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Based on news stories from Kathmandu English Language newspapers and other sources, November 1998-February 1999 (V-4)

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Still Another New Government. Once again a new government has taken the reins in Nepal, the third in the past year and seventh since democracy was established in 1990. Unlike most earlier governments, this one has the distinction of knowing it will be short-lived. It is an interim government whose rule will expire after May 3 when national elections will determine its successor. It owes its existence to a chain of events set in motion by the Marxist-Leninist party (ML) when it withdrew as the junior partner in a coalition government with the Nepali Congress (NC), accusing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of violating an agreement for sharing power. This left the NC without the necessary votes to pass legislation. Koirala requested that the King dissolve parliament and hold new elections as soon as possible. The King, instead, called the lawmakers together to give the opposition a chance to form a new government. Leading the opposition with a large bloc of votes (yet not enough to form their own government) were the United Marxist- Leninists (UML). They and Koirala had already been in consultation and were ready to make a deal. On the promise of proper representation in the government and a general election to be held early in the year, they joined the NC in a new coalition. Koirala submitted his resignation as prime minister and at the same time presented the King with a letter of support bearing the signatures of a majority of MPs. The King asked Koirala to lead a new interim government whose mission it would be to organize general elections. Thus Nepal's two major political parties find themselves working together for the first time since they fought shoulder to shoulder in the late '80s to reduce the power of the king and institute political reform. All parties are now vigorously campaigning in preparation for the May 3 election. Koirala, who had been accused by some of maneuvering Krishna Prasad Bhattarai out of the post of prime minister in 1991, is now promoting him for this position if the NC gains control of the government. (all media, December ff)

Maybe They Should Try Holding Their Breath Until Someone Pays Attention. The Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP) makes it plain that it is ready to take drastic action if its demands are not taken seriously. It has drawn up a five-point plan that calls for amending constitutional procedures for citizenship, redrawing districts, and enacting other measures for the protection of what it considers minorities. But the petition has been ignored. The Home Minister, according to NSP spokesmen, "did not make a commitment in writing. So we are going ahead with our plans to burn the constitution." And that is exactly what the party tried to do on November 9. Yet police, in a baton charge, foiled the attempt. Twenty-three members of the group (NSP says 500), including its president, Gajendra Narayan Singh, were arrested. Singh now threatens to commit suicide if the party's demands are not met. (Kathmandu Post, November 10, ff)

Uproar in City Hall. "Give and take," to Nepalese politicians often seems to mean physical as well as verbal exchange. Not long ago, members of the two leading Communist parties in the House of Representatives, the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist Leninist (CPN-ML) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-ML), entered into hand-to-hand combat on the floor of the House. Now the same two antagonists have been going at it at City Hall. On January 25, elected members of the Kathmandu Municipal Corporation (KMC), the body that runs the capital city, "thrashed, slashed and beat each other up" on the opening day of KMC's third council session. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Amrit Kumar, Minister for Home Development, were supposed to have attended the meeting but didn't show up. Unless they have been taking karate lessons, it is perhaps just as well for them that they didn't. "Councilors from rival parties lunged at each other, kicking and thrashing and shoving. The entire City Hall was drowned out in a deafening roar as it became impossible to separate warring councilors." Police eventually arrived to bring he situation under control. The Mayor announced that the business of the day had been completed, and the meeting was adjourned. (Kathmandu Post, January 27)

Power Failure Cuts Speech Short. It was a politician's worst nightmare. In the middle of a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Shailaja Acharya, the power failed. The hall (a meeting place in Lalitpur) was plunged into darkness and the DPM was "reluctantly" forced to sit down. When the lights came back on shortly afterwards, it was time for the next speaker to take the podium, and the DPM's speech was left unfinished. In addition to her duties as deputy, Ms Acharya holds the post of Minister for Water Resources, a department with responsibility for providing power to the country. (Rising Nepal, November 8)


Crime on the Rise. More than one crime is committed every hour of every day in Nepal. An average of 28 take place daily. These statistics come from a recent report of Nepal Police. Crime in the country, it says, has increased by nearly 10 percent in the past year, from 9,326 cases to 10,324. Of these crimes, almost 14 percent are heinous (e.g., murder, robbery, drug trafficking, etc.). One reason for the increase in crime is an increase in population. Also reponsible, says the Superintendent of Police, are "rising unemployment, mismanaged urbanization, erosion of ethics and values in society, and the rise of Maoist violence." That the latter has played a part seems evident from the fact that the largest number of criminal incidents have taken place in hill districts. The Terai follows with 17 percent, while Himalayan areas have very little crime. Not all crime in Nepal is home grown. The country is believed to be a transit point in the international drug trade. Of the 727 persons arrested in connection with drug trafficking this year, 101 were foreign nationals. (Spotlight, November 13)

Humlis Want a Road into Tibet. Last winter, the people of Humla, Nepal's farthest northwest and most remote district, were starving. Heavy snows had cut off contact with the outside world and prevented the government from bringing in food rations. As a result, some 370 people and many more animals died. The Humlis do not want to see this happen again. Representatives of 27 Village Development Committees met in Simikot, the district's headquarters, to propose that the government use the money it has been spending on transporting food into the area on building a road along the traditional 65-kilometer (40-mile) trade route that connects it to nearby Tibet. This would not only prevent famine but would help Humla prosper by increasing trade and tourism (Humla is used by pilgrims and tourists on their way to Tibet's holy mountain, Kailas). "The government spends about 10 million rupees (US $150,000) annually to supply food in this region," said one of the road's proponents. "If it spent the same amount to construct a road, we would be self sustainable." The Department of Roads has promised to look into the matter. (Kathmandu Post, Dec. 22)


Mistreated Sherpa Mother Commits Suicide in Kuwait. "You should take lessons from the plight of my sister," Tsering Sherpa told fellow Nepalis who might be thinking of taking work in the Middle East. This was after viewing the body of Kani Sherpa, who had been returned to Nepal from Kuwait where, faced with the choice of returning to the family there that had abused her or going to prison, she had committed suicide. Not only was there abundant evidence of beating. "You can still see the terror [in her face]," as her brother observed. Like many other Nepalese people, Kani, the mother of four, had gone to the Middle East in the hope of making money. She had paid Rs 19,000 (US $285) to a local employment agency (New Sun Manpower) to be placed in a Kuwaiti household as a servant. There she was not only beaten regularly but repeatedly raped. In the hospital, where she had gone after her masters had pushed her down three floors of steps, she was given a choice: return to their household or go to jail. She chose a third alternative: suicide. A number of people demonstrated outside the airport as her body was returned to her native country. "The poverty of this nation," said her grieving mother, "ate my daughter." (Kathmandu Post, December 9)

A Possible Freeze on Foreign Adoptions. At least 788 Nepalese children have been adopted in the past two decades by foreign parents, most of them European or American. About half of the adoptions have been during the last four years. Now the government is thinking about putting a hold on foreign adoptions. "It is inappropriate to abandon your children in favor of wealthy foreigners," says Home Minister Govind Raj Joshi. "It is an act comparable to selling." Others argue against such a ban, and suggest instead that there be clearer guidelines for adoption. A total of 150 foreigners are presently awaiting a decision by the Nepal Children Association on their petitions for adopting Nepalese children, yet it is the Home Ministry that ultimately decides on the applications. (Kathmandu Post, January 13)


The War Goes On. The government has always denied having launched a special police action to stamp out Maoism. Yet others - particularly its Maoist victims - seemed aware of its existence and even its name, the "Kilo Sierra Operation." Whatever the government was doing about Maoism, it seemed to be meeting success. Hundreds of Maoists were said to be surrendering, incidents of terrorism declined, and previously-cancelled local elections in Maoist-threatened hill districts were carried out without incident. But this seeming peace has been only temporary. In November, the terrorists once again went on the offensive with surprise attacks on police stations and other targets. Around two dozen people lost their lives in Maoist-related incidents in one week alone. It is assumed that new Maoist aggression is related to what the rebels call their "fourth-phase program," a campaign to establish bases in sympatheic territory. The government is finding that force alone achieves only temporary results. The terrorist movement will probably not end until there can be some better attention to the social and economic problems that feed it. (Spotlight, November 6; Himal, December)

Nepal Gets Bad Marks for its Treatment of Maoists. Nepal has been criticized by Amnesty International for its excesses in pursuing and punishing people it suspects of being Maoists. Its delegation to Nepal "found evidence of systematic use of severe torture, including of women held in police custody, committed by police constables as well as senior-level police officers at the district and regional police headquarters." The delegation was also concerned about the number of cases where suspects who were known to have been arrested by police disappeared. The government denies any wrongdoing. "Custody management may not have been up to the international standard because of our poverty," says Padam Prasad Pokharel, the most senior bureaucrat at the Home Ministry, "but there are no human rights abuses and torture." Amnesty International says its delegation also interviewed people who had suffered abuse after being kidnapped by armed members of the Maoist movement. It has recommended that the government set up a national human rights commission. (Reuters, November 22)


New India-Nepal Trade Treaty. Nepal and India have signed a new Treaty of Transit, replacing the one that had been in effect since 1991. Nepal, as a landlocked country, is dependent on India not only for the bulk of its trade but for the ability to trade with other countries beyond the Indian border. Its representatives seemed to be happy about the new treaty, which simplifies and liberalizes procedures for the transit of its import and export cargoes. India has agreed to expedite work on freight train service between the Nepalese border and Calcutta Port, and is increasing the storage area in that port to further facilitate the movement of Nepalese transit cargo. Many people in Nepal had worried after the old treaty expired on January 5 and no new agreement seemed to be in the works. The present treaty should have been signed a month earlier, admitted the Indian Minister, but was not because of "certain reasons," not specified. (The Independent, January 6)

Nepal an Asian Wall Street in the Making?. Nepal might well become a world-class financial center. That is the dream of its Finance Minister, who in December announced the launching of a program to draft laws and procedures to make this possible. The International Financial Transactions Act, which he supports, is intended to create a framework within which industry-specific provisions will be tailored to meet the needs of the international financial community and to service the capital requirements of Asia. Nepal, he points out, is strategically located between China and India, and has many of the attributes for a sucessful financial center, including a business day that spans markets from London to Tokyo, a modern airport and world-class satellite connections for voice and data. (Collins Associates Business Wire, December 18)

Phony "Nepalese" Handicrafts Stealing Market. The chances are that most tourists who go shopping in the Thamel district of Kathmandu think they are buying genuine Nepalese handicrafts from genuine Nepalese shopkeepers. And the chances are that they are wrong on both counts. A large number of the shopkeepers in Thamel are Indians, Pakistanis, or Tibetans, and much of what they sell has been made outside the country. Articles that imitate Nepalese products and often bear the label, "Made in Nepal," can be produced at lower cost with materials of inferior quality in countries like India or Tibet. The government cannot control their import into Nepal, and, as a result, they appear at cheaper prices in the market place and are slowly crowding the authentic products out. "When everyone is free to sell the imported products, how can our genuine crafts be preserved?" asks a spokesman for the handicrafts industry, who hopes for better government control over imports. (Spotlight, December 4)


Don't Try This At Home. People stood along the road and cheered as six-year-old Awashyak Singh successfully drove a Maruti van during a formal ceremony in honor of the King's birthday. After "enjoying the boy's driving," former Minister Man Singh suggested that he be given a special driver's license "to encourage his genius." Traffic authorities regretted that the law prevented this, but added that "we can offer him a letter of appreciation for his wonderful driving skill." The event was organized in a program "to encourage the genius spirit." The child has announced that he also wants to be a pilot but no-one apparently has yet made a plane available to him for this. (Rising Nepal, December 30)

Relaxed Police Protection in Thamel. Nine out of every ten tourists coming to Nepal go to Kathmandu's Thamel district. While there, most will be hassled by aggressive salesmen and many will be short-changed in bargaining games with traders. But very few will probably worry that Thamel may be a center for prostitution, drugs, and other social evils. It is a lack of concern that is apparently shared by the government, which has posted fewer than a dozen tourist police in the area. These have tended to perform their duties on the premises of the now-defunct Department of Tourism, "and interestingly enough" (says one of its former employees), "these available manpower hardly do any work." The Department has been dissolved and is now being replaced by the Nepal Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Yet there is no assurance that these agencies, whose main concerns are promotional activities and policy matters, will be interested in increasing tourist security in Thamel. (Spotlight, January 22)


Wants Justice, Not Political Power. Suka Dev, an active member of the Nepali Congress party in Itiyahi village in the Terai district of Bara, was murdered while attending a meeting of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. As Village Development Committee chairman, he had made enemies by successfully opposing a plan that would have involved private encroachment on public land. The murderers were arrested and the village immediately elected Bedami Devi, Dev's widow, to take his place as VDC chair. Bedami Devi, "who has not crossed 40 years and appears older than her age," does not want the post, and in fact does not even want to go on living -- but vows to stay alive until the murderers are brought to justice. This is not likely to happen soon, if it happens at all. The (Nepali Congress-dominated) government withdrew the case against the assassins, and has allowed them to go free. "I'm an uneducated woman, depressed by the death of my husband," says Bedami, ".... I don't want any post; I want justice." The people of Itiyahi, on the other hand, have vowed to keep her in office, and re-elect her in the next election." (Kathmandu Post, December 29)

Big-hearted Rickshaw-Puller Adopts Found Baby. Parmeshor Thakur's bathroom is the great outdoors. When the Janakpur rickshaw-puller got up one morning at 4 am to relieve himself in the field outside his house, he thought he heard a baby crying in a bush nearby. He investigated and discovered a newborn girl wrapped up in tattered clothes. Thakur, who makes only a small living pulling a rickshaw, has all he can do to feed his own three children. Yet he was struck by the cruelty of someone abandoning their child, and took the baby home. This is an area where daughters are not welcome since they cannot earn the same kind of money as sons can do and in fact cost the family heavily in dowry. Thakur, who already has one daughter, has not hesitated to add another. "If I can look after three children of my own," he asks, "why not one more?"..... There is a sequel to this story. A German couple visiting Kathmandu read about it in the newspaper and decided they wanted to help. "There were tears in my eyes as I read the story," the woman, who is a school teacher in her 50s, said. "I immediately told my husband to read the story, and tears welled up in his eyes too. We decided to do something." What they plan to do is to send money regularly from Germany to pay for the education of all of Parmeshwar's children, "all the way to college." They hope to meet the family at a future date. Although they choose to remain anonymous, they have revealed that both have children from earlier marriages but none of their own. "Now we have four children together," said the woman. (Kathmandu Post, November 6, 8)

An Easy Source of Teen-age Spending Money. Donations from local citizens are what makes the Saraswoti Puja festival in Morang district in southeastern Nepal possible. As the time of the festival has come closer, the campaign for donations has become more aggressive. Yet very few of those who collect money on its behalf turn it over to the organizers of the festival. Instead, according to informants, they spend it in shops that sell alcohol or drugs. The culprits are mainly young people, "particularly those youths who are unemployed and drug abusers over the last few months." Abusing a traditional custom, they stop traffic on the road with the help of bamboo poles and demand money, allegedly on behalf of the Puja. No-one has been arrested, but the Chief District Officer, who himself has been a victim of Puja extortion on more than one occasion, blames the schools. "Because of their incompetence," he growls, "they have caused perversion in the society." (Kathmandu Post, January 17)

His First Pair of Shoes. Nepal's tallest man, Rajan Adhikari, 20, of Sanamati village in the southeastern district of Jhapa, has finally put on a pair of shoes. Before now, there have been no shoes big enough to fit the seven-foot, three-inch giant. But the Birat Shoe Company has agreed to make special shoes to allow Adhikari to participate in a training program organized by the Nepal Volleyball Association. Nepal is not a basketball-minded state, yet it is easy to understand why the Association wants "to turn him into a sportsman." (Rising Nepal, November 14)

Mad Dogs Cause Alarm in Rautahat. Citizens in the Terai district of Rautahat are worrying about mad dogs. Fifteen people have come to Gaur Hospital seeking vaccine after dog bites. Seven of these, including a five-year-old child and a 51-year-old woman, believe they were all bitten by the same dog. It is not only humans who are victims. Locals claim that 18 cows, buffaloes and goats have been bitten in one village alone, Katahariya. In another neighboring village, a water buffalo died after being bitten by a mad dog. Anti-rabies medicines have been made available by the District Livestock Office, but most farmers find it difficult to pay the minimum amount of 700 rupees (about US $10) needed to complete the dose of the anti-rabies vaccine. (Kathmandu Post, January 19)

Something for Clinton to Consider. Nanda Lal Adikary's life has been made miserable by his constant desire for sex. He had hoped that by the time he was 52, this drive might have abated and he could spend the rest of his years in relative tranquility. In his anger that this was not happening, he took a sickle and cut off his sex organ. He did not do a very good job, and must now spend a long time in hospitals. (Aajako Samacharpatra in Spotlight, January 29)


Despite Concern, Tiger Population Continues to Shrink. Some 60 people from five South Asian countries met in December to study the problem of declining tiger populations, yet even as they were meeting, there were persons apprehended for trying to smuggle tiger bones out of Nepal. Population growth has contributed to the reduction of the tiger population. Yet the chief threat is poaching. In the past, tigers were killed mainly for their skin but now bones and other body parts have become valuable in Taiwan, South Korea and Indo-China where they are believed to have medicinal or magic properties. Nepal, which lacks resources to deal aggressively with the problem, now has a total population of only 200 tigers - 100 less than it had ten years ago. (The estimated number of tigers in all of South Asia is around 3,000.) The conference was warned that the tiger will be extinct in the region unless India and neighboring countries declare open war on poachers and illegal traders. This will involve the spending of money - something the Nepalese government does not now seem to have available for the purpose. (Spotlight, December 25)

Team to Rescue Lost Rhinos. A team of 27 searchers has set out with nine elephants and a patrol squad to find a pair of rhinoceroses who lost their way and wandered from Bardiya National Park into Chitwan National Park. Equipped with rope, noose and sedatives, the team aims to locate the animals and bring them back to their proper home. "The rhinoceroses to be encircled to catch," states the news report mysteriously, "and the local people feel insecure from one another." (Rising Nepal, January 10)


Are Tigers Prowling Just Outside of Kathmandu? The Kathmandu neighborhood has never been considered tiger territory, but people of Goldhung, Jitpur and Dharmasthali Village Development Committees, just north of the Balaju district of the city, are living "in constant fear" of the large cat. They are convinced that the thick shrubs and nearby jungle of Nagarjuna park have attracted this dangerous animal to their neighborhood. There have been no certified tiger attacks, yet a farmer who is now afraid to go out to inspect his fields early in the morning claims that his son was attacked. "People here travel in groups, especially in evenings," says one of the town officials. Others, including zoo officials, discount the threat. "Maybe a leopard had come to the village," says the Central Zoo Director. "The place is not suitable for tigers." (Kantipur in Spotlight, January 8)

Circus Elephant Killed After Going on Rampage. This elephant did not like its dinner, nor in fact any of the meals that its circus owners served it. When its trainer brought it its usual unappetizing meal on November 17, the elephant suddenly snapped. Trampling its trainer to death, it took off into town on a mad rampage. Rather than seeking safety, local residents came out to follow the elephant. They crowded around it in such numbers that the police, who had also rushed to the scene, were unable to fire at it in fear of shooting one of the townspeople. The animal eventually reached a secluded field and the police killed it with 40 rounds of ammunition. (Kathmandu Post, November 18)

A Zoo With a Problem: No Animals. Visitors, some of them coming from far distances, line up to see the animals at the zoo in Biratnagar's Memorial Park. What they don't discover until they get inside is that there are no animals in this zoo. Earlier there had been a python, two eagles, a falcon, six deer, three dozen birds, two jackals and five dozen parrots. But due to lack of proper care and food, these have all died. The zoo and the park in which it was located were not properly fenced "and consequently animals and even flower plants were stolen," according to a zoo employee. Many of the animals, he says, were beaten and killed by outside people. (Kathmandu Post, November 13)

King Cobra Shows Up in Jiri. King cobras, whose venom is ten times more poisonous than that of ordinary cobras, are rarely found even in the lower elevations of Nepal. It was thus particularly surprising that one should appear in Jiri, a 6,000-ft high village in the central hill district of Dolakha. It was not feeling very lively when it was discovered by Royal Nepal Army personnel in a packet of stationery that they had brought with them when they moved their barracks from Rajbiraj in the eastern Terai about a month ago. The 13-foot reptile is thought to be half-grown. It is now in hibernation in a temperature-controlled cage in Kathmandu's Central Zoo. (Kathmandu Post, December 21)

Bronze Elephant Saved from Embarrassing Surgical Operation. Kenya, Namibia and Nepal, all countries with wild elephants, got together to present the United Nations with a statue of an elephant. The 7,000-pound bronze was placed in the organization's Sculpture Garden. Days before it was to be unveiled, Hans Janitschek, who had organized the funding for the project, received a call from the Ambassador from Nepal. "The penis is enormous," the Ambassador complained. "We brought in an expert to look. There has to be a surgical operation." Wondering, as he says, what sort of expert this might be, Janitschek helped convene a meeting at Under-secretary General Alvaro Desoto's office. Its participants were able to come up with a better solution. Large bushes have now been strategically planted to obscure the view of the lower part of the elephant. (Himal, December)


Four Killed in Necon Air Crash. Four people died when a Cessna Caravan aircraft operated by Necon Air crashed in Jumla on January 17. The Nepalgunj-bound plane had reached an altitude of about 140 meters (approximately 500 feet) on take-off when an engine caught fire and it crashed to the ground. Among the dead were the co-pilot and a 22-month-old infant. The pilot and seven other passengers were injured, five of them (including the pilot, Captain Surendra Bahadur Chand) seriously. The crash left the plane burning on the runway, where lack of training in the operation of a fire engine slowed the rescuers who were trying to extinguish the fire. One of the passengers, Baburam Poudel, is given credit for saving the lives of three others by forcing open the door of the aircraft and helping them out of the plane. The government has appointed a team of experts to conduct preliminary investigation of the crash, for which no cause has yet been determined. (Kathmandu Post, January 19)

"Chasing Air" With RNAC. Chase Air is an American leasing company to which RNAC paid US $783,000 to lease a Boeing 757 aircraft. Yet the airline has received nothing in return. Chase Air is now in trouble with authorities in the US. Royal Nepal is also in trouble. Critics are asking why the national airline ended up doing business with this little-known company, why it paid out that much money with no guarantee of return, and other questions. As readers probably know, RNAC, Nepal's national airline, has been seeking aircraft for its longer-distance routes. The Managing Director that the then ruling Nepali Congress (NC) party had appointed to run RNAC in June knew that the airline's lease of a Boeing 727 with the Yugoslav company Aviogenix would expire on October 12, yet he did not ask for bids to replace it until October 4. He had delayed this process, he said, because of orders from his political superior, the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, who was concerned about the proper size of the new aircraft. Unfortunately at this late date, the Director was fired before any bids had been received and the new Director almost immediately cancelled all bids. RNAC went straight to Chase Air and a week later, sent them the money for the new aircraft. The plane was to be delivered on October 20 but it never arrived. There were temporary technical problems, said Chase. More time passed and still no aircraft arrived. In fact no Chase Air plane ever arrived, perhaps (as it turned out later) because the company did not have one to send. Instead of a plane, they sent an offer to arrange replacement of the promised aircraft with one owned by a Russian company, Trans Aero. RNAC refused. Its contract, it insists, is with Chase Air, yet it is now in a difficult position for recovering the money it has paid to Chase. The contract calls for any arbitration between the two companies to be carried out in London at an expense that probably puts this option out of RNAC's range. In apparent acceptance of this fact and still in need of aircraft, RNAC began to examine other leasing options. The company they first turned to was Trans Aero. RNAC officials went to Moscow and arranged a four-month leasing deal that includes the use of Trans Aero's crew at US $2,850 a day. This time the money was placed in the Nepal Rastra Bank, which refused to release it in advance of the aircraft's arrival in Nepal. A deal was worked out with Trans Aero, which did not want to send the plane without advance payment, where the money was committed but would not actually be paid until the 757 arrived in Kathmandu. It turns that Trans Aero does not own this plane, yet the American company that does has agreed to let the Russian company lease it to RNAC (Spotlight, November 13, Kathmandu Post, November 12 ff)

Big Stink at Tribhuvan International Airport. Tribhuvan International Airport stinks. That was not just the opinion of those who may have noted the many incidents in which immigration officials seem to have been taking bribes or ignoring obvious smuggling activities but of anyone who was unfortunate enough to be there on January 17 when hundreds of sweepers and cleaners went on strike. Upset by the possibility of losing their jobs if the airport's management, as threatened, awarded the contract for garbage collection to private parties, the workers not only let garbage pile up uncollected but threw much of it on the floor of the departure lounge. Passengers and airport employees were forced to cover their noses. "I don't want to comment on this because I don't want to defame Nepal internationally," said a 30-year-old Danish tourist, "but I think the government should do something about this soon." Management agreed at least to hold talks, and the garbage was picked up. (Kathmandu Post, January 22)


Five Die and Many are Injured in School Outing Bus Accident. It unfortunately is not big news in Nepal when a bus runs off the road. But this accident attracted special attention. It took place just outside of Kathmandu and the victims were school children (from Kanya Madhyamik Vidhyalaya, a girls' school). The steering column of a bus returning from a school outing locked and its brakes failed shortly after it left the picnic site near Changu Narayan in mid-November. When rescuers reached the wreckage, some 400 feet down the hill, they found three children dead and at least 50 injured. It was some time before the injured could be given adequate medical care (see "Bhaktapur Hospital..." under "Health," below). Two of the victims died on the way to the hospital. The accident was first reported by personnel in the civil aviation control tower at Tribhuvan International Airport. Police later accused the driver and school teachers of carelessness in crowding 75 persons onto a vehicle whose capacity was 50. The bus was described as "very old and not in good condition." The driver insists he was not drunk, as some people have charged. "I never drink," he says. (Kathmandu Post, November 14-16)

Entrepreneurship Run Amock. Western Nepal Bus Entrepreneurs Association (WNBEA, hereinafter referred to as "Western") has been running buses out of Bhairahawa in southern Nepal for some time. When a new company, Lumbini Bus and Mini Bus Entrepreneurs (LBMBEA, hereinafter referred to as "Lumbini") put its own buses on the road, the folks at Western were very unhappy. They showed their displeasure by forcing Lumbini passengers to get off the buses. When this did not have the effect they intended, they seized seven Lumbini buses and are refusing to return them. The police, to whom Lumbini has brought its case, have done nothing. But that is not enough to satisfy Western. It feels it is acting on behalf of "the institutional development of transport entrepreneurs," and castigates the police for not giving greater help. (Kathmandu Post, November 14)

Bus Accident Kills 19. The Gorkha-bound bus was described as being of the "old and dilapidated-type." It was travelling at "relatively normal speed" along the Trisuli River, some 17 kilometers out of Bharatpur on the Narayanghat-Mugling highway No-one knows why it went out of control on a curve, hit a parapet, then tumbled 220 feet down an embankment, bouncing six or seven times as it dropped. Nineteen people died, including the driver, the conductor, and the bus owner; and 16 others sustained serious injuries. (Kathmandu Post, January 19)

Robbed on the Bus. The twelve people who boarded a Bhairahawa-bound bus together at a rural stop in the southeastern district of Saptari waited until after it had passed a police checkpost before bringing out a "country-made" pistol and threatening the driver. Before getting off the bus, they had robbed passengers of nearly US $3,000, along with 10 watches, 10 tola of gold, and a number jackets and bags. Police have taken two suspects into custody and are searching for the others. (Rising Nepal, December 26)

Tiger Causes Bus Pile-up. Why does a tiger cross the road? There may not be a ready answer to that question, but passengers on five night buses that were heading up the Mahendra Highway in the dark on January 16 might agree that if tigers insist on getting to the other side of the road, they ought to pick a time when no-one else is around. That would not be 2:30 am, which is when this line of buses, one immediately behind the other, was making its way along in the fog. A tiger suddenly appeared in the headlights of the first bus. The bus swerved, and then turned over on the road, starting a chain reaction, with each bus running into the one ahead of it. No-one was seriously hurt, but the front portions of almost all the buses were severely damaged. (Kathmandu Post, January 17)


Library Books Returned. In early December, The Kathmandu Post published the names of several prominent people who had checked books out of the Tribhuvan University Central Library but never returned them. A week later, a former minister and two former government secretaries returned books whose titles ran from The History and Structure of Economic Development to A History of Fishes and the Prologue to Canterbury Tales. The books were 20 years overdue. (Kathmandu Post, December 9)

A Slow Learner. For the past 15 years, Harry Gerald Crespi, an American, has been living in Nepal and attending Tribhuvan University. If he has not made much academic progress during that time, it may be because, as he admits, he has not shown up for more than one class per year. This came to public attention after the police raided his apartment and found almost six kilograms of hashish hidden in photograph albums, as well as $14,153 in American bills, $1,500 worth of travellers checks, and "other dubious documents." He was arrested for drug smuggling, along with two other Americans and a Polish national. The two Americans had made the mistake of coming to Crespi's apartment while the police were there. As soon as they realized what was going on, they turned and ran, with police in hot pursuit. One of them, Steven Cvamer Chishom, was caught and arrested. He revealed that the other had a room at the Moonlight Hotel in Thamel. Police went there and found Charles Bradley French, who had hurried home to pick up some of his things and remove them elsewhere. His things included capsules containing hashish. The three Americans and an un-named Pole were accused of involvement in an international drug-peddling operation. (Kathmandu Post, January 26)

The Price of Just Saying No. Saratun (no second name), 19, returned for a month's visit to her maternal home in the eastern Terai district of Sunsari, where she was confronted with "two village scoundrels" who wanted to have sexual relations with her. "I told them I was not going to accede to their demands, come what may," she said. She had good reasons, one of which was that she had recently married a man from a neighboring district. The two "rogues" then tried to rape her, and when that effort proved unsuccessful, threw acid on her face, "badly ruining" it. (Aajako Samacharpatra in Spotlight, December 4)

67 Pickpockets Brought to Justice. In late November, police of Kathmandu's central Hanumandhoka District Police Office marched out on a crusade against "hooligans, junkies and pickpockets from different parts of the city." Sixty-seven pickpockets, including youths from 6 to 25 years of age, were hauled in in less than three days. Cases of pickpocketing, especially in crowded buses, are considered regular happenings in this city. Once they had arrested 67 suspects, police began to realize that in Kathmandu, "taking action against pickpockets is very difficult," as a senior police officer put it. There is no word what action they did take. (Aajako Smacharpatra in Spotlight, November 27)

Crime Detection Device More Effective Than Policeman Suspected. Some shops and department stores in Kathmandu have started installing closed circuit television cameras to keep tabs on their customers and catch shoplifters. After the theft in his store of a foreigner's camera, followed by a visit from the police, a shopkeeper in the Kathmandu district of Bishalbazar decided it was time to install one. When the the policeman, Ganesh Pandit, an Assistant Inspector at the Interpol Division, returned to follow up on his conversation of the previous day, the closed-circuit camera was running. The conversation had concerned Pandit's demand for bribe money. The shopkeeper took his video recording of the transaction to the Home Minister, who forwarded it to the Inspector General of Police. Pandit has been suspended and is under investigation. (Kantipur in Spotlight, January 29)


Twelve Pregnancy Deaths per Day. Twelve women die each day in Nepal as a result of pregnancy-related complications, according to a study carried out by the Family Health Division with the cooperation of the US Aid Mission. Because of social pressures that keep women from going to health officials or discussing pregnancy problems with family members, some 40% of the 927,000 pregnancies that occur each year are at risk. Fifty seven out of 1,000 infants die within one month of birth and another 79 within the year. The government is now emphasizing reproductive health as an integral part of health care and hopes to reduce infant and maternity mortality by a significant percentage by 2002. (Rising Nepal, Dec. 25)

Border Town Sex Habits Studied. A recent study conducted in several border cities by the Center for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities has discovered that men in border towns tend to be more promiscuous than those elsewhere in Nepal. Fifty nine resident men of the 500 interviewed were found to have had casual sexual relations with their "neighbors, college or school friends." Sixty one percent of 300 non-resident men engaged in sex with "commercial sex workers" (otherwise known as prostitutes). Despite knowledge of condoms, men in the border cities were found to be more likely to contract HIV than those elswewhere. The survey also revealed that the median age for first intercourse was 18 for unmarried residents and 20 for non-residents. For married men, the ages were about the same. People from the hills were more active than those from the plains. Yet for non-residents, place of origin seemed to make no difference. Medium and high-literate men were found to be more active in casual sex than low-literate men. The study did not, however, define these terms. It did determine that resident men who drink are four times more likely to engage in "risky behavior" than their sober brothers. This is even more true for non-resident drunks, whose predilection for risky behavior is ten times greater than it is for those who do not drink. (Kathmandu Post, January 13)

Bhaktapur Hospital in "Disarray" Rescuers rushed the survivors of the bus crash that took five lives near Changu Narayan ( see "Five Die..." under "On the Road," above) to the nearest hospital, which was in Bhaktapur. This was a logical choice since the hospital, which receives aid from donor agencies as well as funding from the government, has 16 doctors on its staff and such up-to-date equipment as sophisticated X-ray machines, Ultra Sound, Endoscopy and Cystoscopy facilities. But when the victims arrived, there was no doctor on the premises. One was eventually located at his home, enjoying his day off, Dr. Amir Babu Shrestha. He came to the hospital and did what he could but since many of the victims were in serious condition, it seemed best to rush them to a better-staffed hospital in Kathmandu. Dr. Shrestha admits that, despite its good equipment, his hospital is badly managed. In fact, he says, "the hospital is always in disarray." (Kathmandu Post, November 16)

Students Blame Doctor for Death of Friend, Ransack his Office. The friends of an un-named student who died from a severe case of diarrhoea under the care of Dr. Raj Kumar Chowdhary in Siraha found it hard to accept the loss. Several hundred of them assembled outside the doctor's clinic to accuse him of negligence. According to them, he had refused to attend to the patient and had turned the case over to a subordinate. After shouting slogans, they ransacked his office. A large number of police are now guarding the hospital with which he is associated. (Kathmandu Post, November 25)


Carries Her to School. Sabitri Nepali of Putalibazar in the central Nepal district of Syangja "is physically weak and incapable of doing household chores." Yet her father has high hopes for her future. For the last seven years he has carried her on his back some four kilometers (approximately two-and-a-half miles) to school. This is not easy for him since he is 74 years old. But he badly wants this child of his fifth marriage to be a teacher. She is now 12 years old and in the seventh grade. (Kantipur in Spotlight, January 1)


Mountaineering Museum. If any country in the world should have a mountaineering museum, it is Nepal, with its 14 peaks of over 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), including Mount Everest, and its well-known attraction to the world's high climbers. Six Japanese alpine organizations have now given US $150,000 to the Nepalese government to establish such an institution. The museum, which will be constructed near Pokhara, will display mountaineering gear and photographs, various Himalayan records, and other alpine-related exhibits. (Reuters, November 27)


Trekking Suffering from Uncontrolled Competition. Nearly 90,000 trekking permits were issued by the Department of Tourism in 1996, the last year for which there are statistics. This was an increase of five percent over the preceding year, yet during the same year, the total earnings from tourism (for which trekking accounts for 25 percent) declined by one percent. The average income per visitor went from US $42 in 1995 to US $32 in 1996. The problem, say those concerned, is competition, both foreign and internal. There are some 400 registered trekking agencies in Nepal, many of them willing to cut prices to win customers. And beyond Nepal's borders, neighboring countries are offering trekking and mountaineering experiences at lower cost. One long-established trekking and expedition agency in Kathmandu, Himalayan Journeys, says that it has suffered a 30 percent drop in its income. At an earlier time in its 20-year history, it was able to charge more than US $60 a day for its services. Now it considers itself "lucky if it fetches clients paying 25 dollars for one day trek on average." In the field of mountaineering, Nepal earned Rs 100 million in royalties (US $1.5 million) from 129 expeditions. This is a field in which competition is limited, thanks to regulation by the government, yet here there are complaints "against international professional climbers who, having pocketed hefty sums, shepherd amateur climbers up to the peaks," endangering "the image of the country's tourism." (Spotlight, November 6)

Trekkers Harassed by Local Police. Trekking guides have reported that local police at certain checkpoints in the Kali Gandaki have been holding up trekking parties with the expectation of being bribed. Not all trekking groups understand what is expected of them or want to play the game. The members of at least one group who were told their trekking permits appeared to be counterfeit turned around and went home, according to the group's guide. Guides are also complaining about a song-and-dance outfit called the Aama Group that comes unbidden to trekkers' camps to "sing and dance during night time, and while showing Nepali culture, expects tourists to pay them." It is fine if the tourists are happy about this, says one of the guides, "but what if they're not?" (Kathmandu Post, February 2)


Good at Acting but Weak in History. Nepal has a large and enthusiastic movie public. Although the country has its own flourishing movie industry, most of its films come from India, one of the largest movie-producing countries in the world. Madhuri Dixit, an Indian movie star, has been a particular favorite in Nepal -- at least until recently when, in a radio interview, she explained that Nepal is a beautiful country that once "was part of India." The Nepalese are fiercely proud of the fact that their country has always been independent. Around a hundred students rushed to the Kathmandu hotel where Dixit was staying during the launching of a new movie. Not knowing she had just left, they chanted slogans and burned her photographs and the Indian flag. A movement is being organized to boycott her films. (Kathmandu Post, December 24)


A Method for Programming Sex and Intelligence in Babies. Tulsi Narayan Prasad is "a diminutive former teacher of ancient history and archaeology" who believes he has developed a method to predetermine the gender and intelligence of one's children. It is not just theory; he has tried it out and it works. He has successfully predicted that his three children would be boys. The third was programmed to be a genius, and, sure enough, Tathagat Avatar Tulsi holds a Bachelor of Science degree at the age of 10. The child has already appeared in the Guinness Book of Records for graduating from high school at the age of 9. When people laughed at Tulsi's claim that he had a method for programming children, he decided the best way to prove that it worked was to try it himself. The theory, which draws on astroscience, genetics, and the Kamasutra, India's ancient book on sex, requires "the right mood, right diet, right planetary positions, and right receptor." He searched for the right receptor and was able to find her in a village with a high ratio of women to men, but soon realized she had a problem. It was necessary that she be a vegetarian, yet, like others of her village, she loved fish. When he tried to convince her to stick to vegetables, her family objected. He turned to the police, who helped him separate her from her family and bring her to his home. He then went to work on creating sons. People may have laughed, but Tulsi has produced three in a row. It was the last he decided should be a prodigy. This turned out to be Tathagat, whom his father at once recognized as special from the "clockwise whirls on all his ten fingers." Tulsi believes that the boy is a reincarnation of the Buddha and has named him accordingly ("Tathagat," the historical Buddha's name; "Avatar," to indicate his reincarnation, and "Tulsi," the proud signature of the artist/scientist who created him). (The Independent, December 30)

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