These are excerpts from a bi-monthly publlication. Subscription price for the full version is US $15 per year sent to NEWS FROM NEPAL, 4621 SW Kelly, Portland, OR 97201. Further information available through our e-mail address:


Based on news stories from Kathmandu-based English language newspapers, and other sources - May-July 2000 VI-3



War Heating Up. In a place called Panchkatiya in the west central district of Jajarkot, 51 special police settled down for the night in a post that was considered one of the safest in the district. Suddenly, at around 10 o'clock, a group of around 1,600 guerillas started firing on them from all directions. Using flare-tipped arrows to illuminate the building, they followed up with home-made explosives. The post's defenders could not see well enough in the darkness to fire back effectively. When, at 3 am, the Maoists took over the post, 25 people were dead - 12 policemen, six guerillas, and seven civilians (including children) who had somehow gotten in the way of the bullets. Thirty-six policemen had escaped to make their way back through the forest to district headquarters. The encounter was described as "one of the bloodiest battles in the four-year insurgency," and has become the subject of a parliamentary investigation. Yet it was not the only incident of its kind in a conflict that seems to have been gaining in intensity in the past few months. In one week alone in mid-June, rebels killed 17 police in various parts of the country. As well as killings, factories have been destroyed, houses burned, money and equipment looted. The main targets of the insurgents have been police, local politicians, informers, and representatives of businesses considered by them to be oppressive. Although Nepal's budget for police has been increased by almost half, that force has suffered from a lack of direction, equipment and motivation. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, when he came to office, promised to turn to the army to pursue the fight against the Maoists. Although that promise was dropped after public criticism, it is still likely that a special force trained by the army will go into action in the fall. (all media, May-July)

Waiting to Put Out the Fire. Under the previous government of Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Sher Bahadur Deuba, a former prime minister and energetic younger leader in the Nepali Congress (NC) party, was named to head a High Level Consensus Seeking Committee with the mission of resolving Nepal's Maoist problem. After getting assurances of support from all major political parties, he called for talks with the Maoist leadership. Comrade Prachanda, leader of the movement, later agreed that talks would be a good idea but so far, none have taken place. Part of the problem is political. Things came to a halt during the recent change of government, and now that the new government has given Deuba and his Committee the go-ahead, he and Prime Minister Koirala have been diverted by their own involvement in a power struggle within the party. Neither of the two parties (both of whom suggest that they want talks only on their own terms) is sure the other is serious. Even as they express a willingness to talk, the Maoists seem to be stepping up the violence of their campaign. For its part, the government is organizing a paramilitary super force to combat the insurgents at the same time it is announcing its willingness to work out a peaceful solution with them. Those who believe that the only solution to the Maoist problem lies in some kind of agreement between insurgents and government quote a Nepali proverb, "when the hut is on fire, the fire-fighters wait for the auspicious astrological time to put it out." They worry that as far as the Maoist insurgency is concerned, they are in for a long wait. (Nepali Times, Kathmandu Post, May-July)

"Internal Refugees" Victimized by Both Parties. "The People's War," like most wars, has disrupted the lives of many innocent people and now has created a large number of refugees. It is estimated that some 60,000 people have left their homes during the four years of the insurgency to escape its increasing violence. "Maoist rebels want us to support them whereas Police want us to cooperate with them in their operations," one of the refugees explained. "We have been victimized by both parties." In July, some 250 people from 14 districts marched on foot for as long as 28 days to start a sit-in campaign to force the government to recognize them as "internal refugees" and to do something to help them. They plan to maintain their sit-in until "peace returns to our villages." (Spotlight, June 9)

Life Under Maoism. "When we declare we have made a base area," says the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, (better known as Comrade Prachanda), "then formally we will make a central government. We are thinking that when Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, and Salyan become a liberated zone, then we will declare the People's Republic of Nepal - the government of the People's Republic of Nepal." Although such a republic may now seem a distant possibility, the Maoists are already working to establish their own kind of government in the areas that they currently control. They plan to conduct elections in the 340 Village Development Committees under their jurisdiction and have already held 60. That these were fair elections is suggested by the fact that although the majority of persons elected were Maoists, there were others who were not, including members of the despised Nepali Congress. The Maoists claim that 80 percent of eligible voters participated. In some areas under their control, they have established banks to lend money to peasants at low interest rates. In others, they have stolen land ownership certificates from the authorities and r e-distributed them to poor farmers. Occasionally, in the tradition of Robin Hood, they have combined violence with largesse, such as when they robbed and set fire to six buildings belonging to an animal development farm in Ramechhap district and gave away its 70 cows to local citizens after haranguing them with speeches. Comrade Prachanda was proud to claim that his people are bringing about a cultural revolution in the areas they control. "Questions of marriage, questions of love, questions of family, questions of relations between people - all of these are being turned upside down and changed in the rural areas." He did not say whether the new society favors a ban on alcohol, yet "a mob of Maoist women" in Jajarkot felt strongly enough about the evils of drink to raid more than 100 houses in five villages, where they destroyed some 500 liters of home-made alcohol. (Nepali Times, June 28; Kathmandu Post, May, June, July)


Move to Force Koirala to Give up Premiership or Party Presidency. It may appear that in the world of Nepalese politics, a government that remains in office four months has lasted a long time. That apparently is the opinion of "at least five dozen" Nepali Congress (NC) lawmakers, who have started a signature campaign to force Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala either to resign from the premiership or from the party presidency. Khum Bahadur Khadka, recently fired as Minister for Water Resources, is leading the campaign. "I believe that the same person should not hold two key positions and that has been my stand from the beginning," he says. Koirala assumed office in March after his supporters in parliament forced then Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, out of office with a no-confidence vote. Since that time, Bhattarai and another former prime minister who had contested Koirala for party leadership, Sher Bahadur Deuba, have joined forces in their opposition to the present government. Koirala, no stranger to parliamentary maneuver, has pointed out that a signature campaign is not necessary to oust him. A simple majority in a party vote of no-confidence could do the same. So far, it has not been the prime minister who has lost his job. After initiating the recall movement, Khum Bahadur Khadka was relieved of his post as Minister for Water Resources on the recommendation of Prime Minister Koirala. (Kathmandu Post, August 2)

Actor-Director Arrested for Political Remarks. Mohan Niraula, a film director and actor, does not like the way things are going on the government level. He made this plain in a speech at a public function in Kathmandu in which he stated that he was ready to shoot the prime minister and other elected leaders, if necessary, to improve the present situation. The authorities took this threat seriously and set out to arrest him on the grounds that he had committed a crime against the state, a crime that in Nepal can bring a jail sentence of up to ten years. Dozens of police personnel in plain clothes went out to search for the film personality, who, sensing what was coming, had disappeared. For several days, he kept away from his house, where police were waiting in large numbers, but was eventually captured. Although the Lalitpur Apellate Court ordered him released, police continued to hold him. He was later taken to Kathmandu District Court in handcuffs, where he was set free. (Kathmandu Post, July 12, 13)

PAC Questions Government Purchase Deal of Army Aircraft. Back in March 1999, the cabinet of the then coalition government under G. P. Koirala decided to purchase an Avro RJ-100 aircraft for army use. The decision was reaffirmed in December of that year by the succeeding government led by K. P. Bhattarai, and again this year by the present government, which has indicated eagerness to pursue the deal. But now the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered that the government not proceed with the purchase. The Committee would like to find answers to such questions as why only one company, British Aerospace, was approached for a bid, why that bid appears to be $8 million higher than it ought to be, why no detailed study of needs or available aircraft was made before purchase, and why there was such a rush (fifteen days) to sign the agreement after the decision to purchase was made. The group also questions whether this particular aircraft is suited for its intended use. The government claims that, among other things, it is needed for commercial purposes, but the PAC notes that no army in the world conducts commercial flights nor is there "any reason for the army in Nepal to do so as if it did not have any other work." (Nepali Times, June 28)


Kamaiyas Set Free. Slavery was abolished in Nepal some 80 years ago by the Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumser, yet one form of the practice, the Kamaiya (or bonded labor) system has persisted into the 21st century. Now the government has pronounced this practice illegal and has declared that anyone found to be involved in it will be punished under the law. The government estimates that there are some 16,000 bonded laborers in the country (rights organizations say the number is closer to 40,000). They are mostly Tharu people living in the five southwestern districts of Nepal. They endure lives of misery trying, like generations before them, to work off the debts of their ancestors. Earlier in the year, a small group of them in Kailali district launched a modest protest against the practice of their landlords to pay them less than minimum wages. They received support in this from human rights organizations as well as the news media, and soon found themselves at the center of a nationwide movement. The government's surprise announcement came as a group of Kamaiyas were arriving in the capital to press their claims. There are still problems involving the resettlement and employment of the Kamaiyas. Yet for now there is joy among them. "I feel like a bird released from its cage," said one of them. "I will now search for a job and spend my life happily." (Spotlight, July 21)

Jute Mill Workers Strike Ties Up Border Traffic in Biratnagar. Border traffic came to a standstill for more than a week in early July in the southeastern city of Biratnagar as angry jute mill workers resorted to a highway blockade to draw attention to their needs. Fifteen policemen and seven workers were injured in a confrontation during which police fired 17 rounds of rubber bullets, 14 shells of tear gas, and several rounds of blanks. The workers walked out of Biratnagar Jute Mills on May 29 with a list of 16 demands that included guarantees of 60 days off per annum, medical assistance for all (including family members), and adequate compensation for days when the mill is closed. A meeting on July 1 of representatives of the government together with both interested parties ended without conclusion. Police demanded that the workers end their blockade but the latter responded by hurling stones at them and at some 50 trucks that were waiting for the blockade to be lifted. In the resulting clash, workers claimed that police had injured 50 workers. When all of this came to the attention of the House of Representatives, the opposition CPN-UML party brought parliamentary business to a standstill for three hours. The party later organized a bandh, or general strike, in Biratnagar. Because this city normally acts as one of Nepal's busiest border crossings, the disruption caused by the blockade and strike had serious consequences outside the area. The Biratnagar customs office recorded a drop in customs duty of Rs 10 million (around US $143,000). Agreement between the warring sides finally came on July 5 in a second meeting between the three parties. Management agreed to meet ten of the workers' 16 demands and the workers agreed to go back to work. (Kathmandu Post, June 29-July 5, Spotlight, July 7)

Nomadic Life Threatened. Nobody knows how many Pathans are in Nepal, mainly because Pathans hardly ever stay in one place and thus are hard to count. It is only during the three months of the monsoon that they settle in permanent camps ("Had there been no rainfall, we would not have needed a home," says one of them). These early Muslim migrants from India are nomads who live in tents and hunt for a living with bows and arrows. It is believed that there are groups of them scattered from one end of the Terai to the other. They like their way of life but now it is threatened. Farmers are taking over the forests in which the Pathans hunt, with a consequent reduction in the game they depend on for their living. In many places, the nomads have had to turn to hunting rats, mongooses, and jackals. "We are hunters," says one of their number, "but we are compelled to lead a life of beggars." (Kathmandu Post, May 10)

Amnesty International Condemns Both Maoists and Police for Human Rights Abuses. "There was a complete lack of accountability for possible extra-judicial executions" during encounters between police and terrorists in Nepal, says Amnesty International in its report on the human rights situation in Nepal in 1999. Both police and Maoists are criticized in the document. It condemns the Maoist rebels for "deliberate killings of civilians judged by [them] to be the enemies of the revolution," as well as for "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," including beatings, imposed by "People's Courts." At the same time, it points out that the killing of civilians by police has increased by at least fifty percent in one year. It expresses concern about what it calls a "very disturbing pattern of disappearances" following police arrests (many of which it describes as "arbitrary"), as well as "torture of political and criminal detainees to extract confessions or intimidate suspects." The police, it says, have acted secretly. "The investigations were kept as an entirely internal police matter and the bodies of victims disposed of without any inquiry." Earlier this year, the human rights group warned that in its approach to this problem, Nepal is "courting a human rights disaster." (Kathmandu Post, June 15)


Low Marks in Human Development. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has once again given Nepal low marks for its lack of attention to such things as health, education, drinking water and local development. For the second year in a row, it ranked 144th in a list of 174 nations. There has been some increase in public spending in the social sector; yet the 3.4 percent of its Gross National Product that Nepal allocates to the social sector does not compare well with the international benchmark of 5 percent of GNP. The Human Development Report for 2000 has other interesting statistics. Nepal is one of only eight countries in the world where more than half of the population (51.8%) suffers from poverty. It is the only country in the world where the life expectancy of women (57.6 years) is lower than that of men (58.1 years). More than twice as many men as women are literate. The poorest 20% of the population receives 7.6 of its income; the richest, 44.8 percent. Whatever attention Nepal gives to these matters is unequal for the nation. An earlier report revealed that the average life expectancy for a child born in Kathmandu was 67 years, whereas that of a child born in thre remote northern district of Mugu is only 36 years. (Spotlight, July 7)

Health Status Among the Worst. Nepal's health status still ranks among the worst in Asia, according to the World Health Report 2000. "The difference between a well-performing health system and one that is failing can be measured in death, disability, impoverishment, humiliation, and despair," said Dr. Gro Brundtland, the organization's director general. Judged in terms of population, health inequalities, health system responsiveness, distribution of responsiveness, and distribution of the health system's financial burden, Nepal ranks 150th out of 191 states in the world. The country spends only 3.7 percent of its Gross National Product on health. (Kathmandu Post, June 29)

Nepali Women Biggest Smokers. Nepali women top the list of women smokers in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 85 percent of the men in Nepal are smokers and 71 percent of the women. Nepalese men smoke almost twice as much as the world average and Nepalese women almost six times more. (Spotlight, June 9)

Astrologers "Far Behind." It is not only in such areas as human development that Nepal lags behind the rest of the world. According to the president of the Nepal Astrology Council, Nepali astrologers are "far behind" their counterparts in other countries and as a consequence are losing people's trust. The government, he hopes, may help by setting up a special unit on astrology. Sher Bahadur Deuba, a former prime minister and apparent candidate to become a future prime minister, has promised that the government "will provide all the necessary help for research on astrology," a practice which, he agrees, "cannot be allowed to die." (Kathmandu Post, June 12)


Drunken Prince Accused in Death of Musician. Prince Paras Shah, a grandson of the King, likes to have a good time. This sometimes gets him in trouble. He has been accused on earlier occasions of killing a taxi driver and a pedestrian while driving under the influence of intoxicants; and readers may remember how, a little less than a year ago, he was stopped for drunken driving on his way home from a party and struck the arresting officer with the butt of a machine gun that he happened to have with him at the time. In the latest episode, he left the X-Zone Disco in Kamaladi after police broke in to stop a quarrel, got in his car and drove it into a man on a motorbike near the eastern gate to the Royal Palace. The operator of the motorbike, who died from injuries within half an hour of the accident, turned out to be Praveen Gurung, a popular musician who, among other accomplishments, has composed nearly 500 songs. He was returning from a performance at the Yak and Yeti Hotel. Police gave chase to the Prince's vehicle as it sped away, but turned back when they discovered that it was Prince Paras Shah in the driver's seat. Not long after this, two vehicles pulled up in front of the Durbar Marg Police Station. The Prince stepped out of one of them wearing a mask. He was not there to turn himself in but to point a gun at the officer on duty and threaten him to keep his mouth shut about the accident. Others in the police department seemed not to need this extra encouragement. Most police at the station, including those in the higher echelons, denied any knowledge of the accident, claiming that they were out on patrolling duty at the time. Although the officer chasing the fleeing vehicle had reported its registration number three times, all police units reporting on the accident claimed that Gurung had been hit by an "unidentified" car. Yet if the police were oblivious of the Prince's misdoings, members of parliament were outraged. MPs from all major parties called for an investigation of the incident and harsh punishment for the offending driver. (Kyodo News Service, Kathmandu Post,, August 8)


Arguing with India About Water Flow. A large part of India's water comes from the mountains of Nepal. This leads to frequent arguments. Nepal was not happy about India's construction of a barrage (artificial barrier) on the Rapti river not far from below the border in western Nepal. When this was followed by a 13.6-kilometer (8.5-mile) long embankment just 4.2 kilometers (a little over two and a half miles) downstream from the border, Nepal's leaders expressed their anger. According to them, the constructions have contributed to the inundation of several thousand households in five Village Development Committees in Banke district and "there can be no other solution than to dismantle" the barrage and its embankment. Yet India claims it needs these to protect its own villages. Without the barrage, some 52 of them, it says, will be flooded each year. (Spotlight, July 28)

Friendship Bridge Falls In. The Friendship Bridge that links Nepal with Tibet at Kodari collapsed in early June when 26 heavily-laden vehicles passed over it in a row. A previous bridge had been washed out by floods in the early 1980s and later replaced with Chinese assistance. (Kathmandu Post, June 8)

Japanese Justice. Readers may remember Govinda Prasad Mainali, the 33-year-old Nepali who had been accused of robbing and murdering a Tokyo woman in a highly publicized trial, but acquitted by the Tokyo District Court. At the time, he appeared to be a free man, subject only to deportation since the trial had kept him in Japan longer than his visa allowed. Yet he is still in Japan and still in jail. A higher court has kept him in detention on the grounds that "if there are suspicions that a suspect may have committed a crime and legal grounds for the detention, and the detention is considered necessary, an appellate court can detain a suspect pending an appeal." There are no particular limits on the length of the detention. The Japan-Nepal Society has demanded his release. "The fact that Mr. Mainali was detained again prior to a hearing of intermediate appeal and after he was acquitted at the first trial has raised harsh international criticism." (Kathmandu Post, July 3)


Streets Still Full of Garbage. Garbage piles are becoming a more and more prominent feature of the Kathmandu cityscape, as 400 metric tons of it get dumped on the streets each day while authorities continue to look for a place to dispose of it. Until early this year, it had been carted to Mulpani Village Development Committee and its Gokarna dumping site. In spite of special inducements, Mulpani had never been excited about the arrangement and did not renew its agreement with the government. The latter then turned its sights on Syuchatar, five kilometers west of Kathmandu, but backed away after vehement local protest. The latest plan was to dump the refuse along the Bagmati River and cover it with plastic sheets from all sides to keep it from contaminating the river. A link road would be constructed as well as a "liucheate drain" alongside the river. Yet this plan, too, has had to be abandoned. Nepal's Parliamentary Committee on Population and Environment has put a stop to it after determining liquids flowing from the solid waste could pollute the river. "We have been left clueless," complained a spokesman for the Ministry charged with disposing of the garbage. "There is virtually no land in the Valley at this point where we can take the garbage and manage." In the meanwhile, officials say they will continue to take the solid waste to Gokarna dump site in spite of the absence of legal authority and the strong opposition of the local community. (Kathmandu Post, July 11)

Too Much Suspended Particulate Matter. Optimists may rejoice that Kathmandu's air pollution is not as bad as that of Delhi or Beijing. Yet people who live in the capital city probably do not need to be told that, whatever its standing, it has become increasingly hard to breathe there. They probably do not talk much about "total suspended particulate matter," nor the fact that there are some 27,000 tons of these particles spewing into their community every year, and that this is seven times more than is regarded safe by the World Health Organization. The main sources of particulate matter (which some of us recognize as plain dust) are: (1) the Valley's many brick kilns and its large cement factory; (2) vehicular pollution; (3) domestic fuel; and (4) the re-suspension of roadside rubbish. Behind all this is an ever-increasing population. In the last 20 years, there has been an 80 percent growth in Valley population, the total number of vehicles has nearly quadrupled, and the number of brick kilns has increased by 300 percent. Most people greeted last year's ban on diesel three-wheel Vikram tempos with enthusiasm. Yet in spite of making the streets look cleaner, the ban has not improved air quality. During the period of the ban, 20,000 more vehicles have come onto the streets of Kathmandu, offsetting whatever clearing of the air was accomplished by the disappearance of the tempos. By the late 1990s, the number of days per year with good visibility was down to two. There has been a sharp increase in flights that have had to be cancelled. Tribhuvan International Airport, whose southern approach path is close to a large concentration of brick kilns, is particularly vulnerable to air pollution. Yet the most heavily polluted areas of Kathmandu remain its main road corridors, such as Kantipath, Lazimpat, Putali Sadak, the uphill to Pulchowk and parts of Baneswor. At the same time that Kathmanduites may be choking on suspended particulate matter, the Nepal Environmental and Scientific Services is warning of a new danger, that presented by carbon monoxide. Although still within the safe limits set by the World Health Organization, this is growing at an alarming rate, mainly because of a proliferation of scooters and motorcycles. "If it grows at this rate," says a health official, "we will be at serious risk of carbon monoxide pollution, and it will not just be the roadsides that will be affected." (Nepali Times, June 28)

The Greening of Kathmandu. Not all Kathmandu street news is bad. A new initiative, the Public-Private Partnership Program (or "4P," for short), is transforming "ugly traffic islands" into "small but colorful public gardens" where "marigolds and snap dragons jostle for space." A joint effort of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and private businesses, the program aims to beautify 13 of the city's traffic islands. (Nepali Times, July 2)

No More Load Shedding - for Now. To cope with the problem of insufficient power supply for Kathmandu's needs, the Nepal Electricity Authority for some years has practiced a policy of "load shedding," in which power is shut off on a predictable basis for a defined time period in alternating neighborhoods. The good news, as announced by NEA in early July, is that an increased supply of power made possible by the completion of two hydro projects (Puwa Khola and Khimti) has ended the necessity for load shedding in the city - at least for now. The bad news is that the practice may have to be resumed during the dry season. NEA promises, however, to make every possible effort to avoid this. (Kathmandu Post, July 11)


Many Local Governments Without Secretaries. The Village Development Committee, which often includes more than one village, is Nepal's basic local government unit. There are 3,913 of them in the country, and at the present time 306 of them have no secretary. Their absence, as lawmakers agree, makes it difficult for these VDCs to function, yet, for reasons not made public, the government continues to leave the posts vacant. One suggestion has been to transfer some of the 2,800 government officials who are now on the payroll but have no present job to the VDCs. "Instead of recruiting new people and overstaffing the already overstaffed administrative force," suggested one practical-minded MP, "these people should be adjusted." That had been the recommendation of the previous government; yet, after four months, the positions are still vacant. (Kathmandu Post, June 20)

The Crowded Sidewalks of Mahendranagar. It is not easy to walk down the street in Nepal's far southeastern city of Mahendranagar. Along with bricks, sand piles, cement sacks and other construction equipment, the sidewalks are made nearly impassable by crudely-built shanties that house a variety of commercial enterprises, bicycle repair shops, fruit and vegetable vendors, lines of drums, piles of mattresses, and people cooking meals. The problem, says the Deputy Mayor, is the intransigence of those who are encroaching on the pavement. There are others who believe that a more serious problem is an ongoing feud between the Deputy Mayor and the Mayor that has brought city government to a standstill. (Kathmandu Post, July 16)

Punished for his Unusual Sexual Preference. Nineteen-year-old Kedar Bhujel was found hanging from a tree near his home in the central Terai village of Sukoura. He had been tied up and beaten severely by a neighboring cattle owner and four of his family members who accused him of having sex with their buffalo. Bhujel's own family suspects that he had been hanged only after he had been killed in the beating. But "police and locals assert he could have committed suicide due to an inferiority complex and shame." (Kathmandu Post, July 17)


25 Killed in RNAC Crash. At about 10:30 am on July 27, a Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation Twin Otter aircraft crashed into a 4,300-foot hill in the far west district of Dadeldhura. All 25 persons on board were killed. The captain of the plane, which was on its way from Bajhang to Dhangadi, had radioed the latter's control tower to report that he had crossed the last ridge of the Chiura range and was starting his descent. Bad weather and poor visibility apparently kept him from knowing that he had one more hill to cross; he missed its summit by ten feet. RNAC officials have vigorously denied that the plane, which normally would carry fewer passengers, was overloaded. Most of the passengers were civil servants; five were college students. There was at least one infant. The majority were from Bajhung, "where news of the crash left most people restless..." (Kathmandu Post, July 28, 29)

Happy Birthday, RNAC! Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC) celebrated its 42nd birthday with something less than universal rejoicing. The fatal crash of one of its fleet of Twin Otter aircraft in western Nepal represented only one of its troubles. It is once again short of aircraft for its long distance flights. Back in 1994, it sold two of its Boeing 727s and has since relied on leasing substitutes, usually at the last minute and usually at high prices. Now it is facing a new tourist season just as the latest lease deal, this one with the Australian company ANSETT, has fallen through. (The Australians were unable to come to terms with the company based in Brunei that was to be responsible for aircraft maintenance.) The national airline had turned to ANSETT in May after negotiations with an Irish aircraft agent had foundered. Now suddenly without prospects for a new lease, RNAC is extending the lease for three more months of the South China Airlines B-757 that it chartered last year. The company has spent some 58 million US dollars since 1994 in its efforts to lease aircraft. The search for leasable equipment involves not only RNAC and the potential leasing company but support groups in Nepal. As seen by The Kathmandu Post, "RNAC's search for a suitable aircraft, instead of being a fight between two competent suppliers, is actually ... a fight between various political lobbies. Whoever wins stands to gain millions in the inevitable commissions that will follow." (Spotlight, July 21, Kathmandu Post, June 1 ff)

RNAC "Treats Passengers like Peasants." "As a long time resident of India," wrote Miriam Jordan, the New Delhi-based reporter for the Wall Street Journal, "I have endured some painful trips on other carriers. But Royal Nepal's disdain for its passengers' needs went beyond the bounds of normal delays and tattered airport lounges." Ms Jordan was complaining about seriously delayed flights and uncaring employees. The problem, say airline officials, is a shortage of aircraft. "We always listen carefully to what our well-wishers have to say about us and take proper measures to solve their complaints and comments," claims RNAC's executive chairman. "Once the aircraft issue is solved, the complaints will be minimal." (Nepali Times, July 2)

Lukla and Jumla Airstrips Closed for Repairs. Lukla's Short-Take-off-and-Landing (STOL) airstrip which is perched at 9,200 feet on a 15-degree slope in Solukhumbu is believed to serve the highest volume of air traffic in Nepal outside of Kathmandu. The facility, which is used by most of the trekkers coming to or going from the Everest area, was closed at the beginning of June for upgrading, and will reopen in September. It was built under the direction of Sir Edmund Hillary in the 1960s after the government had denied him permission for the construction of an airstrip at Mingbo, higher up in the mountains. Clearing and tamping down the earth for the landing strip had to be done at that time by human labor. According to the legend, Hillary had found it difficult to motivate the local Sherpa work force to stomp down such a large space with their feet. Then he hit on the idea of making the project into a giant party. He brought out a barrel of chhang and got the Sherpas performing their traditional foot-stomping dances, and the airstrip was soon finished. Another airstrip, that at Jumla, has also been closed. Work there, which includes black-topping the landing strip, is expected to take 13 months. People of that remote area are demanding that the government run helicopter service until the runway is finished. (Nepali Times, June 28)


Road Accident Rate Up. Road accidents are increasing in the Birgunj area south of Kathmandu Valley, according to the Central Regional Traffic Police there. Besides the 69 accidents that killed 26 people in one month, there were six road closures following accidents, halting traffic as long as 13 hours. The closures come about, say police, because relatives of those killed in accidents hope to make use of them to gain more than the Rs 17,500 (approximately US $250) that the government allows per victim in such cases. They believe that the increase in accidents is explained by narrow roads, houses built too close to the highway, random parking on the highway, and negligent driving. (Kathmandu Post, May 27)

Death Toll High in Truck Accident. There was a death toll of 250 when a truck overturned on the Mahendra Highway in the west Terai district of Kailali. But in this case, all of the deceased were chickens. The accident took place at 5 am when the driver swerved to avoid hitting a buffalo on the road. The driver and four human passengers sustained minor injuries. (Kathmandu Post, July 16)

Angry Locals Toss Bus Into River. After a bus ran over and killed a child in Charaudi Bazaar in Dhading district (not far west of Kathmandu), angry locals chased it, dragged the 33 Indian pilgrims who were its passengers off of its and beat them up. Then they tossed the vehicle itself into the turbulent Trisuli River. Still angry, they stopped all vehicular traffic for six hours following the incident. Police gave shelter to the pilgrims, who were returning from a visit to Pashupatinath, and have arrested some of the demonstrators. (

Dies After Falling Off Roof of Bus. Seven passengers fell off the roof of a bus travelling in the east Terai district of Siraha. One of them died. No details of the circumstances are given other than that the seven were close to their destination. (Kathmandu Post, May 17)


Japanese Bug Collector Arrested. Furuta Koniyoshi must feel that the gods are against him, at least when it comes to collecting beetles in Nepal. By profession a web-site designer, he is also an avid entomologist who has set up an insect museum in his home for the display of bugs from all over the world. Missing from the collection is a certain kind of Nepalese beetle. Missing also, at the moment, is Mr. Koniyoshi. He is currently being held in custody in the Hetaunda District Forest Office guest house, awaiting trial on the charge of collecting insects without a proper permit. Also held are two Nepalese nationals who had been acting as helpers and guides. "Nobody told me that I needed permission to collect insects in Nepal," said Koniyoshi ("with tears in his eyes") from behind the bars of the Forest Office. This was his second attempt to bring beetles to Japan. All of the insects he collected on his first trip died before reproducing. Now almost all of the 47 that he and his helpers collected on this trip are also dead. (NOTE: he has since been freed.) (Kathmandu Post, June 20)

Shooting Spree in Chetrapati. Two men described as "drug addicts" went wild one night in the Chhetrapati district of Kathmandu and started shooting at people and attacking them with khukuris. Three people were seriously injured. The confessed culptrits were found to have "indulged in robbery and killing for the last few months." (, May 27)

These Doctors Will Kill You. No, this "Doctor Group" is not a medical team. It is a gang of murderers operating in the Tebahal district of Kathmandu. Under the nickname of their leader, "Doctor," they have been attacking police and civilians with swords and khukuris and have killed at least one man. The police have finally tracked them down and arrested six of them. They also found a number of swords, knives, and khukuris in a guitar case and confiscated them. (Kathmandu Post, May 10)

Burns Up Wife's Lover. Sant Bahadur Majhi of Ratnapur in the central district of Syangja came home from work one day and found the door of his house locked. When he forced it open, he found his cousin Netra Bahadur Majhi "engaged in illicit link" with his wife, Koili. "Sant Bahadur, who had taken alcohol to some extent, was beyond control of his anger, and with a view to killing both of them, shut the door and set the room on fire." His wife somehow escaped but Netra Bahadur, "who was terrified, hid himself under the bed where he had had sex with Koili and was burnt to death." The District Court judge has sentenced Sant Bahadur to only 10 years' imprisonment "in view of the nature of the crime and human sensitivity." The murderer is unrepentant. (Kathmandu Post, July 13)

Ten Persons Apprehended in "a Very Unsavory State." The Chief District Officers of Parsa and Bara (in the east central Terai) joined forces to make a surprise raid on Shishi Mahal Cabin Restaurant, on the border of the two districts. They found six waitresses and four male customers in "a very unsavory state" and arrested them. (Kathmandu Post, July 13)

Deaf Athletes Attacked. What these footballers had in common was that they were all deaf. They had just finished a practice session in preparation for the 6th Asia Pacific Games 2000 (to be held later in Taiwan) when they were attacked by unknown assailants brandishing khukris. Most were left with cuts and gashes; one was severely injured. The attackers made off with Rs 1400 (US $20), as well assorted bags, shorts, boots, socks, and a mountain bike. (, July 18)


Police Force Corrupt, Says Former Minister. A former Minister of State for Home has claimed that corruption and irregularities are widespread in the police force. "I have over a thousand evidences to prove irregularities," Devendra Raj Kandel, who held the post two years back under the minority government led by G. P. Koirala, told the House of Representatives. He pointed to a number of cases of obvious favoritism and questioned the expensive practice of chartering helicopters when money could be saved by purchasing one. While people with powerful friends in the government advance to better and better jobs, "those without any political masters to steer their careers" tend to be sent to dangerous and thankless posts in the districts most frequently hit by insurgents. More and more police have been refusing to accept duty in the areas where Maoists are most active. (Kathmandu Post, June 27)

Priest Beaten Up by Police. "It is only a part of religious rites to offer half the quantity of the liquor to the deity and to consume the other half as prasad," explained Hansaraj Karmacharya, the priest of Jayabageswori and several other temples in Gausala Ward in Kathmandu. Yet Ward Police claim that they felt it necessary to beat the priest up because he was "heavily drunk" and "using abusive language." Kamarcharya emerged from the incident severely bruised and bearing the marks of a police baton on his back. The Ward Police Inspector defended his men. "He first attacked our personnels," he claimed, but added that the officers may have over-reacted. The District Police Office has suspended the three policemen who were involved. (Kathmandu Post, June 17)

Cops Suspended for "High-Handedness." Hast Bahadur Budthapa had presumably had a few drinks before he snatched the guns from a police patrol team near Jumla and tossed them away. The police recovered the guns, grabbed Budthapa and started marching him to the hospital for an alcohol test. When he tried to escape, they shot him. He died soon afterwards. District residents were outraged and rallied in protest at the local market. The brother of the deceased formally accused the police of homicide. An investigating commission that was formed under the Home Ministry has decided that the policemen were guilty of a crime and has suspended them. (Kathmandu Post, May 2)

Drunken Cop Tries to Kill Interfering Landlord. What do you do when a drunken policeman comes after you with a loaded gun and tries to kill you? What Laxman Basnet of Kapilvastu did was to call the police. But first he struck Constable Jeevan Sharma in the stomach with a bayonet, wounding him so severely that he had to be taken to the hospital. Basnet, who was the constable's landlord, had tried to stop the latter from beating his wife at about 9 pm. Sharma retreated, but returned later in a drunken state and shot at Basnet with the gun he had been issued for guarding the police office. (Kathmandu Post, May 17)

Forced to Marry After Being Caught in "Abnormal" Circumstances. Residents of Bhangah Sitapur in the east Terai district of Mahottari discovered Constable Ugal Kishor Yadav and 17-year-old Urmila Devi Saha "in a field in an abnormal state" and dragged them to the police station where they forced the Constable to put vermilion on the girl's forehead to symbolize their marriage. They both were already married. The couple claims their relationship is innocent and that they were tortured by the locals. Constable Yadav says that as he was passing by on his bicycle, he noticed Urmila tending her buffaloes with her neighbors and stopped to chat. At that point, they were suddenly attacked by locals. "The relation between me and Urmila is that of uncle and niece, but we were compelled to marry," he complains. (Kathmandu Post, August 1)


More Rhinos. There are almost twice as many rhinoceroses in Nepal today as there were six years ago. This year's count turned up 612 of the rare one-horned beasts that are now found only in Nepal and India, a dramatic increase from the 466 counted in 1994. "Successful conservation is the reason for the comeback," claims the director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. That started back in 1972 when there were only 150 rhinos left out of some 800 that had earlier roamed the jungles and grasslands before the eradication of malaria allowed the human population to encroach on their territory. With the establishment of the Royal Chitwan National Park in that year under the guardianship of the Royal Nepal Army, the rhinos slowly started increasing. Now there is concern that they are outgrowing their protected habitat. However, some enterprising communities have discovered that there is money in tourism and are building machans (viewing platforms) and taking tourists on safari. (Nepali Times, June 28)

Army Called In to Chase Elephants Back to India. Forty-five wild elephants moved onto the Tokla Tea Estate in the southeast corner of Nepal at about 9 o'clock on a Monday evening and hung around there until 10 o'clock the following night, "causing a sense of panic among the local people." Police were called in to drive the animals back across the Indian border but the elephants paid no attention to them, even after they had shot off 50 rounds of ammunition at them. The District police, who were summoned next, had no better luck. It was not until 100 soldiers "under the command of a major" went into action that the elephants responded. The army was able to get their attention with both guns and firecrackers and drove them out of the country. "By Wednesday afternoon, the elephants were not seen in any part of Nepal." (Kathmandu Post, July 13)

Mauled by a Leopard. Shukra Lama, 25, of a village in Makwanpur district, south of Kathmandu Valley, had gone with a friend to collect fodder in the Chure jungle. When they encountered a leopard with two cubs, they immediately climbed a tree to save their lives. But Lama lost his grip and fell out of the tree. When the leopard attacked him, his friend jumped down and started hitting the animal on the head with a sickle. The mother leopard retreated into the forest with her cubs following and the friend helped Lama, who had sustained deep injuries to his right hand and back, to the hospital. (Kathmandu Post, May 2)

Cat Shoots Mistress. The killer in this case was not a tiger but a house cat, and the deadly deed was done not with claws and teeth but with a shotgun. Thirty-nine-year-old Shanti Figo was nursing her child in an Ilam village in southeastern Nepal when "a cat started the gunfire of the loaded shotgun as it fell off a rack." Shanti died of a wound to her thigh. Her child survived unhurt. (


Rampant Corruption Brings Freeze in All Teacher Appointments. Corruption in the appointment of thousands of teachers around the country has become so widespread that the Ministry of Education and Sports has put a freeze on all public school vacancies. Chief offenders are members of parliament who use their influence to find jobs for their friends and supporters. "The MPs would demand a vacancy letter from the Ministry and carry it in their pocket," explained a District Education Officer. "They would provide it only if we were ready to appoint their henchmen." Because of "irregular" appointment processes, some districts are suffering teacher shortages while others have more than they need. "If the District Education Office creates four vacancies," says the Minister of Education, "as many as twenty are appointed." The Ministry now intends to collect enough information to establish a fair and uniform system of appointing teachers. (Kathmandu Post, August 8)

Cheating the Contemporary Way. Whether or not this student passed his finals is not known, but at least he deserves an A in Cheating. He appeared for his final year Bachelors exam at Ratna Rajya Campus in Kathmandu with a pager. Outside the exam center, his sister used a cell phone to relay the essence of answers taken from a question paper from a student who had dropped the exam and "guess papers" purchased in the market to her brother. "I kept the pager in vibrator mode," explained the student. "When it vibrated, I checked it." He would then elaborate on whatever brief answer had been sent to him. At one point, the examiner noticed what was going on and asked him what the pager was. "I told him it was a watch and he believed it!" (Kathmandu Post, May 8)


Everest Records Broken. The spring climbing season has ended, and here is the score for Mt. Everest: Appa Sherpa became the world's most frequent visitor to the summit with his record-breaking 11th ascent on May 24. With him that day at the top of the world were nine Sherpas and three Westerners (Jim Williams, Lily Leonard, and Francoise Slakey)... Babu Chhiri set a new record for the fastest Everest climb on May 21 when he reached its summit at 8:56 am, only 15 hours and 56 minutes after leaving base camp. With the money he is receiving from his sponsors for this feat, Babu, who himself has never had a chance to attend school, will build a school in Trakshindo, his Solukhumbu village, to accommodate 250 children... Pemba Sherpa of Namche became the second Nepali woman to reach the summit, arriving from the Tibet side. She was closely followed on the other side of the mountain by the third Nepali woman, Lhakpa Sherpa... Temba Tshering who set out on his climb of Mt. Everest just after his 15th birthday, failed to become the youngest climber of the world's highest mountain. He was made to turn around only 22 meters (about 75 feet) from his goal by his sirdar, who noted that four fingers on his right hand and two on his left had become frost-bitten. The boy, who in spite of his failure to reach the summit has become a national hero, subsequently lost the fingers. (Kathmandu Post, May 19ff)

Higher Climbing Fees for Trekkers' Peaks. People wanting to climb one of Nepal's 18 so-called trekkers' peaks will have to pay more for the privilege, starting next year. Nepal Mountaineers Association (NMA), which depends on peak royalties as its only source of income, has raised the price "due to financial crunch." Any team of four persons wanting to climb one of four mountains in the "A" category in Solukhumbu (Island Peak, Lobuche Peak, Mera Peak, or Parchamo Peak) will pay a team royalty fee of US $350 (instead of $300) in addition to an individual fee of $150 (instead of $75). Other trekkers'peaks are categorized as "B" climbs. They will cost $300 per team, as well as $100 for each climber. These fees do not apply to most of the high mountains in Nepal, including the world's highest. These are under the management of the government, which charges fees ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the height of the mountain, and demands other fees, including the cost of a required liaison officer, insurance, and equipment for the crew. (Kathmandu Post, 7 July)


Prehistoric Artifacts Discovered. A large cave containing engraved images of animals and deities has been discovered in the mid-western district of Dang. At the same time, three arrowheads judged to be 7,000 years old have been unearthed in the upper Arun valley. In the same area, documents were found that suggest that two Himalayan villages that are now a part of Tibet may properly belong to Nepal. (Spotlight, May 19, July 7)

Ancient Elephant Tooth. There is new evidence that elephants have been roaming the jungles of Nepal for more than a million years -- perhaps for even as long as three million year. Using sophisticated dating methods, Nepalese scientists have estimated that an elephant tooth that had been collected from a forest in Dhanusha district in southeastern Nepal, dates back that far. The tooth was actually discovered in the house of a suspected drug smuggler and handed over to the Department of Archaeology by the police. The experts, who say that it came out of the mouth of an animal they identify as archidiskodon planiffrons, assure us that that is what they called elephants during the Pliocene era. (Spotlight, May 5)


Tso Rolpa Glacial Flood Risk Lessened. People who live downstream from a glacial lake called Tso Rolpa can breathe a little easier with the opening of a diversion channel that will reduce the risk of a major flash flood that threatened 10,000 people, thousands of livestock, crops, bridges, and the Khimti hydro project. The danger came from a possible breaching of a moraine that holds back the waters of a glacier-fed lake high in the Rolwaling mountains. Tso Rolpa has been thought to offer Nepal's the most likely risk of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in a country where the unexpected release of large volumes of water from high moraine lakes into heavily populated valleys is a constant and serious danger. Private contractors have been working for two years in a project funded jointly by the Nepalese and Netherlands government to build a channel that will reduce the volume of water in the lake and, consequently, the pressure against the natural earth dam that contains it. A high-level team of politicians and engineers, including Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, boarded helicopters in early June to formally open the gates of the new canal. Yet bad weather forced them to turn back. (Kathmandu Post, June 9)


Nothing to Show from Tourist Fees Collected in Patan. Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City has raised more than seven million rupees (around US $100,000) from tourist fees in the past six months, yet none of this money has been spent on the community. City officials explain that they are waiting to amass a larger amount in order to match funds promised by the German-supported Urban Development Through Local Efforts (UDLE) project "to conserve, preserve, restore, and clean the city." Since January, more than 34,000 visitors from the west and SAARC countries have paid Rs 200 (close to US $3) for the chance to visit most of the public temples and squares in the municipality. They are expected to pay extra to enter the Golden Temple and the Patan Museum. (Nepali Times, July 2)

Four Arrested for March Murder of British Trekker. Tim Prentice, a British trekker, was murdered last March in Rasuwa district, some 95 miles northwest of Kathmandu. Two months later, police arrested the four Tamang porters who had accompanied Prentice on his trek. They had not been suspected earlier because it was they who had originally reported the crime. Another missing British national, a woman who disappeared in this area five months ago, is believed to have been swept away by a turbulent river in which she was trying to swim. She left behind a bag containing money and her passport. (, May 27)


Leftists Threaten to Stall Miss Nepal Contest. There has been a Miss Nepal Beauty Pageant every year since 1993, but if more than a dozen left-leaning organizations have anything to do with it, it will not take place in 2000. It is an event, they believe, that promotes "the selfish objectives of business houses and elitists" and "projects women as commodities." In their opinion, "a woman does not become 'the best' based on her beauty, but according to the role she plays in developing the society... The event is just an erotic gimmick." Organizers of the pageant protest that they have no "negative intention" but are just making an effort to develop "a professional event." Nonetheless, the protesters will "resort to any means to stall the event, even if their voices are silenced using police force, as in previous years." (Kathmandu Post, July 10)

Hillary Clinton Inspires Poets. Hillary Rodham Clinton may or may not appeal to the voters of New York but for some Nepalese poets she is an icon. In May, a group calling itself the Vishnu Chandra Vangmaya Mandir issued a collection of works by Nepalese poets honoring the American first lady. "We have seen her as a universal symbol," says one of them. Others refer to her role during her husband's impeachment trial. "For more than a year," writes Professor D. B. Bhandari in his introduction, "the President was subjected to one of the most uncomely and hypocritical inquisitions of the 20th century for a sexual pecadillo. The attraction in the poems is Hillary Clinton considered to be a role model." (Kathmandu Post, May 11)


Police Rescue Sorcerers. The standard method for dealing with witchcraft is to force the witch to eat excrement. Police arrived in time to save three people - two women and a man - from this fate in a village in the Terai district of Mahottari. They had been accused of using their art to cause the death of a local youth a month earlier. After the alleged witches had been taken under police protection and three of their tormentors arrested, police had to call in reinforcements to prevent a riot on the part of several thousand locals who objected to the arrests. (

A Forgiving Witch. Another episode involving a suspected witch had a more benign ending, thanks to the witch herself. In this case, 60-year-old Tara Devi Kanu of the Terai city of Birgunj was believed to be using black arts to keep a neighbor's child from recovering from an illness. Getting wind of a plot to drive her from the community after forcing her to eat excrement, she tried to hide in the house of a former ward chairman. Yet the witch hunters discovered her there, dragged her out and exacted their punishment. She had never been humiliated in such a manner, she said, and filed a case with the District Administration, naming nine people. The neighbors then realized the consequences to themselves of their actions and came to Tara to beg forgiveness. They told her they were sorry for what they had done and gave her a shawl and a garland. "I am offended when I think about the incident," she told them, "but I cannot punish you when I am nearing the end of my life. I forgive you all, but never humiliate another woman in such a disgraceful manner in the future." The police were less generous and arrested the nine. It was only when Tara came to the police station wearing her shawl and garland and withdrew the charges that they were released. (Kathmandu Post, July 14)


Priest's Dream Prevents Restoration of Budhanilkantha. One of the most sacred monuments in all of Nepal is the statue of Vishnu reclining in a bed of serpents at Budhanilkantha on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Although tradition bars Nepal's king from ever laying eyes on it, thousands of other worshippers come to it each year with offerings of flowers, vermilion powder, milk, and curd. In recent years, archaeologists have become concerned about cracks on the neck and right cheek of the idol. The Archaeology Department would like to do something about all this. "It is definitely starting to show signs of deterioration and the consulting treatment will help to prolong its life," says a Department spokesman. "We already have the necessary chemicals." But the Mahanta, head priest of the shrine and final authority in the matter, has refused permission for any treatment. He has had a dream that suggested conservation of the statue was a bad idea. "It is tradition to let the stone be as it is," he explains. The archaeologists are furious. "Disagreements based on tradition are one thing," thundered one of them, "but this is nonsense!" There is hope that the Mahanta may be persuaded to change his mind. As another administrator at the site points out, "Mahantas lack the wider vision. We have to convince them of reality first. But we can't force them." (Kathmandu Post, June 20)

Locals Prevent Human Sacrifice. A self-proclaimed sadhu in Kavre, east of Kathmandu, led a young man to a local river near a temple, gave him a tika, wrapped his head with a scarf, and then tied him up and started beating him with bamboo. Locals noticed what was going on and intervened. The sadhu confessed that it was his intention to sacrifice the man as per the "Order of the God Nagarkot." He is believed to practice cannibalism. (Kathmandu Post, July 12)


Nepal's Only Lion Dies. Nepal is famous for its tigers, elephants and rhinos, but before July 16, there was only one lion in the country. Now there are none. Chandrika, a 48-year-old lioness, who has been under medical care at the Central Zoo, died of old age in mid-July. She was a gift of the Sri Lankan government, 24 years ago. (Kathmandu Post, July 17)


NEWS FROM NEPAL - 4621 SW Kelly, Portland, OR 97201 - Subscription (6 or more issues) $15

e-mail address:
Previous issues of News from Nepal
Back to
Trekking in Nepal Trek to Mt Kailas Bhutan Ladakh AT Logo