activities.

The government's decision to initiate talks with the armed outfits comes following series of bomb blasts carried out by armed groups operating in Terai. Escalation of the activities of armed outfits has become a subject of discussion during high level meetings of the ruling parties in the last few days.

The previous government had also held talks with a number of armed outfits including those operating in Terai and signed agreements on stopping offensive.

At today's press conference, minister Pun also unveiled the revised data of the loss in life and property during the ten-year long armed conflict waged by the then CPN (Maoist).

According to the report, 115,760 people were victims of the armed conflict among which 17,000 lost their lives; 78,675 were displaced and 1600 people disappeared. Similarly, 12,657 persons lost their properties in the insurgency.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

5 buried alive in Gorkha


LAMJUNG: Five workers were buried alive by mud and stones as they were working on a road construction project in Chekampar VDC of Gorkha district on Monday.

They were constructing the road in Pangdha village in Ward No. 6 and 7 of the VDC when the incident took place at around 4:30 in the afternoon, local witnesses said.

Dorje Lama, Angdo Lama, Dupa Lama, Bujhyo Lama and Yangjel Lama died on the spot, according to local residence Dawa Gyaljen Lama.

Local residents of the village had been working in constructing the road next to the Khunju river.

The site of the accident is a six days walk from the district headquarters Gorkha, and a team of seven police personnel has been sent for the site soon after information to this regard was received from the Area Police Post, the District Police Office, Gorkha has said.

NA proposes separate unit comprising of Maoist combatants, police and army personnel

Nepal Army (NA) has proposed to form a separate general directorate under its command comprising of certain number of personnel from NA, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force (APF) and Maoist combatants to complete the peace process, Kantipur daily reported.

In a report submitted to Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Chhatraman Singh Gurung has said, a general directorate with up to 12,000 personnel could be formed and deployed for special tasks like border, industrial or forest security and for rescue works in case of natural disasters.

In the model proposed by NA, the general directorate will be led by a Major General and will have about 200 officers. The force will be divided into smaller units of about 250 personnel and will be led by Majors. In the proposal NA has specified the issues in which it can show flexibility and the ones in which it cannot compromise. NA has ruled out the possibility of bulk integration.

Likewise it has also ruled out the induction of Maoist combatants accused of serious human rights violations, those who fled security agencies and those in central or regional committees of UCPN (Maoist). However, NA has said, it can show some flexibility in the criteria on education qualification, physical exercises marital status and age bar. UCPN (Maoist) has not responded to the NA proposal.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gurkha Bank capable of paying depositors: NRB

KATHMANDU, March 28: Amid rush for withdrawals, the central bank on Sunday assured the depositors of ´troubled´ Gurkha Development Bank (GDB) that their money was safe and that the bank´s financial situation would turn around within the next six months.

The assurance came when GDB depositors met with the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) officials after all the branches of the troubled bank closed down after paying some 200 depositors.

The bank paid Rs 30 million on the day. Depositors had withdrawn around Rs 50 million on Friday.

The NRB officials told the depositors that there was no reason to panic as the financial health of the institution was not that bad.

An NRB official told Republica that the deposits of individuals are safe. The bank may not be able to pay all their depositors within a day or two, but there is no chance of people losing their deposits, the official added.

The declaration of the bank as ´troubled´ bank created panic among the depositors, leading to formation of long queues at the bank´s branches across the country.

The official said more than Rs 500 million of the deposit was insured and that the bank currently has liquidity of around Rs 300 million. “Only Rs 5 million of the total loans of Rs 4.5 billion is problematic, Rs 2 billion is good loan and other Rs 2 billion is in very good condition with adequate collateral,” the official added.

As a part of taking action against the board members of GDB, the NRB has decided to freeze bank accounts of all board members and seal their lockers in all BFIs. The central bank is also preparing to take action against executive chairman D B Bamjan, who is facing charge of financial irregularity in a loan deal of Rs 130 million.

Meanwhile, employees of the GDB have appealed to its all debtors to pay back the loan at the earliest. A bank official informed Republica that Krishi Premura Properties has assured them to return advance amount that the bank paid it to purchase land.

In other development, Maoist lawmaker Dharmasheela Chapagain, who allegedly pressed the GDB board to reinstate D B Bamjan as the bank´s executive chairman, said on Sunday that she has nothing to do with that particular case. I had visited the bank on that day, but that has nothing to do with the reinstatement of Bamjan, she added.

Earthquakes along the political faultlines

The Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 sent tremors far beyond its own shores. The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it triggered has left a death toll of over 10,000 and counting, an additional 18,000 unaccounted for, nearly 250,000 homeless and estimated damage worth $300 billion. The full damage can only be assessed once rescue efforts stop and rebuilding efforts begin. The earthquake has been a reminder for the rest of the world of just how vulnerable we are to natural calamities, especially in countries like Nepal which lie in seismically susceptible areas, fears and speculations have grown. Almost every other person is preparing an emergency kit in case of an earthquake, deliberating the structural soundness of their homes and googling earthquake safety measures.

However, what must be understood is that individual preparedness will be far from enough in case of a major earthquake (of more than 7 Richter scale) hits Nepal. In case of other natural calamities individual preparedness can be effective for example; flood areas can be avoided during monsoons, land travel into areas susceptible to landslides eschewed and food hoarded in preparation for droughts and famines. But, in case of major earthquakes, a state level effort alone can and will be able to control and carry out effective rescue and relief operations. You might be in your ´structurally unsound´ office building, your children might be in a school, the water, electricity and telecommunication system may collapse. Hence, an individual’s isolated efforts and awareness alone will not suffice.

Radio programs, newspapers, television interviews and even dinner conversations in the past week or two have each expressed their own largely similar views – disaster preparedness, adhering to building codes, raising awareness, and long term development plans. Although floods and fire are the most frequently occurring natural disasters in Nepal and major earthquakes the least, the latter is the most devastating. In case of one, relief measures will have to be mobilized, aid - both local and foreign-managed and information collected and disseminated. The increasingly frequent discourse has covered all this and more; our shockingly understaffed and under-equipped fire fighting department, and the need for a National Commission for Disaster Risk Management which is all very relevant and apt. However, in all these efforts there is an underlying assumption that the state will direct, coordinate and manage everything in case of an earthquake. This assumption will be rendered inconsequential if a major earthquake hits the capital Kathmandu.

Any earthquake that registers above 7 on the Richter scale is going to have devastating physical effects on life and property but, more than that and most crucially, an earthquake at the heart of the country – Kathmandu will compound these problems and even have adverse political consequences. Such a major earthquake will immobilize to an almost absolute extent, the state mechanism itself, which otherwise will have to lead rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath.

Most of our ministries are housed in old structurally unsound buildings in Kathmandu. A major earthquake would severely damage offices of ministries like Home and Defense which are supposed to be the focal point of all disaster management efforts, thus leaving them immobilized.

Communication networks, be it internet or telephones, will, in turn, suffer as network centers based almost exclusively in Kathmandu also run the risk of incurring severe damage. The sole airport in the capital, if rendered useless by the quake will lead to a virtual lockdown of the city and will cut off all foreign aid from reaching the affected area quickly. Rescue efforts will not just grind to a halt but have difficulty in even commencing and rebuilding tasks will be of mammoth proportions as the coordinating bodies like the Home Ministry will not be able to act.

This exacerbation of loss of life and property in the capital will have serious political ramifications. The physical breakdown of state structures in the capital, and the consequential paralyses of government, will lead to political instability not just in the capital but across the country. With the state´s attention and capacities not only centered on the affected capital but handicapped to a large extent, there is a high risk of chaos erupting in regions outside and away from the capital. A Kathmandu centered earthquake may very well create deep political fault lines across the country. Cut off from the direct control and monitoring of the capital, regions may slowly pull away from the central authority. Failure of the capital to rebuild itself physically and re-establish control will send the country hurtling towards becoming a failed state.

Disasters are bound to create some level of panic. In a country like Japan where earthquakes, big or small are the norm, panic levels do not tend to be high. In the past weeks we observed multiple scenes on the news of famished albeit calm and organized lines of Japanese waiting for the relief food. Should a quake strike Kathmandu, our situation unfortunately will resemble that of Haiti more than Japan in this context – riots, looting and anarchy would all be very probable. With police, army and government bodies all headquartered in Kathmandu, chaos control will pose a serious problem.

Outside of Kathmandu, confusion and chaos will prevail and the nation will be like a ship operating not just without its captain but without its first crew. With the capital´s efforts concentrated in the capital, other regions will look to the areas closest to them for relief; the Tarai belt to India and the mountain areas to China. In the absence of national supervision the country will be in the hands of international rescue teams and efforts, all of which will be sorely needed but each with its political implications, nonetheless. In the case of a trapped and dysfunctional center that is unable to coordinate foreign aid, foreign troops´ movement and activities no matter how innocent or noble, will go virtually unchecked on Nepali soil.

Let me clarify that the point of these forecasts which paint a very dark future for Nepal is not to create unnecessary panic. It has been geologically established that Nepal is highly susceptible to earthquakes as it lies in a region of high seismic activity. A major earthquake may occur here in Kathmandu, in the next ten days or in the next decade. The intelligent thing to do is to prepare – on all fronts as only a fool believes he is invincible. Infrastructural weaknesses, lack of awareness, lack of capacity for disaster management have been repeatedly pointed out as major issues of concerns over time. Highlighting the problems will hopefully lead to the process of addressing them. In this regard, we must not overlook one possibility of political vacuum and subsequent chaos that will make all other disaster management plans ineffectual.

Disaster preparedness and management should be developed keeping in mind the above possibilities and drawing up mechanisms to counter or mitigate the effects. An international flight capacity airport must be developed close to the capital. Rescue training and hospital capacities need to be built not just in the capital, but also outside of it. Each institute or ministry must have parallel mechanisms with equal disaster management capabilities across the country.

If and when the quake strikes, we must be as prepared as we can be on as many fronts as we can. If we ignore the political implications and do not build mechanisms to address them from now onwards then Nepal will be in trouble even long after the rescue works finish and the cities and towns have been physically rebuild.

Writer is the Executive Director of Niti Foundation

NC to consider joining govt only if seven-point deal scrapped

General Secretary of Nepali Congress (NC) Prakash Man Singh has said his party will only consider to join the current government if the seven-point deal between the ruling parties UCPN (Maoist) and CPN (UML) gets scrapped.

Singh, who was speaking at a press meet organized by Nepal Press Union, Kaski Chapter in Pokhara on Sunday, said the agreement was signed "with bad intentions" and only if it is scrapped will there be an enabling atmosphere for his party to join the government.

He claimed that the agreement signed secretly between chairmen of UML and Maoists has caused a serious rift inside UML owing to which the cabinet is not getting a full shape.

Singh was of the opinion that crucial tasks of constitution drafting are getting obstructed due to the delay in the cabinet getting full shape.

Unity management lobbying with govt


KATHMANDU: Unity Life International (ULI) is influencing the government to close the fraud case against the company and dismiss the arrest warrants against its directors. The government banned ULI in May 2010 after grave irregularities were found in their businesses. Over 6,00,000 Nepalis, around 4,00,000 in Nepal and 2,50,000 spread over 22 countries, are at the receiving end of the fraud.

Nepalis’ major work destinations Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Hong Kong and others were major playground of the illegal network.

ULI directors are regularly visiting CPN-Maoist leaders through them they have made access to the government, sources said.

ULI management is uniting and influencing political leaders through various channels, said a source close to them. “The government is also positive about closing the Unity case,” he said.

According to him, a group of CPN (UML) is also lobbying in favour of ULI in the party. ULI is using all possible means to influence the new government. “Unity is using millions rupees and dozens of channels to get the charges against them dropped,” the source said.

Officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Supply (MoCS) confirmed that ULI officials are hobnobbing with political leaders and top bureaucrats.

According to him, ULI has pinpointed Rameshwor Khanal, secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Jaya Mukunda Khanal, joint secretary in the Ministry of Home as responsible for exposing the company.

ULI directors are lobbying to transfer them from their post saying their presence can hamper reopening of the network,” he said.

3 feared dead in Butawal bus blast‚ 19 injured

BUTAWAL: At least three people could have died in an explosion in a jam-packed passenger bus in Butawal on Sunday evening, according to the District Police Office Rupandehi.

The deaths, however, are yet to be verified, said Superintendent of Police Sher Bahadur Basnet.

As many as 19 people have been critically injured when a bomb went off in the micro-bus (Lu 1 Kha 3666) at Milanchowk at round 6 pm this evening.

The bus was coming to Butawal from the bordering city of Bhairahawa with 40 passengers on board.

The bomb was planted in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.

None has claimed the responsibility of the incident yet.

The injured have rushed to the Butawal-based Lumbini Zonal Hospital for treatment.

Similar explosions were carried out in Rupandehi and Nepalgunj districts earlier.

Politicians bleed state coffers

KATHMANDU, March 28: A lawmaker and former Central Working Committee (CWC) member from Nepali Congress Amaresh Singh enjoys a vehicle facility from the government since past few years. He, however, neither holds a public position nor is entitled to such a facility under any government rules.

The Home Ministry not only provides him 120 to 150 liters of petrol every month but also pays for keeping a driver and for regular servicing and necessary maintenance of the vehicle.
Never mention the cost incurred by the state for his personal security officers.

Similar is the case of UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel. Home Ministry has given him a vehicle, a driver, and provides over 150 liters of petrol each month. The servicing and maintenance cost of his vehicle also comes from the state coffers.

The cases in point are glaring examples how government facilities are misused. “There are no rules on who is entitled to such facilities. Anyone with political clout acquire government vehicles for personal use,” said a senior official at Home Ministry. “Hundreds of millions of rupees a year could be saved if only we can put a check on the misuse of government vehicles.” Government officials also say the number of vehicles misused under Home Ministry is relatively small compared to other ministries like Ministry of Physical Planning and Works, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Supply that have a large number of vehicles at disposal.

The cabinet decisions made at a time when Maoist insurgency was at its peak also opened the floodgate for the misuse of government vehicles.

The then government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba on December 6, 2004 made a decision to provide vehicles and security personnel to the former ministers, deputy prime ministers and home ministers in view of the Maoists threats. Though the former rebel party, now itself part of the government, has already embraced the mainstream politics relinquishing its threatening stance after the 12-point agreement in 2006, the decision taken by the Deuba government is still in practice.

The Home Ministry provides a former prime minister with two vehicles (one for security personnel), a driver, two personal security officers (PSO) from Nepal Police and 13 Armed Police Force (APF) personnel, and 200 liters of petrol a month. Likewise, former deputy prime minister and home ministers are provided with two PSOs from Nepal Police, seven APF personnel, one driver, two vehicles and 200 liters of petrol a month.

Currently, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Lokendra Bahadur Chanda, Surya Bahadur Thapa, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal are receiving the facilities from Home Ministry in their capacity as former prime ministers. Likewise, Purna Bahadur Khadka, K P Sharma Oli, Khum Bahadur Khadka, Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Bam Dev Gautam and Bhim Rawal are receiving vehicles and other facilities in their capacity as former home ministers.

“It is understandable to give certain facilities, for a limited time, to former prime ministers as state honor. But how can the state afford to provide such facilities life-long to ministers when there are new faces in the government every six months or so?” questioned an official. “The state can not simply afford to do that.”

Officials complain whoever assumes the charge of Home Ministry seeks a new vehicle and takes it away while leaving the office as former Home Minister Bhim Rawal recently did.

Despite strong protests from Home Ministry officials, Rawal had purchased a brand new Mitsubishi Pajero at the cost of about Rs 10 million. Serving as home minister for only a year, he left with same vehicle -- now in his personal use -- after the fall of Madhav Kumar Nepal-led government.

“Even if the government decides to give vehicle and facilities to former ministers, the ministry should have the final say on the matter,” argue the officials at the Home Ministry.

Misused vehicles will be taken back: SAC Chair Dhakal

The parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) has asked the government to submit details of government vehicles being used by politicians, senior bureaucrats, and officers of the Nepal Police and Nepal Army by April 3. Likewise, Parliamentary Account Committee has demanded that the home ministry furnish details of government vehicles being provided to politicians and others by March 30. In this context, Republica talked to SAC Chairman Ram Nath Dhakal. Excerpts:

Republica: Why did you seek the details of government vehicles?

Dhakal: We sought the details to know whether the reports about misuse of government vehicles are true. We have sought the details with chief secretary, home ministry and defense ministry of the vehicles being used by politicians, senior bureaucrats, officers of the Nepal Police and Nepal Army, and members of constitutional bodies.

Republica: What actions will be taken if your study showed that the government vehicles are actually being misused?

Dhakal: State Affairs Committee will conduct a comprehensive study of the details provided by chief secretary, home and defense ministries. We will study whether the legal grounds, if any, on whose basis of which the vehicles are provided are reasonable enough. If the vehicles have been provided unnecessarily, we will direct the authorities to withdraw such facilities. We will issue strong directives not to misuse the vehicles if we found that the vehicles are being actually misused. We will also work toward amending such legislation if they are not convincing enough.

SC summons Khadka to face graft charge


KATHMANDU: Now it’s former home minister and Nepali Congress leader Khum Bahadur Khadka’s turn to face graft charge at the Supreme Court.

A division bench of the apex court today summoned Khadka to defend charges of accumulating disproportionate wealth when in power.

Stating that the Special Court verdict of 2006 giving him a clean chit could change, the bench said the court had not evaluated Khadka’s sources of income and evidences properly while acquitting him.

In 2002, the CIAA had prosecuted Khadka on the charge of accumulating Rs 23.6 million through misuse of power from 1991 to 2002. The bench said the sources of income that Khadka produced were not lawful and needed thorough examination.

The Special Court had acquitted Khadka even though it held he could not produce sufficient evidence to justify his sources of income amounting to Rs Rs 1.25 million. “Khadka has to attend the the apex court 15 days after receiving the order,” Hemanta Rawal, the apex court spokesperson said.

The bench questioned the Special Court’s clean chit in relation to Rs 3.6 million, specifically, the legality of Rs 1.4 million Khadka received from Jitendra Lal Shrestha through an informal deed; the 70 per cent he received from the amount for foreign trips; and bank deposits of Rs 1.5 million in 1997 and Rs 1 million in 1999 in his wife Sheela Sharma Khadka’s account in Everest Bank. The apex court also questioned Rs 5 million paid by Khadka’s personal assistant to Sudha Acharya, the sister-in-law of the former minister while purchasing her house and the income from his agricultural land without deducting expenses.

Even though the Special Court said Khadka had failed to prove his sources of income amounting to Rs 1.25 million, it had issued him a clean chit stating it was improper to see 8.21 per cent of the total income as disproportionate.

Pleading for the CIAA, prosecutor Krishna Paudel said the clean chit was unfair and the case had to be reopened.

Upcoming high profile hearings

• Achyut Krishna Kharel, Ex-IGP, March 29

• Motilal Bohara, Ex-IGP, March 29

• Ramagya Prasad Chaturvedi, Ex -NAC chief, April 4

• Sher Bahadur Thapa,

Ex-Nepal Bank Limited chief, April 5

Supplementary Budget in offing‚ lawmakers in dark

KATHMANDU: The government is bringing Supplementary Budget by Friday, but parliamentarians have no clue who is preparing the budget and where.

“Even the Finance Ministry knows nothing,” claimed lawmakers.

But Dilli Raj Khanal, a member of the Supplementary Budget preparatory team comprising Sriram Poudel and Dinesh Chandra Devkota, said they would be bringing the Supplementary Budget by the week-end.

Khanal said the Supplementary Budget will address current economic anomalies and stimulate exports, thereby encouraging private sector investment, though there is less time to implement it.

The fiscal year has only four months left. “Due to lack of time to implement the budget, it will be a realistic one, he added.

“Evaporation of exports has bled the economy dry,” Khanal said, adding that the fiscal policy must stimulate the share of exports in the total trade that has dropped to 14 per cent.

“The supplementary budget will also address the current liquidity crunch in banks and increase their lending capacity to the productive sector,” he said, adding that without new investment in productive sectors more employment could not be generated.

The current ordinance budget presented by Surendra Pandey lacked vision as it came without programme and policy, he justified the need of the Supplementary Budget thus, saying it will expedite capital expenditure and stimulate economic activities.

However, parliamentarians in the Legislature Parliament today raised hell over the style of budget preparation.

“The government is bringing supplementary budget when there’s only four months left for the fiscal year to end,” said Nepali Congress lawmaker Ram Sharan Mahat objecting to the style of budget preparation.

“We have heard that the supplementary budget is being prepared in ‘guerrilla style,” he said, adding that a new economic policy is needed to boost production and create conducive investment environment.

The production sector is performing poorly due to regular power outage, labour problems and lack of government initiative.

Tabling a Proposal of Public Interest, Mahat, seconded by Prakash Chandra Lohani and Binod Chaudhary, urged boosting of investor confidence, stopping capital flight and containing the price hike.

The consumption expenditure to GDP ratio has increased and gross national saving is shrinking, Mahat said, adding that industries are being closed, blocking employment opportunities due to plunge in exports; Forex reserve has dropped and the country is moving towards uncertain future.

In like vein, Binod Chaudhary, CPN-UML lawmaker, said the government has to create conducive environment for industries to propel economic growth.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fire at garment factory in Koteshwor


KATHMANDU: A fire broke out at a garment factory in the Suryakot Marga, Narephant near Koteshwor in the Capital on Saturday afternoon and destroyed property worth millions.

Preliminary information suggested that the fire first started from Udaya Shakya's cowshed adjoining the factory and spread to it.

Fire brigade and security personnel contained the fire with the help of locals.

The owner of the factory claimed the fire inflicted a loss of Rs. 15.3 million.

Chinese ambassador recalled

KATHMANDU: The Government of China has recalled its ambassador to Nepal Qiu Guohong, a highly placed source said. Qiu, who had taken the charge for two years and four months, pulled out from Nepal just eight months before the expiry of his three-year normal tenure.

Ambassador Qiu on Friday conveyed the news about his recall to Foreign Secretary of Nepal Dr. Madan Kumar Bhattarai, according to the source.

Sources said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China was unsatisfied to Qiu due to his weak diplomacy to neutralise any anti-Chinese activities in Nepal.

“Beijing should be reached at this conclusion due to his weak handling efforts towards neutralising anti-Chinese activities in Nepal,” the source added.

Activities, including violent protests of the Free-Tibet Movement, which is Beijing’s utmost concern in Nepal, have been raising its southern neighbor since Qiu’s arrival to Nepal in late 2008.

An official at the Chinese Embassy also confirmed the news, denying commenting further. He is expected to return Beijing within two weeks.

Nepali girls win international award

NEPALGUNJ, March 26: A team of six nursing students from Nepalgunj has won an international award provided by the British Council for its unique concept of easing traffic congestion.

The concept developed by Sharmila Thapa, Asmita Giri, Sabida Subedi, Sujan Shrestha, Rajani Shah and Bimala Phunyal, intermediate level nursing students at Mid Western Technical School of Nepalgunj, beat other ideas about easing traffic congestion presented by different teams of students from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

While other participants reiterated the same old ideas of strict traffic rules, improvement in road networks and carefulness of motorists, Nepali team emphasized on active participation of all organs of society for a better traffic system. "We will not let our concept remain only in papers," said Asmita Giri, one of the students, after winning the award. "We will implement it practically."

In December, British Council had asked students of all technical schools to choose a problem and then work out an innovative solution.

Their concept was adjudged best at regional and central levels before being sent to the international competition. The British Council has provided Rs 1,000 to the award-winning girls´ team to implement its concept.

Income from tourism declines: NRB

KATHMANDU, March 27: Despite growth in tourist arrivals, the income from tourism sector has gone down by 18 percent in the first month of Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011. The statistics of the central bank shows the travel inward of January was less by more than a half billion rupees.

The data shows that total travel inward of January 2010 was Rs 3.2 billion whereas this year during the same period the income was limited to Rs 2.64 billion.

Tourism entrepreneurs attribute the decrease in income to limited tourism activities and unhealthy competition amongst entrepreneurs who offer tourism products at uncompetitive prices.

Yadav Khanal of Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) said, "Unhealthy practices amongst tour operators who offer services at low prices and sluggish tourist activities have slashed the income down."

Adventure tourism entrepreneurs informed Republica that the number of tourists opting for rafting and trekking has gone down in recent months.

Second Vice-president of Trekking Agents´ Association of Nepal (TAAN), Mahendra Singh Thapa told that though the two months that passed were not the peak trekking seasons, the number of trekkers considerably was less. "Our season begins from March and the outlook is not so bad so far," he added, and expressed hope for upcoming season. Rafting operators have said that their business went down by 50 percent in recent months.

The business of star hotels has also not been good so far. Hoteliers say compared to last year the occupancy has been low with only some hotels reporting increase in the number of guests. Most claim revenue growth of up to 10 percent which can be considered negligible.

A senior NRB official, outlining some other reasons apart from low spending by tourists, said that the central bank has found some tourism entrepreneurs resorting to misreporting and black marketing.

Coordinator of NTY main organizing committee, Yogendra Shakya has different opinion on the issue. Analyzing the data on tourist arrivals, he said Indian tourists, who are not included in travel inward, constituted 35 percent of the visitors coming to Nepal in the first month.

"Therefore the method adopted in showing the income is not proper as the spending by Indian tourists is not incorporated." Contradicting Shakya´s claim, the official at NRB said that travel inward includes the spending of Indian tourists as well.

PM-MPRF talks yield no result

KATHMANDU, March 27: Talks between Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal and leaders of the Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF) on power-sharing on Saturday evening yielded no results after the MPRF leaders stuck to their demand for four ministries.

While MPRF leaders staked claim to four major ministries, the prime minister is for giving them not more than three portfolios.

“We clearly said that we need at least four powerful ministries,” MPRF General Secretary Ram Shaya Prasad Yadav, who was present at the meeting, told Republica.
According to him, they have demanded powerful portfolios, including, foreign affairs, energy, local development and agriculture.

He said the talks are underway and that the prime minister was positive toward their demand. MPRF Chairman Upendra Yadav along with other leaders of the party attended the meeting held at the prime minister´s official residence in Baluwatar.

MPRF leaders said it may take another couple of days to finalize the names for the ministerial posts even after they agree on the number of portfolios.

MPRF leader Mohammad Istiyaq Rai said his party has called its parliamentary party meeting on Sunday, political committee meeting on Monday and central working committee´s meeting on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

“The names of the nominees for the ministerial posts will be finalized only after the party meetings,” Rai told Republica. Earlier, MPRF Chairman Yadav, after settling some political issues, had signed an agreement with the prime minister and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

However, leaders close to the prime minister claimed that Khanal would give MPRF the charge of only three ministries at the most. The MPRF is likely to be given the ministry of foreign affairs, ministry of commerce and supply (or the ministry of industry) and another ministry.

The prime minister has failed to appoint new ministers from his own party as well. So far, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari, Defense Minister Bishnu Paudel and Minister for Education Ganga Lal Tuladhar have been inducted in his cabinet.

Khanal has given the charge of the ministry of energy, irrigation and commerce and supplies to DPM and Finance Minister Adhikari, ministry of general administration, forest and soil conservation and the ministry of environment to Defense Minister Paudel and ministry of culture, federal affairs and parliamentary affairs and the ministry of science and technology to Minister for Education Tuladhar.

Khanal has kept the home portfolio for himself as the UML and UCPN (Maoist) have both staked claim to the powerful ministry.

“The prime minister is mentally prepared about whom to pick from the UML in the next phase but he wants to induct all the ministers at the same time,” said the prime minister´s press advisor Surya Thapa. He said Khanal will finalize the list of ministers from the UML in consultation with other top party leaders.

Some other small political parties, however, have made nominations for ministerial berths and are ready to join the government.

Chairman Mahendra Yadav from the TMDP-N, Khagendra Prasai from CPN (ML), Jagat Bogati and Yadubangsa Jha from CPN-ML (Socialist) and Sunil Manandhar from CPN (Samyukta) are likely to get ministerial posts.

PM miffed with Prez for meeting leaders without consulting him

Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal has started expressing dissatisfaction over the recent meetings of President Ram Baran Yadav with various political leaders without informing him.

Kantipur daily reported Sunday quoting anonymous sources at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that PM Khanal is not happy that the President has intensified meetings with political leaders and given suggestions on key issues of the peace process, without consulting him.

Khanal claims such meetings are not constitutional and has started consulting legal experts close to his party, according to a PMO source. He is preparing to ask the President about the meetings in his next meeting, the source said.

President Ram Baran Yadav has intensified political consultations in the recent days. He has held separate meetings with chairmen of almost all political parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) in the last three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, he met Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) chair Pashupati Shumsher JBR, Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party chair Narayanman Bijuckchhe, CPN (ML) chair CP Mainali and CPN (United) chair Chandra Dev Joshi.

On Friday, he met UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Loktantrik chairman Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) chairman Surya Bahadur Thapa, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party chairman Mahantha Thakur and Rastriya Janamorcha chairman Chitra Bahadur KC.

Likewise, on Saturday, he met Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) chairman Upendra Yadav, TMLP-Nepal chairman Mahendra Yadav, Socialist Democratic Peoples Party chairman Prem Bahadur Singh, Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekta Party chairman Keshav Mainali and Dalit Janjati Party chairman Bishwendra Paswan.

Sources at the President’s office say, the president has asking the same questions and giving same suggestions to the leaders of all parties. He has been asking the reasons for the delay in the peace process and constitution drafting process.

President Yadav has suggested the leaders to form a commission for demarcation of the provinces, complete the army integration and rehabilitation as soon as possible and promulgate the new constitution on the basis of political consensus and not a two-thirds majority.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Insurance schemes for workers on cards

KATHMANDU, March 26: The government is launching nine insurance schemes, targeting public and private sector employees, who have been contributing one percent of their salary to social security fund.

The government had announced the social security scheme with mandatory contribution by employees and workers through the budget for 2009/10.

The government put seal on Social Security Fund (Management and Operation) Regulations 2011 on Monday, paving the way for the operation of fund that aims to provide social security to its contributors.

"The fund targets to launch different insurance schemes to ensure social security for employees and encourage them for better productivity in the workplace. The scheme is expected to automatically bring down the incidents of labor unrests in the coming days as it has attempted to fulfill workers´ major demand (social security),” said Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary at the Ministry of Labor and Transport Management (MoLTM), which formulated the regulations.

The scheme incorporates nine insurance programs such as unemployment insurance, accident insurance and sick insurance, maternity insurance and dependent insurance. Similarly disability insurance, old age insurance, medical insurance and family insurance are also included under the scheme. The schemes will be implemented in a phase-wise manner.

"Of the nine schemes, we have targeted to execute four schemes in three years and all schemes within six years," said Bhattarai.

All salary and wage earners have been contributing 1 percent of their remuneration to the fund. However, modality of contribution from the state to the fund is still to be determined.

The employees working in different government agencies, board, committee, centers, public enterprises and private enterprises can participate in the scheme by contributing the required amount to the fund that will be operated as a revolving fund.

The fund can conduct insurance or reinsurance of any liability of the social security programs to minimize the risk of heavy financial liability. The schemes will come into implementation once the fund, which will be handled by a nine-member committee led by the secretary at the MoLTM, becomes operational.

Other members of the committee include representatives from the Ministry of Finance, MoLTM, Ministry of Law and Justice, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), Nepal Chamber of Commerce, three representatives of trade unions designated by the government and one executive director.

The fund will be contributed by salary and wage earners, government grant, assistance from donor countries, international institutions and individuals as well as domestic institutions and individuals.

The committee will give policy level suggestions to the government on social security scheme, formulate and implement the scheme and invest the fund in secure sector, among others.

JC all set to sack judge Subedi

KATHMANDU, March 26: The Judicial Council (JC) on Friday decided to sack judge Om Prasad Subedi and gave him seven days to provide clarification on the charge of misconduct and incompetence.

The decision was made by a meeting of the JC, which is responsible for appointing and punishing judges.

An investigation report prepared by SC Justice Top Bahadur Magar had found Pokhara Appellate Court Judge Subedi guilty of misconduct and incompetence.

The report states that Subedi repeatedly remained absent from his office without informing his senior.

"The meeting decided to seek clarification from him before sacking him as per the JC Act," said JC Secretary Jeevan Hari Adhikary.

The probe committee had recommended that the JC sack Subedi on three grounds -- lack of honesty, misconduct and poor performance.

The JC had also cautioned Subedi nearly two years ago too. Subedi was cautioned by the JC to be sincere to his duties following complaint that he remained absent in Tulsipur Appellate Court too without informing chief judged of the court.

"He confessed his mistakes and vowed not to repeat the same mistake again at that time," said Adhikary, adding, "He didn´t only repeat the same mistake but also committed even more serious mistakes. So JC decided to seek clarification from him."

In the Friday decision, JC has said, "You [Subedi] are hereby asked to furnish written clarification as why not to sack you for your bad conduct."

JC will formally decide about Subedi´s fate upon receiving his clarification.

"Subedi not only remained absent from the appellate court time and again but also committed serious mistake by signing the attendance register at the Revenue Tribunal in Pokhara at a time when he was officially on leave at the appellate court," reads the report, adding, "He was assigned to the Revenue Tribunal on Tuesdays. Evidence show that he was absent from the appellate court but wrongfully signed the attendance register at the Revenue Tribunal. This shows how dishonest he was. It is also proof of how he failed to discharge his duties as required by the law."

Subedi is also found to have used his signature at the Revenue Tribunal in Pokhara while he was in Kathmandu. "As a law student, Subedi signed the attendance book at the Kathmandu School of Law (KSL). It has been found that he put his signature in the attendance book at the Revenue Tribunal on the same day he was attending class at KSL."

Maoist, NC top brass discuss army integration, statute drafting

Giving fresh start to dialogue that had stalled after the formation of the Maoist-UML coalition, top leaders of the UCPN (Maoist) and the Nepali Congress met Friday evening in a bid to find consensus on key issues such as integration of the Maoist combatants and drafting of the new constitution.

Maoist vice chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who was present in the meeting held at Hotel Baishali at Thamel, said both sides presented their views on issues concerning army integration and constitution-drafting. However, the meeting could not arrive at any agreement.

"The start of talks between the two parties is itself very important," Shrestha told Nepalnews, adding that dialogue would continue between the two parties.

Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, vice chairman-duo Mohan Baidya and Shrestha, general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa and Barshaman Pun participated in the meeting from the Maoist side while the NC team included party president Sushil Koirala, Ram Chandra Poudel, Bimalendra Nidhi, Krishna Prasad Situala, Ram Saran Mahat and Arjun Narsingh K.C.

The meeting came despite the NC leaders public statements that the party would not sit for talks with the Maoists and the UML unless the seven-point agreement between the two communist parties is scrapped.

Fire in Sankhuwasabha village out of control

KHANDABARI: At least a dozen houses were gutted and 20 others are in

peril as fire is ripping through a village in Khamling in Sankhuwasabha district in eastern Nepal since Friday midnight.

The fire broke out from the house of Ram Bahadur Tamang at Baneshwor-6, Khamling of the district Friday and spread to the adjoining houses and cow sheds.

Security personnel and locals are trying to contain the blaze and prevent further loss in the village.

However, it has been difficult for them to fight the fire due to scarcity of water in the area. Preliminary estimation suggested properties worth Rs 10 million has already been destroyed in the fire, according to Armed Police Force district in-charge Jaya Bahadur Khadka.

No casualtiy has been reported yet.

Khamling, where the rural poor live, witnesses fire every year in the summertime

Rs 270 million withdrawn on single day from problematic Gorkha Development Bank

Account holders of Gorkha Development Bank, declared problematic by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) on Thursday, have withdrawn Rs 270 million on a single day Friday, Nagarik daily reported.

Account holders thronged the bank's central office in Putalisadak and various branches to withdraw their deposits after the central bank declared it problematic and banned it from collecting deposits and issuing credit.

NRB declared the bank problematic after it established grave irregularities in issuing a credit of Rs 124.1 million to Abdul Kawadi and buying land worth Rs 0.9 billion in Kamaladi.

NRB had found the bank paid Rs 0.3 billion as advance for the land from the account of one of its clients.

NRB is preparing to suspend GDB executive chair DB Bamjan from his post and fine him Rs 0.5 million as per the Banking and Financial Institutions Act.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SLC exams to kick off from today


BHAKTAPUR; The School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam - 2067 is beginning tomorrow. According to Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE), 496,243 students –– 229,791 boys and 206,620 girls –– are sitting for the exam in 1,672 examination centres across the country. The exam will end on April 1.

Exam controller Surya Prasad Gautam, said his office has assigned 1,672 exam superintendents, 2,395 assistant superintendents, 19,843 invigilators, 6,612 peons and 16,720 security personnel to conduct the exam.

“A total of 8,140 students from 89 open schools are taking the exam,” he informed. “A student each from Somalia, Germany and Korea are also taking the exam this year.”

The OCE has prohibited everyone, except superintendents, use of mobile phones inside the exam hall. The answer sheets have been coded to prevent students from submitting fake sheets. The SLC examination board has also decided to penalise those attempting to cheat as per Public Offence and Education Acts.

As per the Public Offence Act, those found cheating in the exam can either get six months imprisonment or be fined Rs 100,000 or get both the penalties. Similarly, they can be expelled from the exam centres under the Education Act.

The exams begin at 8 am. Disabled students will be given an hour and a half more to complete the exam.

Govt declares ´energy crisis period´ for 3.5 yrs

Making public the Government´s concept and future programs for resolving the problem of energy crisis at the meeting of the Legislature-Parliament on Wednesday‚ Deputy Prime Minister Adhikari said the government would declare the next three and half years a ´energy crisis period´ and thereby form a three-member high-level energy crisis resolving commission in order to work towards resolving the problem.

KATHMANDU: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Energy, Bharat Mohan Adhikari has said that a minimum of 2,500 mega watt of electricity needs to be produced within the next four and half years in order to provide some relief to the people from the existing load- shedding in the country.

Making public the Government's concept and future programs for resolving the problem of energy crisis at the meeting of the Legislature-Parliament on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Adhikari said the government would declare the next three and half years a 'energy crisis period' and thereby form a three-member high-level energy crisis resolving commission in order to work towards resolving the problem.

Presenting a detailed plan for resolving the energy crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Adhikari said talks would be held with reputed power production companies of India, China, the USA, Japan, Norway, Brazil, Switzerland, South Korea and other countries to run hydro-electricity projects in the west Seti, upper Seti, Budhi Gandaki, Trishuli, Dudh Koshi, Modi-1, Arughat and other rivers in the country.

Proposals shall also be called for construction of coal and diesel thermal plants on behalf of the private sector, he said and disclosed that a feasibility study of geo-thermal shall also be carried out.

Arrangement shall be made to ensure power supply through solar energy at Singha Durbar, the Ministers' Quarters, Bir Hospital, Tribhuvan University and Government and Public Corporations. Likewise, street lights in the major roads of the three cities in Kathmandu valley would be lit with solar power within the next one year, he said.

The Government shall also exempt hundred per cent customs duty in solar energy-related equipment including solar panel and battery.

Likewise, the private sector shall also be urged to work towards producing power from the waste coming out from industrial zones in different cities across the country.

A feasibility study of production of natural gas in some place inside the valley shall be carried out to produce at least 20 mega watt of natural gas within one year.

Import of power from neighbouring India shall also be expedited and a 400 KV transmission line between Nepal and India shall be constructed for the purpose, the Deputy Prime Minister said.

The Finance Minister said in order to ensure the availability of budget for the aforementioned works to be carried out in the energy sector, an additional Rs. 5 billion shall be made available from the Finance Ministry and a loan of at least Rs. 15 billion from the Employees' Provident Fund, Nepal Telecom, Rastriya Beema Sansthan and Citizens' Investment Fund.

The Government shall also provide 50 per cent grant to the community teaching institutions, forest users' groups, community organizations and local bodies taking the initiative to produce up to three mega watt of power. Similar grant of 75 per cent shall be provided to the cooperatives in the VDC and 100 percent additional budget to micro-hydel projects.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Non-residents Nepalis shall also be appealed to invest in the hydro-power sector.

Secretariat to recruit staff for PLA supervision

KATHMANDU, March 24: Giving a new momentum to the peace process, the Special Committee on Wednesday authorized its secretariat to recruit over 400 personnel for supervision, command and control of the Maoist combatants living in 28 cantonments.

The secretariat long wanted human resources and had sent a proposal to this effect to the Special Committee for endorsement. But the endorsement was delayed as Maoists did not want deployment of personnel at their cantonments.

The Special Committee has not been able to effectively enforce its command and control over 19,000 Maoist combatants due to lack of human resources.

“The Special Committee has endorsed a proposal of the secretariat submitted to the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, allowing recruitment of 433 personnel, 40 drivers and personal assistants,” Madhav Prasad Ghimire, chief secretary and spokesperson for the Special Committee, told reporters after a meeting of the committee on Wednesday.

Among these, 12 will work at the secretariat, 105 at the 21 satellite Maoist camps, 16 at the situation center, which will work as a central round-the-clock reporting mechanism, according to Dr Dipak Prakash Bhatt, a member of the secretariat. Besides, the secretariat will recruit ex-security personnel who will be deployed at cantonments for monitoring and supervision of ex-Maoist fighters whose management is at the center of the ongoing peace process.

With the decision, the Special Committee can now focus on the core work of integration and rehabilitation. As a modality of integration and rehabilitation is yet to come into existence, the Special Committee on Wednesday formed a four-member taskforce to develop such a modality and finalize standard norms for combatants aspiring integration into security agencies.

Dr Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress, Ishwor Pokharel of CPN-UML, Janardan Sharma of UCPN (M) and JP Gupta of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum are member to the taskforce.

“Works of the taskforce would depend on discussions at the political level and on how positively things will move ahead,” Maoist member on the Special Committee Sharma told Republica when asked how long the taskforce would take to complete the mandate.

Sharma further said that the works of the taskforce and discussions at political levels will go simultaneously in the coming days.

But Peace and Reconstruction Minister Barshaman Pun, while emerging from the meeting of the Special Committee, said the taskforce would not take more than two/three days to complete its works. However, Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Nepali Congress representative on the Special Committee, said all would depend on the Maoists.

Chinese army chief meets CoAS Gurung; announces Rs 1.42 billion aid to NA

Chinese of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), General Chen Bingde, arrived in Kathmandu Wednesday afternoon leading a 15-member military delegation. He is on a three-day "goodwill visit" of Nepal at the invitation of Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Chhatraman Singh Gurung.

Nepal Army (NA) Major General Toran Jung Bahadur Singh received General Bingde's delegation at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Kathmandu at 3.15 pm. The Chinese delegation arrived in Kathmandu by a special chartered flight.

General Bingde received a guard of honour from NA at TIA following his arrival.
Chief of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), General Chen Bingde (Left) meets his Nepali counterpart General Chhatraman Singh Gurung at the Nepal Army headquarters on Wednesday, 23 March 2011. (Photo courtesy: Directorate of Public Relations of Nepal Army)
Chief of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), General Chen Bingde...

Meanwhile, the Chinese army chief met NA chief Gurung at the NA headquarters, Bhadrakali.

On the occasion, General Bingde and CoAS Gurung signed an agreement of the Chinese government assistance worth Rs 1.42 billion (RMB Yuan 130 million) to the NA.

As per the agreement, Chinese government will provide equipments for Birendra Army Hospital and rescue operations of the NA worth 100 Yan and engineering equipments worth 30 Yuan.

General Gurung signed the aid agreement on behalf of the Defense Ministry of the Government of Nepal, according to the Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) of the NA.

During his stay here, the Chinese army chief is also scheduled to meet President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and defense minister Bishnu Paudel among other high level officials during his trip.

The visit by the Chinese army chief is one of the highest military visits from China in a decade, and particularly the timing of the visit has been seen by observers as highly symbolic.

MJF Nepal to join govt

Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) led by Upendra Yadav is joining the Jhala Nath Khanal led government after an agreement with present coalition partners UML and UCPN (Maoist).

Prime Minister Khanal, UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and MJF chairman Yadav signed an agreement about joining the government at the PM’s residence Wednesday morning.

MJF agreed to join the government after UCPN (Maoist) and UML expressed commitment in writing to complete the peace process and constitution drafting process on time and address the issues of Madhes.

MJF central committee will meet later today to pick ministers for the Khanal cabinet. Khanal has agreed to give three ministerial berths to MJF, it is learnt.

SLC exams begin; load shedding reduced by two hours a day

The exams for School Leaving Certificate (SLC) have begun across the country Thursday. Almost half million students are taking exams from over 1600 exam centres across the country.

The exams began at 8 am, Thursday. Students are taking the exam of compulsory English on the first day of the exams.

The Controller of Examinations (CoE) has deployed special measures to curb cheating in the SLC exams this year. CoE has said, students involved in cheating will be immediately evicted from the exam centre and those helping students to cheat will be booked for public offence.

CoE has also started a provision from this year to reward schools and exam centres with minimum or no cases of cheating.

About 8000 students from 89 open schools are also taking the exam. Students with disabilities will get extra 1.5 hours for a 3 hour exam.

Meanwhile, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has reduced the load shedding hours by two hours every day in view of the SLC exams. NEA has said, load shedding will be imposed only for 12 hours a day during the exams.

Load shedding hours will be reverted to the present 14 hours a day schedule after the completion of the SLC exams.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chinese army chief arriving Wednesday

KATHMANDU, March 23: Chief of China´s People´s Liberation Army (PLA) General Chen Bingde is arriving on a three-day official visit to Nepal on Wednesday upon the invitation of his Nepali counterpart Chhatraman Singh Gurung.

This is the first visit of Chinese army chief to Nepal since 2002.

Officials at the Defense Ministry told Republica that two agreements are going to be signed between Nepal and China during Bingde´s “goodwill visit”. As per the agreements, the Chinese government will extend engineering equipment assistance worth 30 million Renminbi (RMB). In addition, the Chinese side will also provide assistance worth 100 million RMB to the Nepal Army Hospital at Chhauni.

The 70-year old PLA chief is leading a 15-member delegation of army officials, including those specializing in Tibet´s security. The delegation is said to be one of the biggest since China grew interest in Nepal following protests in Kathmandu and Tibet in 2008.

Though the official agenda of the visit features singing of the agreement, defense ministry officials said the Chinese side, like in previous official visits, is likely to raise issues of Tibet security and voice Beijing´s concern over Tibetan refugees´ anti-China activities in Nepal.

“Though the Tibet issue is not in the official agenda, the delegation may raise the issue during bilateral talks,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese army chief´s visit takes place a month after US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero visited Nepal to voice concern for rights of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.

Chinese military started extending assistance to Nepal during the tenure of former Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa who visited Beijing in September 2008.

During his visit in December 2008, Deputy Commander of PLA Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian had given US $2.6 million in non-lethal military aid to the Nepal Army (NA). In December 2009, a visiting Chinese military delegation had announced US $ 3 million to the NA.

During his visit, Bingde will meet President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, Defense Minister Bishnu Paudel, NA Chief Gurung and defense ministry officials.

Paras, Rubel appear before Chitwan DAO; Rubel says he didn't see Paras opening fire

Former crown prince Paras Shah and Bangladeshi national Rubel Chowdhury recorded their respective statements at the District Administration Office (DAO) of Chitwan over the Tiger Tops firing incident on Tuesday.

Chowdhury, who is the son-in-law of former deputy prime minister and Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala, recorded his statement for the first time at the DAO.

Briefly speaking to reporters after the hearing, Rubel said he "saw a pistol in Shah's hand, but was not sure if he opened fire or somebody else did."

Chowdhury also mentioned the manager of the Tiger Tops resort, Chitwan, Yadav Bantawa and two other employees as witnesses of the firing incident.

Meanwhile, the Chitwan DAO has notified ex-crown prince Shah to show up for next hearing on April 27. Shah recorded his statement some time after Chowdhury left the DAO.

A crowd of people chanted slogans in support of Shah as he recorded the statement at the DAO.

He is accused of opening fire at Chowdhury on the night of 11 December 2011 at the resort where the two were vacationing with their families.

Chowdhury had escaped unscratched in the incident that drew media attention for several days.

Nepal´s GDP lowest in South Asia: CBS


KATHMANDU: Nepal's Gross Domestic Production (GDP) is lowest among all South Asian countries, according to a report release by Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) here on Tuesday.

Nepal's GDP is estimated to be 3.47 percent in last seven months of the current fiscal year. The estimation is far below than 12 percent of Bhutan, 6 percent of Bangladesh, 10 percent of China and 9 percent of India.

Making public the overall economic index of the current fiscal year, including GDP, Director of CBS Suman Aryal said GDP continued to go down as production of agriculture, tourism, hydropower, agro-forest and other sectors couldn't increase.

In the current fiscal year, the agriculture sector and non-agriculture sector are expected to register 4.11 percent and 3 percent increase.

In the industrial production index, production of soybean, biscuit, beer, jute, leather, paper, plastic, concrete, iron rod, GI pipe and electricity wire decreased, according to the statistics. The growth rate of mustard oil, paddy, wheat flour, readymade garments, lube oil, paint, medicine, soap, brick and other materials is negative.

Sector-wise hotel and restaurant sector is estimated to grow by 7.3 percent, fishery by 6.8 percent and transport communication and storage by 7.15 percent compared to the last fiscal year.

´Paras had gun‚ but I don´t know who fired´


NARAYANGADH: Bangladeshi national Rubel Choudhary, principal witness of the incident at Tiger Tops on December 11 last year, today presented himself before Chitwan District Administration Office and recorded his statement in connection with the alleged firing by former Crown Prince Paras Shah.

In his statement, former Deputy Prime Minister and NC leader Sujata Koirala’s son-in-law Choudhary said he had seen Paras holding a gun in his hand and heard the shots but did not know who actually opened fire. After Choudhary and Paras attended the DAO today, the office set April 27 for the next hearing.

Quoting Chaudhary, non-gazetted officer at DAO Hari Sigdel said, “We introduced ourselves under the influence of alcohol. I saw Paras holding a pistol in his hand. After he went to his room, I heard firing. But, I do not know who opened fire.”

Rubel gave his statement on the Tiger Tops incident in the presence of Chitwan CDO Basantaraj Gautam, legal aides of Paras Shah, government lawyers and his own legal advisers. In the course of airing his statement, Rubel said he had not filed any case pertaining to the incident as it was an ordinary incident and he did not want to go through legal hassles. Legal aide to Rubel Chaudhary advocate Siva Bahadur Pandey said, “Rubel has not demanded punishment against Paras in his statement.”

Rubel Chaudhary, who arrived here yesterday, had reached Chitwan DAO at 10 am in his private car. He was accompanied by former members of parliament Ekanath Ranabhat and Jagannath Poudel, former Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala’s close aide Bharat Sapkota and some legal advisers. He left DAO at 12 noon. He said he would organise a press conference after returning to Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, former Crown Prince Paras Shah, who came in his private car via road from Kathmandu, showed up at Chitwan District Administration Office at 12:45 pm. He left DAO at 1:15 pm. High level security was deployed. While Paras was inside the DAO, hundreds of pro-royalists chanted slogans in support of monarchy demanding that the case against Shah be scrapped.

Badri Gautam, Paras’ legal aide, said case would be finalised on April 27, the date of the next hearing. Last Wednesday, Chitwan CDO Basantaraj Gautam had summoned Rubel to be present at the DAO today. A case was filed under Public Offence Act against Paras Shah for allegedly opening fire at Chitwan-based Tiger Tops Resort on December 14 last year at Chitwan DAO by the police. Shah was kept at Bharatpur-based Mid-Regional Police Training Center for three days after police took him under control from Pokhara on December 14.

Cabinet gives nod to NA for deal with China army chief


KATHMANDU: A Cabinet meeting on Tuesday decided to allot authority to the Nepal Army to ink a memorandum of understanding with a delegation of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regarding the Chinese assistance to NA during the three-day goodwill visit of Chief of Army Staff of China’s PLA Chen Bingde.

Speaking with the media, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Bharat Mohan Adhikari said that Cabinet also decided form a panel under his leadership to draft a work plan in order to minimise the load shedding problem the country is facing.

He informed that the meeting also decided to form another panel under the Minister for Land Reform in order to resolve the issues put forth by landless people.

According to DPM Adhikari, today’s meeting also decided to initiate talks regarding the protests of workers union demanding revised salary.

Rubel claims of not changing statement

"Paras held a pistol in his hand and fired a shot. But it may just be my imagination that the pistol was targeted towards me"

KATHMANDU: Bangladeshi citizen Rubel Chaudhary, the son-in-law of Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala, has claimed that he has not changed his statement in the case involving his alleged altercation with former Crown Prince Paras Shah in Chitwan.

Chaudhary was speaking at a press conference held at the Reporters' Club here today, after recording another statement at the Chitwan District Administration Office.

"Paras held a pistol in his hand and fired a shot. But it may just be my imagination that the pistol was targeted towards me," he said.

Stating that he did not have any kind of enmity with Paras prior to the incident, Rubel said, "When the subject of politics was discussed, I said I did not know anything about it".

The incident had taken place at the Tiger Tops Hotel in Chitwan some months ago.

Refugee camps gutted in fire


ITAHARI: Hundreds of houses in the Bhutanese refugee camp at Pathari, Morang were gutted after a fire broke out at the camp on Tuesday afternoon.

The fire that originated from a hut inside the refugee camp was fanned out by heavy winds in the afternoon. Fire tenders from Itahari, Dharan, Biratnagar and neighbouring towns were called in to put out the fire.

More than 200 huts were burnt to ashes. The fire was put out with joint effort of the locals and police, supported by the fire tenders.

The extent of the damage caused by the fire is yet to be assessed.

Health posts in big factories soon

KATHMNDU, March 23: The government has decided to set up health posts in factories that employ more than 500 workers to provide them at least minimum health facilities.

"The government has to be responsible toward people working in various factories," chief of the Family Health Revitalization Division (FHRD) at the Ministry of Population and Health Dr Bhim Singh Tinkari said.

Dr Tinkari said the MOPH has found out that workers in factories do not get even the basic health facilities. "They are working in dangerous condition," he said.

MoPH has already asked FHRD to submit the list of factories that employ more than 500 workers. "We have already identified 19 such factories to set up the health posts in the first phase," he said. Both private and semi-governmental industries will be included in the list.

The MOPH will provide a health assistant, an assistant health worker (AHW), an auxiliary nurse mid-wife (ANM), a vaccinator and a peon to each health post. FHRD revealed that some factories employ around 3,500 employees.

"We have found them working in appalling health conditions as the companies that employ them have not set up health facilities despite our repeated requests," administrator of the FHRD Achyut Lamichhane said.

Administrator Lamichhane claimed many workers injured while at work die on the way to hospital due to lack of primary health care services at the factories. "The employees will get all the services and medicines free of cost at the health posts," Lamichhane said.

The Ministry of Finance has allocated Rs 10 million for the purpose in the budget of the current fiscal year. The government had also announced different facilities at industries that provide direct employment to more than 100 workers in the budget.