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Nepal: Racing ahead to Pass the Constitution Amendment Bill in the National Assembly:

Paper No. 6601                    Dated 17-June-2020
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.
 
Racing to Pass the Bill in the National Assembly:
 
Having passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill on the new map that includes the disputed areasn in the Parliament, Nepal is racing ahead to get the Bill passed in the National Assembly.
 
Rajendra Phuyal, Secretary of the National Assembly Secretary, tabled the Bill in the Assembly on Sunday the 14th.  The Bill was unanimously endorsed for discussions the same evening.
 
The law makes it mandatory to give 72 hours for the members to study the Bill and discuss before it is passed.  Phuyal said that they are making necessary preparations to endorse the bill within the next four days.  It could be passed anytime now.
 
It transpires that feelers were sent by India earlier to pause the process of getting Parliamentary approval for the country’s new Map and come to the table for the talks.  India also reiterated that it is willing to hold talks if Oli’s Government creates a “conducive atmosphere” and a “positive situation.”  
 
These feelers have been ignored and Nepal has now reached the point of no return.  Those Members of the Parliament who were absent on the day of voting in the Lower House have been named and shamed by the Press. The Lone Member of erstwhile RJP Sarita Giri who sought an amendment to the Bill was not allowed to do so.  The exact nature of the amendment she had sought, is also not known.
 
It looks that India is making the right approach in not giving Oli more chances to whip up his Nationalist credentials (read Anti Indian) and like I said earlier in one of the papers, nationalist rhetoric has its limits and Oli will have to come down to realities and the challenges facing him sooner than later.
 
Unaffiliated Youths protest all over Nepal- A wake up call?
 
First, we take the spontaneous rallies that took place all over Nepal on the 9th, 11th and 13th of this month.  The Police used excessive force on the first two demonstrations but allowed the third demonstration on Saturday unhindered.  The plan is now to bring the protestors under the new law enacted for those violating the Covid-19 (Wuhan Virus) Norms and there are indications that the protestors would also change their tactics.
 
The protests were peaceful and consisted of  people who were not attached to any political party. They were young, urban, educated and mostly from the middle class.  They have no leaders but coordinators and assembly and protests were as per the decisions taken in the social media.  They have an account in the Face Book- “Covid-19 Nepal: Enough is Enough” and has already 190,000 followers. They were asking only for wider use of PCR (testing Kits), Improved Quarantine facilities and most importantly accountability on the funds being used in the name of controlling the Wuhan Virus.  
 
The protests were carried out in all the major cities and towns in Nepal, in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Banepa, Chitwan, Hetauda, Birgunj, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Mahottari.
 
This is the first time that the protestors are asking for “accountability.”  Many long time Observers of Nepal feel that the protests are the result of cumulative frustrations and it is certainly a wake up call.  There is a media report not challenged by anyone that there had been over 1200 suicides during the current lock down.  Of these 648 were women.  
 
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development has raised its concern regarding the management of Nepali Workers returning from India, inadequate quarantine facilities and mismanagement.  Seven of its member Organisations have joined in urging the Government to ensure safe border crossing and adequate quarantine facilities for those returning to Nepal.  Thousands of workers are stranded at either side of the border for want of testing facilities and adequate quarantine arrangements.
 
The Opposition Nepali Congress Steps in:
 
Not to be outdone and cashing in on the problems relating to the spread of the Wuhan Virus, the Nepali Congress after having been cowed down on the Nationalist rhetoric relating to the new map, made up its mind atlast to protest.  The Students affiliated to the Nepali Congress took out a rally from Bijuli Bazar to New Baneswar on 15th June, demanding proper quarantine facilities, wider use of the PCR tests and an end to corruption.  These were the same demands put out by the unaffiliated youth in the three protests held last week.
 
The Nepali Congress has formed two committees to monitor the developments relating to the management of the Virus Spread by the Government.  In an effort as not to be seen imitating those motivated youths, the party has put forth more demands- besides the three demands. It had also called for economic relief for labourers, students, Single women, disabled, Children and elders, repatriation of citizens from abroad at minimum cost to the individuals, supply of seeds, fertilizers and economic support at local levels.
 
The Study of the Nepal Health Centre is too damaging for Oli’s Government:
 
The Nepal Health Research Centre made a detailed study of the facilities available for the Covid patients and its report is very damaging.  The points made in the report were
 
1 Only 33 and 1/3 percent of the clinics and hospitals designated for Covid treatment had PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as specified in the guide lines of the Ministry of Heath and Population.
2.  Only 3 percent of Covid 19 facilities have dedicated diagnostic service
3.  Only 19.4 percent of the Centres have Centralised Oxygen Supply.
4.  Only 43 percent of the facilities have designated Ambulances.
5.  Only 14 percent of the Covid-19 treatment facilities have designated Medical Officers.
6.  Only 56 percent of the Covid-19 treatment facilities have 24 hours service.
7.  Only 60 percent of such facilities have trained Health Workers.
8.  Lack of testing and quarantine facilities for those front line Workers who are more vulnerable to the Virus.
 
In Gaur, those in quarantine rioted when they were not allowed to meet their relatives and the _Police had to fire in the air to disperse the crowds. It is unusual as the trigger-happy Nepali Policemen are in the habit of killing those protesting but even those who are far away watching from the balconies as it happed during the Madhesi agitation!   
 
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