News from Nepal

Selected Items From the Latest Issue

Boost in Legislators' Pay

Members of Parliament may disagree on many things, but most of them apparently support a recently- introduced bill that would increment their own pay. A monthly allowance for one-term representatives would be equal to 50% of pay. For two-termers it would be 60%, and for those who have served three or more terms, 75%. The increase, which also applies to representatives' staffs, is expected to go into effect this winter. It will double expenditures for legislative "amenitites." (The Independent, December 6)

Turning the Forests Back to the People

Five districts in the Rapti zone will serve as models for a government Act that transfers forest ownership rights to local communities. Local forest control was the rule in Nepal until 1957 when the government passed a Forest Act that nationalized forests and restricted free movement of the local people. The intent was to control rampant forest destruction, but the Act had the opposite effect. In a mere 30 years, 15% of Nepal's forest cover had disappeared, thanks to "plunder by a handful of people for their own benefit." Now the forests are being turned back to local control. USAID has played a large part in bringing this about, and is providing nearly US $9 million dollars over a seven-year period to strengthen user groups, develop small businesses based on natural resources, conduct applied research, as well as to promote bottom-up planning and encourage policy reform. (Spotlight, November 24)

103,300 Refugees in Nepal

There are now more than 103,300 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal as estimated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). They have left or been driven out of Bhutan by a government that fears that the large presence of Nepalese people in its country, even those who have been there for many generations, is a threat to its own ethnic people. Most of them are living in refugee camps in Nepal's southeastern districts of Jhapa and Morang. (Rising Nepal, November 18)

Nepal Eager to Help in Bosnia

America may have doubts about sending its "boys" to support the UN in Bosnia, but that is not the case with Nepal. According to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, his country "looks forward to participating in the new initiatives for a stand-by UN force designed to enable it to respond rapidly to any call for assistance." Nepal has taken an active part in UN peace-keeping operations since 1958. Of the 29,242 Nepalese troops who have served the UN since then, 33 have been killed and 42 injured. (Rising Nepal, November 16)

Smuggled Vehicles Impounded

Kathmandu Valley police impounded 27 vehicles in a one-week period in November that are suspected of being brought illegally into the country. They include 18 Maruti vans with Indian licenses plates, seven with Nepali plates, and two motorbikes, one with Indian and one with Nepali plates. (The Independent, November 29)

More Chewy Than Usual

They don't just taste like rubber -- they may actually BE rubber! That is what students of Bagmati Boarding School discovered when they bit into some "Thin Arraroot" biscuits manufactured by Tirupati Biscuit Industries, widely used at the institution as tiffin. Efforts have been made to call the company's attention to the rubber pieces baked into the biscuits, but the biscuit producers "could not be contacted." (Kathmandu Post, November 20)

No Sunshine for Jajarkot Convicts

It has been 19 months since prisoners at the jail in Jajarkot have been allowed to sit in the sunshine. The new building that they were moved into at that time is made of cement and very cold, yet does not have a protected area where inmates can take the rays. They have formally complained about this and other grievances. They want the freedom to read newspapers, warm clothes for the winter months, opportunities to learn a skill, and baby food for a minor who is in the jail with his mother. Most of the inmates are women, many of them suffering from health problems. They complain that they are taken to the hospital building, three kilometers away, in fetters, where they are examined by low level health technicians. (Kathmandu Post, November 17)

Falling House Pillar Kills Two

Two people died when the pillar of a house fell down after heavy rains in Kushbah of Kapilvastu district in south central Nepal. (Kathmandu Post, November 23)

Faster Than a Speeding Turtle

The Dang District Development Committee, hurrying to get a copy of its annual progress report to the press office in Tulsipur, 24 kilometers away, spent an extra fifteen rupees to send it express delivery. It arrived at its destination 47 days later, having moved at an average speed of about half a kilometer a day. (Rising Nepal, November 28)

Lethal Tea

Two people died after drinking tea at the house of Lal Bahadur Acharya in Itahari in the southeastern district of Sunsari, and a third is said to be in serious condition. Yet the tea had no effect on the owner of the tea shop. The police are investigating. (Kathmandu Post, November 14)

Where Women Rule the Roost

There have been some problems with family surnames in the Karnali zone of northwest Nepal, according to Home Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka. In some villages in that faraway part of Nepal, there is a tradition that the husband goes to live in the house of his bride and takes on her family's surname, and this has led to some confusion. Yet, as the Home Minister points out, one can apply to change one's surname, with the approval of the Chief District Officer. (Rising Nepal, November 15)

Too Close to the Edge

An officer of the Kaski District Land Office in north central Nepal died after falling from the roof of his residence at night. He was "going to the toilet" at the time. (Kathmandu Post, December 7)

Happiness Returns to Sankhuwasabha

People of Sankhuwasabha, who were disappointed by the cancellation of the Arun III hydro- electric project in their district, "have been filled with hope and enthusiasm" by the news that the World Bank will fund the construction of a road leading to the Arun Valley. An agreement is close to being reached in which the Bank will provide approximately Rs 1,100 billion (more than US $1.3 million) for the project. "The faces of people of the Arun Valley are beaming with happiness. They are also exchanging thanks and greetings with each other in anticipation of the prosperity that is bound to come to them along with the road." (Kathmandu Post, November 13)

A Phone for Jomson

Telephone service is promised for Jomson in Mustang district and Chame in Manang district within the next five years. Mustang, whose capital is Jomson, is the only district out of 16 in the Western Development Region that does not have telephone facilities. (Rising Nepal, November 17)

Tiger Snatches Girl in Banepa

A tiger is creating terror in a rural area of Banepa, just east of Kathmandu Valley. It was reported to have snatched a four-year-old girl from her mother, who was fetching water, and carried her away. Her body was later found in the compound of Kathmandu University in nearby Dhulikel. (Kathmandu Post, November 13)

Only 65 Pediatricians for All of Nepal

Thirty out of 1,000 infants in Nepal die within one month of birth. In the latest count (1990), 45,000 died each year of gastro-enteritis, 40,000 of respiratory diseases, and 50,000 of malnutrition. Nepal has one childrens' hospital and only 65 pediatricians.

Poisoned by Plant

No-one knows for sure what it was that hit 10 laborers working on the Buttwal-Tansen road south of Pokhara, other than that they were probably poisoned by some plant they had all eaten. Shortly after a meal, they started to behave strangely. "Some started to walk like mad persons, some were lying unconscious, some began ot run away to the forestt and some even threw themselves in the river." The next morning, nine of them were found lying unconscious. The tenth had drowned in the river. (Kathmandu Post, November 12)

Don't Want to Take Their Medicine

Eighteen percent of 900 families surveyed in Terai areas say they do not take any medicine when they are ill. The sampling study, conducted by two medical organizations, found that men are more likely to take medicine than women. Many families are more apt to look for medical help from witch doctors. (Kathmandu Post, November 20)

An Innovative Attempt at Discipline That Didn't Work Out

A foreign teacher whose name is given simply as Eric dreamed up an unusual punishment for 17 students who had not turned in their homework at Amrit Boarding Secondary School in Baglung. He lined them up and cut their hair in irregular patterns, leaving them looking "ugly" and "disfigured." Parents did not respond well to this disciplinary measure, and brought Eric before the police. "Later, he apologized to the students, bowing to their feet, and said he will never give such punishment in future." (Kathmandu Post, November 13)

Helicopter Crash Not Due to Human Error

It was not human error that caused last summer's helicopter crash that injured then Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikari and others, according to a court of inquiry that has been studying the matter since August. The problem was a cowling slipping off in flight after the much- eroded pin that was holding it gave way and popped out, hitting a tail rotor blade. Yet all regular check-ups had been performed and "all maintenance done in accordance with guidelines set down by the manufacturing company." The court's report commended the crew for not losing its composure and for being "adroitly successful in saving the lives of the people on board." (Kathmandu Post, November 15)

Simikot Airport Turning into Pasture

Simikot Aviation Office in Nepal's northwestern province of Humla has been closed for several days because of a shortage of technical employees. The airport is located in the middle of the market and is crossed by a pedestrian path. "Since people have already harvested their crops, their domestic animals roam freely in the field, and therefore the airport has turned into a pasture land." It is not yet known why there is a shortage of employees nor why the office had to be closed so suddenly. (Rising Nepal, November 22)

Fatal Road Accidents On Increase

It should be no surprise to attentive readers of News from Nepal that traffic fatalities are high in Nepal and getting higher. The number of motor vehicles, which now is close to 150,000, is increasing, yet there is little improvement in roads or vehicles. In the past year, there were nearly 100 fatal road accidents in Kathmandu Valley, and may well have been more than 500 for all of Nepal (statistics are not well kept). Narrow, deteriorating roads that traverse a dramatically rugged landscape are part of the problem. Badly-maintained or defective vehicles are another. Some point to the "indiscriminate issue of driving licenses" and the use of alcohol. "Drivers are habituated to alcohol," says a veteran bus driver, "but it has nothing to do with accidents." One other cause of accidents is cited: a "psychological kink" that makes a person driving a motorcycle, car or bus become aggressive and destructive. (Kathmandu Post, November 27)

Attacked by Rhino

Om Kumari Rimal, 50, was attacked and badly wounded by a rhino while she and her friends were cutting grass in Baghmara forest. Rhino attacks are said to be common in areas bordering Royal Chitwan National Park. "Fortune smiled on [Rimal's] other friends, as they were able to escape from this fierceful attack of the rhino." (Kathmandu Post, November 12)

More Dead Tigers

Two more people have been arrested with tiger bones in the Chitwan district in south central Nepal. They confessed that they had put meat laced with anti-malaria medicine out to kill tigers. They are among six poachers arrested with tiger bones in this area in recent months. Last year, it was estimated that there were 80 tigers in and around the national parks. In the last six months, ten of these have been killed. (Kathmandu Post, December 7)

Forest Misdeeds

Dip Bahadur Shrestha has been shot by forest guards while illegally felling trees in a forest near Bharatpur. He was one of about 12 persons, who, when they were caught felling trees, attacked forest guards with axes and other weapons. Some five kilometers away, a dead rhinoceros was found on the road with its horn missing. It was "believed to have been shot by unidentified persons." (Rising Nepal, November 20)

Russians Propose Everest Clean-up

The Russians have a plan for cleaning up Mt. Everest. "There are an estimated 20 tonnes of litter left behind by previous climbers," says Olag Federov, who has arrived in Nepal with a team of ecologists and "experts" with the purpose of cleaning up the highest mountain on earth. "Besides, there are dead bodies of Sherpas which needs to be cleaned up too." The Russian plan involves the use of a ropeway to carry garbage from the South Col to Camp 3, there to be carried on human backs to base camp. They will dispose of the waste in a large pit "somewhere on the slopes of Mt. Pumori," whose site they will select with the help of a satellite. Dirt from the excavated pit will be "separated according to its type, then sterilized and put in a plastic container to ward off bio- chemical reactions." The government has not yet granted permission for the project. (The Independent, December 6)

Double Suicide

The bodies of a young couple were found hanging together from the same mango branch in a field in the southeastern district of Jhapa. The two were first cousins whose "illicit relationship . . . was gradually becoming public." It is thought that they committed suicide out of fear they would be socially ostracized. (Kathmandu Post, November 26)

Foreigners Arrested with Hashish

An Italian national who was heading for Taipei by way of Hong Kong was arrested at Tribhuvan International Airport with 5 kilograms of hashish in his waist belt. A Dutchman and a Swede were also arrested. They were attempting to carry out 12 kilograms of hashish to Copenhagen in suitcases. . . Another foreigner, this one an Austrian, was later taken into custody when four kilograms (nearly a pound) of hashish was found in nine rolls of silk cloth that he was planning to send to Switzerland. Customs agents had become suspicious about the cloth, which measured 212 meters (about 700 feet), while it was sitting in storage in the Customs office. (Kathmandu Post, November 15, Rising Nepal, November 25)

Girl Found Dead in Hotel

The body of a 19-year-old girl, Subha Basnet of the Gokarna district of Kathmandu, was found hanging by a bedsheet in the Eye Ball Hotel in Thamel. With her were citizenship papers, an SLC certificate, and a photograph of her husband, who is now working in Malaysia. The couple has a 2- year-old daughter. Hotel personnel say that she checked into the hotel at 9 pm November accompanied by Hari Gurung, who left at 5 am the next morning, leaving word that Basnet should be waked up at 8:30 am. (Kathmandu Post, November 17)

The Old Biscuit Trick

Nava Raj Ghimire and his wife would lie in wait in the jungle for moneyed people to pass, or accost them "at different points in the map" and offer them creamed biscuits. The biscuits, which had been mixed with a narcotic, would render the victims unconscious, at which point the couple would make off with their money and valuables. They were apprehended trying to steal the property of a lady whose appetite for the biscuits was more modest than most and who did not lose consciousness. They are now in police custody. (Kathmandu Post, November 29)

Kills Wife Suspected of Infidelity

Dinesh Basnet, a postman in the southeastern village of Itahari, suspected that his 22-year- old wife, with whom he lived in a rented room, was involved in "an illicit relationship." He asked her to accompany him on a visit to Dhankuta, but when they reached the Tamor River, struck her on the head with a stone and killed her. (Rising Nepal, October 31)

Gold Seized

Tribhuvan International Airport officials arrested Tikaram Pubare of Gulmi district as he was disembarking from a plane that arrived from Bangkok. Illegal gold priced at Rs 846,965 (around US $16,940) was discovered "concealed in private parts of the accused," according to authorities. (Rising Nepal, October 31)

Nepalis Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

Two Nepalis, one from Manang district and the other from Palpa, have been beheaded by officials in Saudi Arabia. They were accused of having sexual relations with the wife of their Saudi employer. (from Mahanagar in Spotlight, November 24)

Killed in Malaysia

Dal Bahadur Pun of western Nepal has been shot dead and twelve other Nepalis have been arrested in the jungles of Malaysia. The press account does not describe the circumstances nor explain why 60 Nepali nationals are behind bars in that country. Nepal's prime minister has had talks on the subject with the prime minister of Malaysia. (from Mahanagar in Spotlight, November 24)

A Belly Full of Heroin

Arjun Gurung, 23, was having a hard time taking care of his wife and one-year-old baby in Nepal. When an "employment agent" promised him a chance for a well-paid job in Malaysia, he sold his farm and went to Bangkok. There, with six other men, he waited in a guest house for instructions that never came. After running out of money, he took a job in a factory where he met a man named Cha. Once again there were promises. After wining and dining Arjun and showing him the town, Cha talked him into "taking some stuff to Hong Kong" at a profit to himself of $7,720. The "stuff" turned out to be $1.1 million worth of heroin, packed in 126 condoms. Unfortunately for Arjun, Hong Kong customs officers are "always suspicious of a Nepalese travelling from Bangkok," (according to his prosecutor). They nabbed him at the airport and took him to a hospital, where they waited three days for the drugs to appear. He is now serving an eight-year sentence in a Hong Kong jail . (South China Morning Post, November 21, from The Nepal Digest)

More Tibetans Detained

Twelve Tibetans (ten men and two women) were arrested in the southeast Inner Terai district of Udayapur and put in cells in Kathmandu by the Department of Immigration. During the past two years, some 800 such illegally entering Tibetans have been detained. They enter the country through Mustang, Sindhu-Palchok and Solukhumbu districts "with the help of gangs active at the Nepal border," and for the most part, are returned to authorities in their own, Chinese-controlled country. (Deshanter in Spotlight, November 24).

Sportsmanship or Strategy

No-one expected Nepal to beat China's top-ranked football (soccer) team in its Golden Cup match in Singapore, so no-one was surprised that in the first 15 minutes of play, the Chinese put on a dazzling display of prowess that won them three quick goals and left the "pathetic" Nepalese footballers "reduced to mere spectators." Then all of a sudden the Chinese became lax, leisurely, and half-hearted. To the crowd of 20,000, it appeared that they were giving away two goals to the Nepalese, thus giving that team enough points to advance into the semi-finals ahead of Singapore, a more serious threat. "The match was rigged," said a Singapore official. "We shall lodge an official protest." Nepalese fans seemed to agree. "It is no favor," said one of them, "because they have denied the team from learning through what would have been a humiliating defeat." (Kathmandu Post, November 29)

Laughing Club

The purpose of Kathmandu's Laughing Club is to create an atmosphere where people can get together and laugh freely. It is not necessary to be able to make others laugh, says its president (who is a professor at Tribhuvan University), yet "people who can get everyone into the mood of laughter will be invited." (The Independent, November 8)

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Contents copyright © 1996, Robert Peirce.
Revised: 4 January, 1996