Based on news stories from Kathmandu English Language newspapers and other sources, June-July 1998 V-1



Maoists Set Up a Parallel Government in Rolpa. More than half of the 51 Village Development Committees in Rolpa district in west central Nepal, 26 are said to be run or controlled by Maoists. In much of the district, which is one of the three in which "The People's War" was launched in 1966, the extremist political group is operating an administration parallel to the official one. The latter has not been effective because of lack of money and personnel. Maoists have prevented elections and terrorized officials, and the national government has held back funds for fear they will fall in the hands of the Maoists. The district has been left without important health and development services. People thus go to the unofficial government with their problems. Almost all cases, including land transactions and other legal problems, are said to be handled in the Peoples Court. "People are terror-stricken," says one Rolpa citizen. "On one hand, the police arrest and victimize them just for holding a faith, while on the other, Maoists hold people at gun point to follow them." (Kathmandu Post, May 14)


Only God Can Save Humla. "Go away! I don't want to see you!" shouted a Humli peasant to a reporter from The Kathmandu Post in late May. "Only God can save Humla!" By then, around 175 people were known to have died either of starvation or disease in Nepal's farthest northwest district. The food crisis first made itself felt after long periods of drought in October, becoming severe in mid-winter when unusually heavy snows buried crops and closed off normal approaches to this remote, mountainous area. In April, a disease identified simply as "Upper Respiratory Tract Infection" made its appearance, attacking people who were already weak from hunger and in many cases killing them. Health officials estimate that at least 60 percent of the population is suffering from "common cold and other diseases." Although some food supplies are now being sent into the area by the government and private benefactors, the local people say these by and large are of poor quality and not enough to meet needs. There are stories of people walking six days to receive meager government food rations, then being forced to spend a full day waiting in line for their allotment before walking back. A village official described how, after hiking for several days to district headquarters to obtain medicine for his sick daughter, he returned to find her dead. One doctor who visited the area with emergency medical supplies claims that many of the deaths are those of people who, because they had nothing else to eat, started consuming grass that turned out to be poisonous. A group of Humlis who came to Kathmandu in the hope of stirring some action by the government left in discouragement. "Because the government failed to take a matter of national concern seriously," their statement says, "we don't want to continue crying here in the capital.... We are tired and hopeless." Humla is unable to help itself by drawing on its annual budget of 5.4 million rupees (around one million US dollars) because these funds have not been released to the district since the fiscal year 1996/97. (Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, May 1 ff)


US Third Largest Sherpa Population Center. There were only five Sherpas in New York in 1980. Now it is estimated that there are well over 500. Several hundred others are spread through other communities in the US, making this nation the center of the third largest concentration of Sherpas in the world (behind Nepal itself and the Darjeeling area of India). The Sherpas are descendants of Tibetans who first migrated into what is now northern Nepal some several hundred years ago and settled there to establish an identity that is neither wholly Tibetan nor wholly Nepali. They became known to the outside world for their proficiency as high-altitude porters on early mountain climbs, and later, when, after the 1970s, trekking became popular, as trekking guides. These activities gave them an acquaintance with wealthy foreigners which, in turn, has led to invitations to America, where many of them have been able to find more profitable work than is available in Nepal or take advantage of educational opportunities. (Tsering Wangdi, for example, who started his education in a primitive school in the 12,000-foot-high village of Khumjung, has been successful in pursuing a degree in medicine with the aim of helping take care of his people in Nepal; Lhakpa Norbu is getting a Phd in Forestry from the University of Washington that he can use in helping save the forests of the Khumbu where he was born, grew up, and first went to school.) "Most of us [in New York] are like relatives," says Gelmu Sherpa, who came to New York to join her husband in 1980. "We celebrate each other's weddings and births," as well as traditional Sherpa holidays. Dhamey Norgay, who, like other Americans, has watched his older brother Jamling follow their father Tenzing's footsteps to the top of Mt. Everest in the IMAX film "Everest," contents himself with America's offerings but dreams of returning to the Himalaya. Chewang Lama, who came here in 1982 and has built up a successful health food business, also dreams of the mountains, his friends and his relatives. "But I'd be lying," he says, "if I said I miss [Nepal]. I've begun to love this country." (Kathmandu Post, May 28)


Did Anybody Notice? In Nepal it is not until one has taken the oath of office that a person is held responsible for performing the duties of his position. Thus, for the 64 hours between the the official termination of Nepal's retiring government on April 12 until the morning of April 15 when Prime Minister designate Girija Prasad Koirala was sworn in, Nepal had no government. (Hindu in Spotlight, April 24)

No Record of Its Own Vehicles. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) management concedes that it has no record whatsoever of the vehicles it owns and cannot say whether some of them are being used illegally by "unrelated institutions or persons." The agency, which has a virtual monopoly over the generation and transmission of electricity, could account for only 13 vehicles; the whereabouts of tens of others is unknown. "Fifteen vehicles have been taken away by many known political figures in the last few months," reports an NEA employee. "These vehicles have not been returned even after these people have been removed from their offices." Among those still using the vehicles, he says, are several ministers and a former prime minister (Deuba). Other NEA sources claim that parliamentarians are not only treating the vehicles as their own property but taking along government-paid drivers to operate them. Bills for gasoline and repair also go to the government. (Kathmandu Post, May 6)

Gift of Mosquitoes. Nepal, which has a different calendar system from that of the West, celebrated its new year (2055) on April 14. In the southern city of Janakpur, a group of journalists made a new year's gift to their mayor and governing board that consisted of small boxes containing mosquitoes. The message: do something about spraying insecticides in and around ponds, puddles, ditches and open drains in Janakpur. (Rising Nepal, April 13)

Party Split Causes Mental Disorder. Tek Bahadur Raja of Ward 11 in the eastern city of Dharan is described as an honest and upstanding citizen and a devoted worker for his party, the Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist Leninists (CPN/UML). When the party split and he had to make a choice, he followed the dissident elements. Members of the CPN/UML then called on him to discuss the issue. He agreed to rejoin their team but then was accused of having no capacity to judge between right and wrong. "In the wake of this accusation, he lost his mental balance." Now he has given up food, blindfolds himself, talks incoherently and walks fumblingly with a stick, according to family members. (Kathmandu Post, May 3)



An End to Liquid Waste Problems? There are good times ahead in the world of garbage if you believe officials of Kathmandu Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). They are about to take over duties that have hitherto been performed by the Solid Waste Management (SWM), and look forward to "ending all existing irregularities." A plant for treating waste from Kathmandu's septic tanks will be completed by the end of June. Officials are counting on its ability to treat 100 cubic meters of waste to rid the city of its problem of overflowing septic tanks. The Corporation also aims to put an end to the habit of some of its citizens of dumping sewage into the holy rivers. Not only that -- they expect to make money from their operation. "Additional income of fifteen to twenty million rupees, along with the eco-friendly service to the capital's dwellers." exclaims a spokesman, "... It's really good!" (Kathmandu Post, May 1)

"Dirty" Tempos Temporarily Drive Out "Clean" Ones. Battery-powered tempos have been taking business away from the more common, smoke-belching, diesel-powered tempos known as "Vikram." Fourteen of the former have been operating on the Maharajgunj route, as opposed to 150 of the diesel tempos, yet the latter have suffered from competition and have threatened to smash the former. The battery-powered tempo operators turned to the Valley Traffic Police for protection, yet the police did nothing to help. Yet, after extensive publicity and the possible reaction of DANIDA, the Danish aid agency that had given millions of rupees to make the battery-run tempos possible, the two groups worked out an agreement under which they are both now operating on Maharajgunj (Kathmandu Post, May 8)

A "Skyscraper" for Kathmandu. Kathmandu Municipal City (KMC) is planning to build a high-rise multi-purpose building on the site of the old bus park and has called for bids by private construction companies for the project. The building will have from twelve to fifteen floors and will include a offices, a bank, hotel, cinema hall, swimming pool, department stores, and underground parking. (Kathmandu Post, May 22)

No-one Wants to Listen to the Gahines. The Gandharvas (Gahines) of Dang and Salyan in southwestern Nepal are a "caste" whose role in society is to sing songs. Right now they are in trouble. In earlier times, they were the community's only source of entertainment and were welcomed as they went from house to house, singing epic songs of sacrifice and bravery. But that was before the days of radio, television and movies. Now people "hate us going to their houses," said one of them. "They don't offer us even a handful of rice." The Gahines have tried to adjust to the times. Instead of singing about battles and legendary exploits, they now sing love songs similar to those heard on the radio. Yet their former listeners prefer TV and radio. "It has become very difficult to sustain oneself by singing, let alone providing for the family," says Daljit Gahine, sadly. (Rising Nepal, April 27)

Bottles Piling Up in Khumbu. More than 22 tons of empty bottles have piled up in the Khumbu (Mt. Everest) region of Nepal. The government, which is worried about the effect of this on tourism, is trying to figure out how to get them out. Earlier in the decade, it had helped arrange with private airlines to to airlift the bottles back to Kathmandu, but, at the same time that the number of trekkers and climbers has increased along with their thirst for bottled beverages, the amount of money budgeted for bottle evacuation has dropped. "It's hardly enough," says Mingma Norbu Sherpa, who is in charge of the Sagamartha Pollution Control Committee. The full bottles arrive by plane to Lukla and on the backs of porters, and are sold mainly to lodges. Eighty percent of them contain beer, 10 percent vodka and rum, and 10 percent soft drinks. (Kathmandu Post, May 13)

The Lost Patrol (Forest Guard Division) Speaks Up. "We are ready to protect the forest for 24 hours a day," proclaims a spokesman for the forest guards posted in Mainapokhar. "It is our duty to obey His Majesty's Government." Yet they have a problem. For almost a month, they have been without food or lodging. "We have not been able to sleep... at night we pass our time sitting on the hot roof and during the day we are forced to stay in the scorching heat because we have no rooms." They have brought the matter to the attention of their superiors numerous times but without response. "Now we will bear it no more," they say. Speaking to their officer "in an excited manner," they promise that "the next thing we will do is to lift our weapons." That is a threat that should get them some attention from their superiors, who DO take the problem of armed forest guards seriously. A few years ago, a Forest Officer and ranger were shot dead by a forest guard in a dispute. (Kathmandu Post, June 9)

Woman Stripped Naked in Market Altercation. Dhuskidevi Sudi did not have the cash to pay for a sack of potatoes that she purchased from a woman and her daughter in the market at Janakpur, east of Kathmandu valley, but promised to pay later. The mother and daughter demanded that, since she could not sign her name, she place her fingerprint on a blank sheet of paper. Dhuskidevi, who was suspicious of what might be added to the paper, refused. The mother and daughter then beat her up and stripped her naked. A local clothing store owner came to her rescue as she ran through the streets and lent her a sari. The mother and daughter were arrested. (Rising Nepal, April 19)

Villagers Fight Chinese Workers. Four people were injured in a brawl between villagers and Chinese workers at the Upper Bhote Kosi Hydroelectric Project near the Tibetan border in Sindhupalchowk district just northeast of Kathmandu. The fracas started after villagers were refused a ride on a project truck carrying Chinese workers toward the border. By the time police arrived, one Chinese man was injured and the battle was in full fray. More police were called in before things could be brought under control. The warring parties still could not agree when they were brought together the next day to sort out their differences. Nepali workers at the project went on strike, demanding that the Chinese be punished. (Kathmandu Post, May 23)


Prisoners Take Action to Meet Their Own Needs. No-one else wants to take care of them, so the prisoners at Kaski Jail in Pokhara have worked out a plan for taking care of themselves. When it became apparent that the jail administration would not provide medical treatment to sick prisoners, the prisoners established their own medical fund, with each contributing two rupees a month. The fund has already taken care of emergency treatment for three or four people. In addition, common funds have enabled the purchase of sports equipment and a TV set. And money is not the all the prisoners give: 26 inmates have donated blood for a prisoners' blood bank. (Kathmandu Post, May 15)


11 Family Members Lost in Bus Accident. Twelve members of one family were travelling in the back of a truck that plunged into the Trisuli River near Phurke Khola in Dhading district west of Kathmandu valley in the wee hours of the morning. Only one of them, Sangmu Tamang, 45, survived. The search for the bodies of the others was abandoned after three days because of high waters. As Sangmu, who was fished out of the river about a kilometer downstream from the accident, described it, "I was sitting at the back of the truck. My husband, father, father-in-law, nephew, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, were also sitting in the back of the truck -- some on the sack of beaten rice and some on the tin of biscuits. Suddenly the truck plunged into the Trisuli river. I don't know what happened afterwards." (Kathmandu Post, June 2)

Decline in Quality of Bus-Riding Experience in Birgunj. Residents of the border city of Birgunj south of Kathmandu look back nostalgically on the days when there were plenty of buses that ran at regular intervals "and even well-to-do people including women used to travel comfortably by the city bus." That was before the city stopped supplying the buses with diesel fuel. Now in place of some two dozen buses catering to the needs of citizens, there are only six or seven. They show up at erratic and widely-spaced intervals and are always overcrowded. More than a dozen pickpocketing incidents on buses have been reported in a month's time and women are so often "harassed by hooligans" that "they are compelled to avoid city buses and travel by costly taxis." (Kathmandu Post, May 19)


Austrian Airlines Will Start Flights from Europe. Austrian Airlines will be operating direct flights between Vienna and Kathmandu after September 24. During the peak tourist months of October and November, there will be two flights per week. At other times during the year, there will be only one, although officials promise that after next winter they will schedule two a week on a regular basis. Flights have already been booked until the middle of January. The airline predicts it will bring 5,000 Europeans to Nepal in its first three months of operation. (Rising Nepal, May 13)

RNAC Lacking Aircraft. "It is difficult to maintain scheduled services with only two aircraft," says Madhav Raj Sharma, the head of Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation. A leased B-727 ended its service in late May, and the B-757 that the airline has rented from China South West Airlines to replace it will only be available for 53 days. During this period, one of RNAC's own 757s will have to be grounded in Brunei, probably for weeks, for a compulsory inspection and check-up. "We might have to temporarily close down our Paris sector," says Sharma, adding that "what we need right now is more jets." The national airline has been seeking to lease aircraft since 1996, but, according to observers, it has a credibility problem due to "past follies." Asked if privatisation would change the picture, Sharma answers that "in the condition RNAC is at the moment, it should not. But it should be privatised after the position of the airline improves." (Kathmandu Post, May 19)



"Nothing to Declare But This Here Gold" Police officials stood around watching while three passengers arriving on a RNAC flight from London, Frankfurt and Dubai, carried 100 tolas (l.55 kg, or about 3.5 lbs) of gold through the Green Channel ("Nothing to Declare") at Tribhuvan International Airport. After the gold had been moved through the Channel, the officials took action. Instead of arresting the suspected smugglers and seizing the gold as demanded by regulations, they told them to pay duty charges and let them go on their way. The weight of the gold was entered, as required, in a register, but the figures "appeared to be tampered and corrected." The two officials involved have not been available for comment. (Kathmandu Post, May 15)

The Money That Never Got to go to Singapore. A policeman became suspicious of a sweeper at Tribhuvan International Airport and grabbed him as he was about to board a Royal Nepal Airlines plane that would soon have taken off for Singapore. It turned out that he had five bundles tied around his waist containing US $180,000. He had been offered Rs 7000 (around US $110) by an unidentified party to place the bags under passenger seat No. 34B. The holder of that boarding pass, who was rumored to be a high airline official, never showed up to take his seat. (Kathmandu Post, April 30)

An Active Day for Police at Tribhuvan International Airport. "Tribhuvan International Airport is increasingly gaining notoriety as a seedy place where all sorts of shady dealings take place," comments The Kathmandu Post in reporting the activities there on May 24. On that day, police "swooped on" two suitcases full of US dollars destined for departure on a Royal Nepal Airlines flight to Bangkok and Singapore. The luggage, which had passed through security bearing false tags and without the customary baggage check, turned out to contain US $12.1 million. Three people have been taken into custody in connection with the incident. Earlier in the day, half a million Indian rupees had been confiscated by police from a Dubai-bound RNAC flight. (Kathmandu Post, May 25)


Teacher Protests Move. Due to what were described as "technical reasons," Yogendra Jha, a teacher at a local school in the southeastern district of Mahottari was ordered transfered to another school. He was upset about this and so were his friends and relatives. They marched to the office of the District Education Officer to protest. "We are Maoists!" they are said to have shouted. "We will dislodge your limbs!" The controversy was apparently solved without this becoming necessary. The Chief District Officer said later that nothing about the disagreement had been reported to him and that "no mishap of the kind would take place within the district." (Rising Nepal, April 21)

Maybe She At Least Deserves an "A" for Enterprise. When Shashi Pokharel appeared for her graduate-level compulsory English first-paper examination at Bhanubhakta Multi-Purpose Campus in central Nepal, she kept her head demuredly lowered as she answered all the questions correctly. It turned out that she was reading the answers from notes written on her shawl. The latter was three meters (almost ten feet) long and one-and-a-half meters (about five feet) wide and had 22 essays in English written on it. (Rising Nepal, April 23)


Police Brutality in Phidim. On April 29, an irate crowd stormed Panchthar's Chief District Officer's office in the far east city of Phidim, pelting it with stones and breaking office furniture and equipment. They were angry that police, in the name of alcohol control, had been breaking into their shops and homes and carrying away not only alcohol but other goods. Frightened by the advancing mob, policemen on duty had retreated. But a few days later, they took action. They came to the house of 19-year-old Lhakpa Sherpa and ordered him to accompany them to the police station. "There's some work to be done," they told him. After some initial questioning, Lhakpa began to learn what they meant by "work," as well as that it was to be performed ON him rather than BY him. "There were six of them," he reports, "and they started hitting me with bamboo canes. They continuously beat me for about fifteen minutes. They slapped and hit me on my thighs, legs, buttocks, back." After that, they made him lie on a table while they beat him on his soles. "There is no description to the foul language they used," he added as he described the incident. Not having had any involvement in the demonstration, he was unable to give them the answers they sought and could not name accomplices. They eventually seemed to recognize this, and after giving him a half hour to recover, let him go with the promise that he would report back regularly. Three other young men are still in custody. (The Independent, May 13)

Dumpy-Looking Air Hostess Arrested on Drug Charge. Niraula Sherchan Sangeeta, 32, air hostess on Royal Nepal's flight RA 411 to Japan, was arrested in Osaka in early April on the charge of drug trafficking. She was suspected of trying to smuggle two kilograms of marijuana resin ("white powder") into Japan. Customs officials thought that her unaturally bulging waist was suspicious and discovered that she was carrying five bags of the illegal drug taped to her stomach. She confessed that she had been persuaded to carry the resin into Japan and give it to someone who would contact her after arrival. Police are investigating the possibility of a marijuana smuggling organization involving the two countries. (Kantipur in Spotlight, April 17)

An Unwanted Night Visitor. Govind Bahadur Basnet and his family, of Dulikhel, just west of Kathmandu, were getting ready to go to bed when they were startled by the arrival of an unexpected guest. According to the Basnets, it was a tiger that entered their open front door and attacked them. The animal was apparently as confused and upset about the encounter as they were. When someone finally got a window open, it jumped out hurriedly. Basnet, his wife and two daughters, all sustained injuries. Their assailant left with khukuri wounds of its own to nurse. (Rising Nepal, April 28)

Arrested for Robbing Couples in Park. Police have arrested two persons suspected of robbing couples in and around the jungles of Royal Botanical Garden Godavari. The two apparently made a practice of hiding in trees to watch couples "seeking privacy" in the park, then jumping down to rob them. They have been charged with robbery and theft. (Kathmandu Post, April 24)

Sexually Exciting Items Seized. Valley Crime Investigation Branch reports that it has seized a number of different articles "related to sexual excitement" after raiding several places that were known to be selling "erotic magazines, sexually arousing chewing gum, and various electronic equipment used for similar purposes." One man, its representatives said, was found to have 50 erotic videotapes in his possession. The cost of the confiscated items is estimated to be around Rs. 200,000 (US $3,170). (Kathmandu Post, May 1)


Everest Statistics. Forty-three climbers reached the summit of Mt. Everest this season. No deaths were officially reported. Altogether, some 750 people have reached the top of the world's highest mountain, starting with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary 45 years ago on May 29, 1953. Two hundred of these climbers have been Sherpas, many, like Ang Rita and Appa, several times (Ang Rita has stood on the summit 10 times; Appa, 9 - see below). The youngest recorded successful climber was Shambhu Tamang, 18; the oldest was a 60-year-old Spaniard living in Venezuela who is listed in the Guiness Book of Records, apparently without name. Seventeen women have made the top. The first was Junko Tabei of Japan in 1975. Best known - at least in Nepal - is Pasang Lhamu, who died on the descent and is honored as the first Nepalese woman to achieve the summit. It costs a lot to attempt Everest. In addition to expedition expenses (which are considerable), the Nepalese government charges US $50,000 royalty for each team of seven members, with an extra $10,000 for each added member. Teams are required make a refundable $4,000 advance deposit as a guarantee that they will fulfill requirements for preserving the environment. (Rising Nepal, June 15)

Amputee Summits Everest. Tom Whittaker, who teaches climbing, rafting and other outdoor activities on the college level in Prescott, Arizona, became the first amputee to reach the top of Mt. Everest on May 27. Bad weather had kept him from the summit on two earlier attempts in 1989 and 1995. The climber, who lost his leg in a head-on automobile accident in 1979, made use of a specially-designed artificial leg with built-in crampons called the Flex Foot. He was accompanied by four Sherpas. (The Oregonian, May 28, Kathmandu Post, June 1)

Appa Racks Up His Ninth. Appa Sherpa, 38, got to the top of Mt. Everest for the ninth time on May 20. Only his neighbor (and idol), Ang Rita Sherpa, 50, has been to the summit more times (10) than he. Appa was honored for his achievement with this year's International Sagarmatha Award, presented on May 29, International Sagarmatha Day (the 45th anniversary of the day that Hillary and Tenzing first stood on the summit). (The Independent, May 27)

Three of Four Sherpas Survive Avalanche. It was 10:10 on the morning of April 25 when an avalanche let loose at around the 20,000-foot level of Annapurna I, not far from where the Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev lost his life last December. Eight men were working their way up the mountain in two groups. The avalanche missed the first group of three Italians and one Frenchman but swept four Sherpas 600 meters (close to 2,000 feet) down the mountain and buried them under a mound of snow. Word was quickly relayed to Kathmandu by radio. For two days, rescue helicopters tried to reach the site of the accident but were turned back by poor weather and bad visibility. Yet it turned out they weren't needed. Ang Gyaljen worked for an hour and a half to dig himself out from under a six-foot pile of snow. "After a while, I felt soft snow on the surface and sensed daylight," he says, describing his relief at learning that he might, after all, survive. Finally freeing himself, he looked around and found his friend Chulding buried neck-deep in snow. A third Sherpa, Mingma, who had also managed to dig himself out, appeared, and after another hour and a half, they were all standing on the surface. There was no sign of the fourth Sherpa, Ang Tshering, who is presumed dead. Ignoring broken bones, head injuries, and sprains, the Sherpas, all from Namche Bazar in Solokhumbu district, climbed three hours to the nearest camp at 6200 meters (20,340 feet) where they were taken to safety. (Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, April 28)


King Gives Business a Boost as he Dedicates Hospital. The following item is reprinted in its entirety from People's Review: "His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev inaugurated the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) by unveiling a plague amidst a function held at Ugratara-Jungal Village Development Committee in southwest of Banepa, Kavre district on April 17." (People's Review, April 23)

Mysterious Ailment Strikes School Girls. Things seemed to be normal at Manohara Secondary School in Kathmandu when its eighth grade students returned from lunch break. Then all of a sudden, the girls in the group started screaming and complaining about severe head pains and dizziness. Many of them lost consciousness. At least nine were rushed to a hospital, where they shortly afterwards recovered and were released. No-one seems able to explain what had happened to them or why the mysterious ailment struck only the girls. (Kathmandu Post, June 3)

Family Suffers from Rare Disease. Not many people have heard of the disease xeroderma pigmentosum, and that is probably a fortunate thing. Sufferers cannot tolerate sunlight without fatal consequences, which means that they have to stay inside all day and can only go out at night. Three of the children of Narayan Panthi, who operates a small hotel in Kathmandu, have the disease. The death of the eldest was lingering and painful, but there is still hope for his younger brother and sister if they can get to a special camp operated by the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society of Poughkeepsie, NY. Panthi has set about raising the US $16,000 that is needed for this. and has so far received $5,000. He welcomes further donations to Bank Account Rajan and Gokul Panthi #555555'J', Himalayan Bank, Thamel, Kathmandu, and urges those interested to check for information on the disease and the XP Society. (The Independent, June 10)



Visit Nepal in '98 but Bring Extra Cash. Jet Air is a Belgian tour company that each year brings more than 500 tourists to Nepal. Normally they arrive by air but one group, on its way from India, reached the border city of Bhairahawa by bus. The immigration official there, Koushal Raj Sharma, insisted that they pay him Rs 100 (approximately US $1.60) each for his trouble in issuing them visas. They refused and were made to wait for two and a half hours. The former president of Nepal's Tourist Guide Association was on hand to receive the Belgians and warned Sharma that his action might leave "a negative impression on the tourists." "You are making money yourself," replied Sharma. "Why stop me from doing the same?" Jet Air has called the official "a disgrace to Nepal" and has demanded his removal. The government's response has been a memorandum circulated to six government agencies calling for an investigation of the matter. (Kathmandu Post, April 30)

A Surprise Trip to Biratnagar. Ashok Kumar Yadav is an Indian national who came to Nepal on vacation. It was a short visit, since he had to return to attend his brother's wedding. He was informed at the Pokhara airport that there were no flights to Bhairahawa, which was a necessary step in his trip home, and that he would have to go first to Kathmandu. At the ticket counter there, they urged him to hurry because the aircraft was about to leave. He rushed to the gateway and followed the crowd to the waiting plane. But after a successful flight, he had trouble making a rickshaw driver understand where he wanted to be taken, and only then learned he was not in Bhairahawa at all but in Biratnagar, some 200 miles away in a different part of Nepal. "I don't understand English or Nepali languages," he explained, and thus was unable to heed announcements in the airport and on board the plane. He has decided to take the bus to Bhairahawa. (Kathmandu Post, May 5)


A New High Priest for Pashupatinath. As reported in the last issue, there have been widespread rumors that the Mul Bhatta, the high priest of the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal's most sacred Hindu shrine, has been misusing temple funds. It was charged that what he was not pocketing for himself was being sent to South India, the area from which the Mul Bhatta is traditionally appointed. When a newly-formed Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) insisted on better accounting and record-keeping for the shrine, the Mul Bhatta offered his resignation to the King. Four other priests also offered to resign, apparently under pressure by the Mul Bhatta. A petition signed by 128 members of parliament demanded that the King appoint a Mul Bhatta from Nepal. Pashupati Sena, a group that claims 30,000 members, echoed these demands and called for a high-level judicial commission to investigate past practices. After the palace, which is responsible for Pashupatinath, assured the four subordinate priests of some changes in the PADT Fund Management Regulation, they withdrew their resignations. The King appointed one of them, Ananta Krishna Yog Shastri, as the new Mul Bhatta after accepting the resignation of Rawal Subramanyam Shastri Markandeya. Before this took place, the police had found it necessary to take the priests under their protection; the latter claimed they had been beaten up by the Mul Bhatta's son and abused by his wife. Not everyone is happy about the government's resolution to the problem. Loknath Adhikari, who is described as a "patriotic and religious old man," has begun a fast unto death, demanding the appointment of a Nepali priest to the office traditionally held by a south Indian. (Kathmandu Post, May 7 ff)

Decibels, Not Doctrine, Lead to Attack on Priest. It was not this priest's message that offended his fellow citizens, but his music. Dil Bahadur Shrestha of Chhangchhangdi VDC in the Syangja district of central Nepal listened to the devotional music being played through an amplifier by Priest Pandit Gopikrishna for as long as he could stand it, but suddenly he cracked. He attacked the priest, and pummeled him, leaving him with a broken rib. "I could not bear the loud noise blaring out of the speaker," said Shrestha, who was taken into custody. The priest is recovering in the hospital. (Rising Nepal, May 2)


Woman Fined for Leading Plough Animals. Belasi Choudary of a small village in the far west Terai district of Kailali was penalized Rs 100 and made to deliver a public apology for leading the bullocks that were pulling a plow guided by her 10-year-old son. A local women's group accused her of "making a mockery of women's dignity." The group had originally asked for a much larger fine and threatened to smear her face in black and take her around the village wearing garlands of shoes, but reduced their punishment when Belasi apologized. She and her aged, blind husband had to borrow Rs 100 to pay the fine. (Kathmandu Post, May 5)

World's Highest Concert. What has been billed as "The World's Highest Concert," took place in late May at a 5,550-meter (18,208-foot) high point at the base of Mt. Everest. Under the sponsorship of the Namaste Cultural Studio Company, Japanese musicians joined a Nepali rock group in a performance on Kala Patar, a popular trekkers' destination close to the traditional site of Everest climbing base camps. "The program was aimed at popularizing Nepali arts, lofty mountain peaks, culture and traditions," explained its coordinator. Some are hoping that it will become a regular event. "If the concert becomes a hit," enthused one of its backers, "this could be a jackpot for Nepal's tourism growth." Others were more skeptical. Brian Weirum, a long-time trek leader who has helped many a suffering soul struggle to the top of Kala Patar and knows what shape most of them are in when they get there, wonders whether "any of these people will want to admit how much FUN it is to hang out" in this desolate, high-altitude place, and suggests that if the group issues a CD, they name it, "Gurgling Lungs -a Harmonic Convergence at Kala Patar." (They in fact have issued a CD but have named it "Sandesh." It includes all the music played at the 45-minute Kala Patar concert and was released on the site by the celebrated Everest climber Ang Rita Sherpa. (Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, May 10; Reuters, May 11)

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