Locals in Nepal take direct action

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Police use a water cannon to push back protesters on the streets of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepali Times

The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:

Think locally, act locally

  • In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
  • The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
  • Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
  • In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
  • Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.

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UN rights experts critique Nepal again

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A tree blocks a road near Butwal, Nepal during the Maoist conflict in 2005. Photo: Marty Logan

United Nations experts have critiqued draft changes to the Nepal law on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), says an editorial in this week’s Nepali Times.

In April, the experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, known as ‘special procedures’, took the Nepal Government to task for its slow, faulty progress in transitional justice. This time, their letter focuses on three proposals for the NHRC Act:

  1. Giving the attorney-general the power to approve the NHRC’s investigations
  2. Barring the institution from receiving any funding external to its government budget
  3. Preventing the NHRC from opening regional of sub-regional offices.

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Nepal: human rights champion or foe?

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Photo: Republic newspaper.

There’s an important editorial in this week’s edition of Nepali Times. It points out that while the Government of Nepal portrays itself as a human rights leader at the global level, at home it falls distressingly short of what’s required of a rights champion.

Not only have successive governments failed to implement a credible transitional justice process following the ceasefire between government and the Maoists in 2006, current leaders – including former Maoist fighters – are trying to curtail the powers of the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC’s recommendations have been almost totally ignored by various governments since it started work in 2000.

Read on, from Nepali Times:

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Interview with Nepal’s health minister

Gagan ThapaMy interview with Nepal’s health minister, Gagan Thapa, is in this week’s Nepali Times. Video is also available on that page.

Thapa was a rising star when I last lived here and has become Nepal’s youngest cabinet minister. Continue reading

Nepal: the road to …

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I’ve been back in Nepal for nearly two months now, eager to write about what I’m seeing and hearing but reluctant to come to any premature conclusions.

So instead, I’ll present some impressions, like this photo (above) of a bridge over the Rapti River in Dang district, which I took last weekend. Continue reading

Frustration and despair in Nepal

During my recent trip to Nepal I couldn’t resist the invitation to write an article for my former employer, Nepali Times, about my impressions on returning to the country after nearly 5 years.

As yet another deadline (Jan. 22) approaches to write a new constitution, my feelings weren’t positive.