Help, both in cash and kind, continues to pour into the Prime Minister’s Natural Disaster Relief Fund. Yet there is a troubling mismatch between the 10 million rupees (and counting) the government says it has already spent in relief, rescue and reconstruction, and lack of tangible results on the ground. This was the reason the Development Committee of the Legislature-Parliament on Sunday had to direct the government to show more initiative to open blocked highways and expedite reconstruction efforts, among other things. The committee’s concerns are legitimate. The pace of relief efforts in the most badly-affected districts like Sindhupalchowk, Banke and Bardiya has been glacial. Where indeed are millions being collected in the PM’s flood funds, every single day, going?
At the half-way mark of the “one-year-to-constitution” promise, Constituent Assembly members may not be close to an agreement on major issues but at least they appear to be closing in on a name for the constitution of Nepal.
Last week, the CA’s Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) announced that it had reached an agreement on the name for new constitution: ‘The Constitution of Nepal’. That announcement turned out to be premature as one faction within the CA was still withholding its consent on the name. They wanted the name to better reflect the full character of the new country: The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
During the Nepal visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early August, one of the key agreements between the two countries was to conclude Power Trade Agreement (PTA) and Power Development Agreement (PDA) within 45 days, to harness Nepal’s hydropower potential to the advantage of both countries. Those interested in hydropower follow this development with eagerness, associating credibility of the two prime ministers and their countries on whether such agreements really take place within the given timeframe.
That Modi hit right buttons through the visit to reset Nepal-India relations is a foregone conclusion. Although no major agreements were signed, Modi’s initiative propelled the level of trust between the two countries to a new space of potentially zero-problem, creating opportunities to break out of several bottlenecks, creating new agreements and reviewing old ones. But has the momentum been maintained? With the fast approach of the deadline, what’s the progress on PTA, PDA front?
Following up with the prime ministerial commitment, Nepali parliament’s Water Resources Committee on August 18 asked Energy Ministry to produce every document related to PTA, together with Nepal government’s response back in June to an earlier Indian proposal. The Committee also instructed Energy Minister Radha Gyawali to present in the parliament a progress report on the proposed agreement. Additionally, National Planning Commission Vice Chairman and the officials of Nepal Investment Board were invited in the committee to deliberate on Upper Karnali PDA, to be signed with Indian builder GMR.
Religion sets social rules and such rules are manifest in religious epics. Based on those holy theologies unholy deeds of prejudice and discrimination still prevail in the new secular republic. Some profane verses in those books cannot be justified. An egalitarian society can exist only when its members are groomed right. Since time immemorial Hindus have been taught discriminatory stuff. Hindu extremists, crying for Hinduism in Nepal, should ask themselves if they, at any point in history, attempted to address this thorny issue of scriptures.
Several struggles have been made by Nepali Dalits just to enter temples. Pashupati temple entrance (in 1954), Siddhakali temple entrance in Bhojpur (in 1964), Nawalparasi temple entrance (in 1990), Dudh Kand (Milk Movement) of Chitwan and Syangja (in 1993) and last year’s Bramhasthan temple entrance movement by Pipariya hamlet Dalits in Rautahat are some emblematic cases. In the backlash, Dalits were tortured, intimidated, ostracized, restricted, thrashed, and sometimes even killed.
The central issue of federalism has, unsurprisingly, dominated recent deliberations on the new constitution. Some reports suggest major political forces are closing in on a federal model resembling the one agreed on May 15, 2012 among Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madheshi parties. This model had 11 federal provinces, with naming and final boundaries left to future national and provincial assemblies. But as desirable as just about any kind of consensual agreement on federalism is, coming to one won’t be so easy. The leaders affiliated to the seven-party Federal Republican Alliance (FDA) led by UCPN (Maoist) are already threatening to take to the streets if ‘identity-based federalism’ is not ensured in the new constitution. Although these forces are much diminished in size after CA II polls, it would be a mistake to dismiss their recent activism as bluster. Many of their demands are genuine and should be addressed by big parties if we are to have a constitution acceptable to a broad constituency.