From Kathmandu-based English Language Newspapers and Other Sources

April-early July, 1996


$36 Million Rip-off. Nepal's "LC Scam," like America's "Whitewater," has to do with shady transactions involving businessmen, banks, and possibly politicians. Yet whatever is proved about Whitewater, it will not compare with what Nepalese police describe as "one of the biggest financial scandals to rock the kingdom." Greedy entrepreneurs in Nepal, working with corrupt bank officials, have faked letters of credit, setting up dummy companies, forging signatures and making false customs declarations to divert US $36 million to themselves. After what many people think has been a slow-paced and dilatory investigation, a special commission appointed to look into the matter announced its findings on June 23. At least 100 persons and 92 firms are thought to be involved in the scam. Two business executives, Anand Agrawal and Prakash Tibadewala, were arrested as major players, but within hours they had freed themselves and fled to India. There they were apprehended with the cooperation of Indian police and Interpol and returned to Kathmandu. Politicians are already trying to make the most out of the scandal. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has pointed out that 90 percent of the cases took place under the previous UML administration. The UML plans to attack the government for delaying the probe into the scandal, and has joined the RPP in demanding action against those who helped the culprits escape from police custody. "The deflection of a huge amount of foreign exchange has caused massive loss to the country," said the Finance Minister, "and people in general want to see the guilty punished." (The Independent, June 5, 12; Spotlight, June 28, July 5)

People's War Quiets Down a Bit. It is hard to say whether it is the "People's War" itself that has diminished in intensity or whether there is merely less press coverage. A discouraging influence may be the large government force now present in the west central districts of Nepal where Maoist-inspired extremist groups have been conducting a terrorist campaign against landlords and political enemies. There are still sporadic incidents of violence, including isolated clashes between groups of insurgents and police in Rukum and Rolpa districts in which both Maoists and police have been killed. In Jajarkot, masked men paraded with guns and unsheathed khukri knives, shouting death to their political enemies. And a group of terrorists dragged a Rukum district Nepali Congress worker from his bed and hacked him to death. It is believe that these incidents, in which the Maoists groups have numbered around 15 to 20 people, mark a new phase in the People's War which makes use of larger and better trained guerilla groups. (Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, May and June)

Maternal Mortality Rate Second Highest in South Asia. Fifteen Nepalese women die in childbirth for every 1,000 live births. This gives Nepal the dubious distinction of having the second highest maternal mortality rate in the Asia-Pacific region. (Bhutan, at 16 in 1,000 is slightly higher; Pupa New Guinea, with 9 in 1,000, is third in maternal deaths.) "You don't need five-star hospitals," says an expert on maternal health. "Minimum upgrading could provide adequate care." In the words of Peter Adamson, who conducted a UNICEF study on the subject. "it is time to amplify the screams." (Kathmandu Post, June 12)

80,000 Want Jobs. Eighty thousand unemployed young people, around 8 percent of the population of Kathmandu Valley, have signed an application presented to the prime minister's office demanding jobs. Ten thousand of them are women. Among their suggestions: remove Indian laborers from Nepal; set up factories in all five development regions; turn mines into industries. (Kathmandu Post, May 27)

More than $40 Million Embezzled. The Ministry of Works and Transport has initiated action against 55 heads of departments and projects for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. It is estimated that more than 3 billion, 270 million rupees (US $40.8 million) have been stolen since 1975. The law holds department heads responsible for unsettled and unaccounted funds, whoever actually misuses them. (Kathmandu Post, May 20)


Eight Nepalis Murdered in Kashmir. Muslim separatists abducted and killed eight Nepali laborers in Kashmir in early May. With two others who managed to escape, they had been seized at a stone-crushing plant on the outskirts of Srinagar. It was the first time that such a large number of foreigners had been killed since the beginning of Kashmir's separatist drive in 1989. (The Independent, Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post)

Bhutan Refugee Dies in Indian Jail. Babu Ram Shengden, a Bhutanese refugee died while being held in jail in India. Whether the cause was tuburculosis or, as many of the refugees claim, maltreatment while in jail, he has become a martyr in the movement for the return of the refugees to their own country. At the funeral, Indian police charged a group of 300 mourners, severely wounding dozens, and seized Shengden's coffin. They have refused to give it up. Now more than a thousand Bhutanese marchers are being held in Indian jails. In late May, 110 refugees who had earlier been arrested and released, resumed their march to their home country and were again arrested by Indian authorities. They were followed in early June by 104 people in the eleventh group to attempt the march, and, later in the month by 50 in the twelfth. These also have been detained. Although India, which by a 1948 treaty controls Bhutan's foreign policy, had no problem conducting the refugees from Bhutan to Nepal in the early 1990s, it is resisting by force their return through its territory. (The Independent; Kathmandu Post, May and June)

Nepalese Protestors Arrested in Seoul. Five Nepalese, along with 20 other migrant workers, chained themselves to a fence outside Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, in a protest against police brutality. They had been brought to that country under an "industrial trainee" program that involved difficult and dangerous work, but fled their workplaces complaining of "slave labor conditions" that included rape, beatings, and passport confiscation. The protest followed a police raid on the cathedral to seize a Nepalese couple who had offered haven to some of the fleeing workers. (Spotlight, June 21)

Anti-China Protestors Arrested. Police in Kathmandu arrested 15 human rights activists who were protesting a recent nuclear test conducted by China at its Lop Nor nuclear base. Herded into a truck at Ratna Park, the demonstrators continued to shout slogans as they were driven away. (Kathmandu Post, June 12)

Tibetans Arrested. Six Tibetans were arrested for illegal entry into Nepal in late April in the Dolakha district northeast of Kathmandu. Earlier, 34 had been arrested in the neighboring district of Ramechhap. On May 22, 19 more were arrested on the banks of the Marsyangdi River near Dharapani in the north central Nepal district of Manang. There is some suggestion that there is a large gang organizing the border crossings, to which the Tibetans pay Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000 (US $180 to $270) per person. (Ghatana Ra Vichar in Spotlight, April 26, Rising Nepal, May 25)

Immigration Worries. It is not only the US that is worrying about the problem of illegal immigration. Districts in the north (Solukhumbu, Taplejung, Manang, Mustang, Rolpa, and Humla) as well as all districts bordering India are "known to provide illegal Nepali citizenships," according to press accounts. "Informants" claim that about 50 to 80 thousand foreigners acquire citizenship each year through questionable means, and "in about a hundred years, half of Nepal's population will consist of foreigners." (Kathmandu Post, April 16)

Job Promises Lead to Thai Jail. Bhim Bahadur Biswokarma of Panchthar district in the far eastern part of Nepal offers young people good jobs in Malaysia, takes their money, escorts them as far as Thailand and then abandons them. There some (or perhaps all) of them are put in jail for at least nine months. "I don't know what happens to them after that," confesses Biswokarma who has been operating with accomplices for the last two years under at least three false names. He is now in police custody. (Kathmandu Post, April 15)


Cabinet Expansion. By adding four new ministers, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has created the largest cabinet in Nepal's history. There are now 48 ministers; the original cabinet had four.

Lost in Singha Durbar. It took the better part of two hours for the recently-promoted Minister of Science and Technology, Ram Krishna Acharya, to find his new office. After circling the area in a car for 45 minutes, he searched every building inside Singha Durbar (the government office building), looking for the appropriate sign board. He finally had to go to the prime minister for directions. When he reached his office in another building, he was upset to find that there was no officer to welcome him. "Minister of State for Development [his former position]," he announced testily, "was better than Minister of Science and Technology.".... Bishnu Bikaram Thapa, newly appointed as Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning, had a different problem. He did not like the room that he was assigned to and so moved into the office of the Secretary. The Secretary was away on a foreign trip at the time, and it is not yet known how he will react to finding someone else in his office, nor whose office he will move into. (Spotlight, June 21)

Harder to Lead Party than Country. Two weeks after his election as Nepali Congress party president in mid-April, Girija Prasad Koirala was able to compare the post with his previous job as Nepal's prime minister. "The responsibility of leading such a big party has been quite burdensome to me," he said. "The prime ministerial post was easier to handle than the party leadership." Koirala is pledged to restore his party to its former strength and esteem. (Kathmandu Post, May 23)

Witch Hunt Turns into Political Row. The mistreatment of a witch has started off a political row in Ishwarpur in the Terai district of Sarlahi. A citizen group shaved the head of 62-year-old Sumariya Devi, smeared excreta on her body, and "made her go around the village" after seizing her while she was conducting a puja (religious observance) by lamplight at midnight. The law, apparently, was on her side, but politics has entered the matter as adherents of one party accuse the other of false witness. UML workers are alleged (by NC workers) of forcing her to name respected NC supporters as among those who mistreated her. "They are playing a dirty game by including names of people who were not involved, with a view to discrediting them....whereas the wrongdoers are roaming around freely," they say. (Kathmandu Post, June 5)

Rude Behavior at the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare. A group of some 12 to 15 people, including UML Members of Parliament, went to the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare July 8 and "behaved rudely" with the staff. They were demanding allowances for helpless people. (The Independent, July 10)


Missing Ministers. Of 48 government ministers in 27 ministries, only 11, including the prime minister, were on the job on May 27 during a telephonic survey conducted during business hours. Fourteen of the missing ministers may have had good reason to be absent. The rest were for the most part in their home districts. (Aajko Samacharpatra in Spotlight, June 7)

Stepped Out of the Office. Three hundred and twenty-five employees were found absent during a surprise check of government offices in Saptari district in southeast Nepal in May. Twenty-three officer-level employees were found absent in a check of 23 district level offices. (Kathmandu Post, May 17)

Government Vehicles Misused. Misuse of government vehicles is growing in the border city of Bhairahawa "in an uncontrollable manner." They are seen parked outside of restaurants at 2 or 3 am, and although officers claim they are on official business, others maintain that the vehicles are "found being used for drinking purposes." There are also complaints that government vehicles are employed in carrying goods duty-free over the Indian border, where they are not stopped because of their official status. (Kathmandu Post, May 20)

Still Driving Around the City. Some 20 government vehicles that had been commandeered from different districts in eastern Nepal for the Nepali Congress party's convention in early May were still driving around in Kathmandu more than a week later. While many Congress workers had returned to their home districts, others remained in the capital city "for unknown reasons." (Likpatra in Spotlight, May 24)

UML Returning Government Vehicles. Nine months after the United Marxist Leninist party (UML) gave up control of the government, it has decided to return the government vehicles in which its leaders have been riding. Only four persons now holding leadership posts in parliament are eligible for government vehicles. The other 272 are not. (Kathmandu Post, June 23)

Corruption in Malangwa. People who do business with the Revenue Office of Malangwa, where it seems necessary to pay a small bribe for every transaction, are fed up with the corruption of its employees. When they went to complain to the Office Chief, they learned that he was not in his office. "Instead, he used to go to his quarters and sleep there during office hours." When they confronted him there, he did not listen to their grievance but scolded them for waking him up. They continue to pay the bribes. (Kathmandu Post, May 28)


THE FUND FOR THE TIGER is a new, non-profit public charity dedicated to the survival of the tiger in the forets and jungles of Asia. Among its projects is the anti-poaching war run by dedicated and aggressive park wardens in Nepal. Funds that it raises will be used for establishing information networks, creating anti-poaching units in previously unprotected areas, offering rewards for the arrest and conviction of those involved in killing a tiger, and commissioning census' from time to time to determine which tiger populations remain viable and which are most in need of protection. Those interested in helping the Fund protect tigers in Nepal (and elsewhere) can send contributions to it at PO Box 2, Woodacre, California 94973.

The objectives of a proposed AMERICA-NEPAL MEDICAL FOUNDATION include the improvement of medical care, education and research through providing US medical equipment, educational resources, and medical expertise through visits to Nepal of academic specialists. The Foundation would also hope to be able to bring qualified Nepalese professionals to the US for training in fields of medicine relevant to Nepal. Anyone willing to participate or contribute can become a member of the Foundation -- and at this formative stage, can offer input on its organization. Contact addresses are: Arjun Karki, MD, and Prativa Pandey, MD, CIWEC Clinic, PO Box 1340, Kathmandu; or University Hospital, East Adams St., Syracuse, NY 13210.

HIMALAYAN EXPLORERS CLUB offers access via Internet to current information on permits, visas, trail conditions, and other things of interest to Himalayan travellers. It publishes a quarterly newsletter and maintains a clubhouse with various services in Kathmandu. In cooperation with Helping Hands Health Education, it operates a home-stay program that allows visitors to stay with Nepalese families during their visit to Nepal. Further information may be obtained from: The Himalayan Explorers Club, PO Box 3665, Boulder, CO 80307 (phone 303/494-9656; e-mail;

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Contents copyright © 1997, Robert Peirce.
Revised: 9 September, 1997