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#234
11 - 17 February 2005
16 pages
Rs 30
Nine years on
KUNDA DIXIT
N
p6
Let us pray
epal’s conflict enters its ninth year
this weekend. In that time, besides
the cost in human lives the war
has set the country back between 20 to 30
years, depending on who you talk to.
In the absence of reliable data, it is
difficult to measure the slippage. But
most experts agree that development
parameters like infant mortality, literacy
and life expectancy that had shown
marked improvement in the 1990s are
sliding again.
“Development has come to a halt,”
says academic Pitambar Sharma, “The
figures show improvement but that flies
in the face of logic.”
Nepal’s Health Management
Information System (HMIS) used to be
one of the most reliable and
comprehensive in the developing world,
with every village recording vital
statistics like birth, causes of death,
migration. VDC chairmen used to be able
to rattle off the main childhood killer
diseases in their village, they had
literacy and fertility statistics at their
fingertips.
Not any more. Even local officials
now admit figures are doctored. Village
councils have not existed for five years
and officials usually send data showing
steady progress.
“The impact of conflict should be
reflected in the figures but they aren’t,”
says an assistant health worker based in
a midwestern district. She estimates that
maternal mortality must have gone back
to pre-1990 levels because of the lack of
mobility: many mothers die because they
can’t be taken to hospitals at childbirth
due to blocked roads.
The 2002 figures for infant mortality
in the latest UNDP Human Development
Report is 68.5 per 1,000 live births, but
many have doubts about the accuracy of
this figure and estimate that in the three
years since infant mortality must have
gone down even further.
The health posts don’t have assistant
health workers or simple antibiotics to
treat pneumonia in children. But in
Kathmandu, a UN official while
admitting that the conflict has impacted
adversely says there may be mitigating
factors. Displacement has eased pressure
on land and food, and remittances have
improved income levels.
“Health posts were not doing much
for public health anyway,” she said,
“female health workers were the ones
providing real service.” Indeed, there are
now an estimated 40,000 female health
volunteers who provide basic health care
all over the country. Because they are all
locals, their work continues despite the
conflict.
Still, school enrollment is down.
Boys have fled fearing Maoist abduction
and many girls have stopped going to
school because they have to help at
home. Most teachers have run away
except where rebels have forced them to
stay. All this is impacting literacy levels,
says an INGO field officer in western
Nepal.
Infrastructure has been hard hit, the
roads department can’t even spend 10
percent of its budget earmarked for
national level projects. The only ones
still being built are the those with local
participation. There have been serious
reversals in telephone coverage, civil
aviation and administrative
infrastructure.
Even though it is hard to measure the
impact of the conflict on the health and
education of Nepalis, experts extrapolate
the charts and say if there hadn’t been an
insurgency adult literacy would have
increased, infant and maternal mortality
would be reduced and fertility rate
would have come down.
…the insurgency
has pushed Nepal
back at least
20 years
Infant Mortality
Life Expectancy
Adult Literacy
Extrapolation
without conflict
with conflict
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
INTERNATIONAL
Righting wrongs
Failure to engage in democratic debate will revive
authoritarian fantasies of the past
T
wenty-five years ago, only
Colombia, Costa Rica and
Venezuela were reasonably
stable Latin American
democracies. Today, what might
be considered electoral
democracies are found throughout
the region. Indeed, at no time
since independence has there
ANALYSIS
Dante Caputo
been such a proliferation of
democracy in Latin America.
But what has been gained is
never guaranteed. A military coup
is not the only way to destroy a
free society. As the political
scientist Guillermo O’Donnell
observed, democracy’s flame can
also be extinguished gradually
when dreams of justice and social
progress fail to materialise.
During the 25 years of the
spectacular rise of Latin American
democracy, per capita income has
increased by a mere $ 300. Even in
Chile, which enjoyed high
economic growth and cut poverty
in half, and Brazil which lowered
the percentage of citizens living
below the poverty line by a third
during the 1990s, concentration
of wealth has increased.
This isn’t for lack of
structural reforms. Political
changes helped spread democracy
in Latin America, structural
economic reforms were
strengthened. But profound
economic and political
transformation masked a deep
disparity between reforms and
reality. Although this gap
endangers the future of Latin
American democracy, many
leaders consider it apostasy to
admit that living standards are
little better today than they were
during the era of dictators. Their
first inclination is to defend
electoral democracies on the
grounds they no longer engage in
killing or in torture.
But consider this: Amnesty
International and the US State
Department have three basic
indicators of human rights—the
right to life, the right to physical
safety and the right to freedom
from political persecution. They
use a scale of one to five, with one
representing an optimal level of
human rights and five indicating
conditions of general terror.
During 1977, the worst year for
human rights violations, the
average Latin American rate of
terror stood at 3.0. In 2001, after
two decades of democracy, it was
2.6. By contrast, the terror index
for Western Europe was 1.1.
Still, to insist that Latin
American democracy has been a
major disappointment would not
merely be pessimistic; it would
fail to recognise that the most
important values of a free society
include the capacity to change, to
rectify and to improve. The
problem does not lie with our
shortcomings but with the way
we choose to resolve them. The
role of the state, the market and
the region’s place in the global
economy all need urgent attention
and discussion. Yet our leaders
consider these subjects taboo.
Our first challenge is to
recognise that electoral
government has failed to lead to a
true democracy of the people. Our
second challenge is to find the
keys to open that door.
Latin America seems to lack
the will to establish a true
people’s democracy and it has
tied itself to a narrow market
economy whose bad outcomes are
apparent to everyone. But
government has a central role to
play in the debate over the
creation of democracy. Merely
returning to big government will
not resolve anything because it is
inefficient and generates the
opposite but equivalent
imbalance. Indeed, it may be that
the framework for a state that can
preside over a true democracy has
yet to be created. The Washington
Consensus does not forecast
increase in GPA or eliminate
poverty. It does, however, increase
inequality. Do we abandon
market economy? No, political
liberty cannot be separated from
economic liberty.
Failure to engage in critical
debates about democracy will
provide fertile ground for reviving
the authoritarian fantasies of the
past. If political leaders lose their
fear of debating important issues,
Latin America can move forward.
Having won some of their
freedom, the people should not
be forced to pay the high price
implied by their leaders’ failure
to open forbidden issues to
Project Syndicate
debate.
Dante Caputo, a former Foreign Minister
of Argentina, was director of the UN
Development Program’s Project on
Democratic Development in
Latin America.
Thaksin’s second onslaught
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13
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BANGKOK—The outcome of Thailand’s parliamentary election
will help answer a question that has gained prominence in the
final hours ahead of the poll: Do Thais worship leaders with
absolute power?
It arises out of a desperate plea being made by a motley mix of
academics, civil society groups, political activists and journalists
to the country’s 44.5 million registered voters. They do not want
the voters to give incumbent Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a
sweeping mandate in the new parliament, consequently placing
Thaksin and the party he leads—Thai Rak Thai—in a realm
beyond accountability. The need of the hour, they say, is for the
voters to support opposition parties vying in the hotly contested
poll, ensuring a political environment that respects the ideas of
‘checks and balances’. “Many leading opinion makers are
appealing in a way they have not done before for the virtues of
checks and balances,” said Sunai Phasuk, Thai researcher for the
global rights lobby Human Rights Watch “They see it as a way of
containing the absolute power Thaksin may get after the poll.”
Typical of this mood is the unusual step taken by The Nation,
an independent English language daily, to run a front-page
commentary on Wednesday about the fate of Thai democracy if the
TRT gains an absolute majority. ‘’The best way out is to ensure
that there are sufficient opposition members of parliament who can
do the monitoring for all of us and have just enough votes to
scrutinise the prime minister in parliament,’’ the paper argued in
its commentary. ‘’This is an unusual plea but Thailand’s situation
is far from normal,’’ it added. There are two reasons for this
clamour for a strong opposition in the new parliament. On the one
hand, Thaksin succeeded in dominating the country’s political
landscape for the past four years after he led his party to an
unprecedented victory at the January 2001 elections. By the time
he finished his term—becoming the first elected prime minister to
do so since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932—
Thaksin had the support of 364 members in the 500-seat
parliament. (IPS)
World Bank’s fault lines
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WASHINGTON—Activists are urging the World Bank to adopt
recommendations made in an internal report that strongly
criticises the bank’s global operations and calls for major
changes. The World Bank’s Operations Evaluation Department,
the independent auditor within the Bank, said in a report released
late last month that the institution needs to improve its project
selection process and oversight of the global portfolio. It also
urged the giant lender to exercise better governance and
management of individual programs. The report, The World Bank’s
Approach to Global Programs, says that the bank’s strategy is
“poorly defined”, that the voices of developing countries remain
“inadequately represented” and that there is a pressing need for
independent global program oversight.
Activists who have long criticised the Bank for being
dominated by the world’s richest nations welcomed the report as
validation of their concerns that the massive lender has financed
development disasters in numerous countries. Watchdog groups
say that the internal report is an invitation for the bank to lead by
example and improve its performance in several key areas,
especially the decision-making process at the highest levels. (IPS)
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
FROM THE NEPALI PRESS
New ministers
Samaya, 4-11 Feburary
As per Article 127 of the 1990 constitution,
King Gyanendra has formed a new cabinet under
his chairmanship. The king appointed 10 ministers
from different ethnic backgrounds: Newar,
Brahmin, Chettri and Thakali who hail from the
hills, tarai and Kathmandu Valley. Seven of the
ministers are new faces in the public arena:
Rameshnath Pandey, Foreign Affairs
Was repeatedly appointed minister
during the Panchayat era and twice
as member of the National
Assembly. Served as minister for
information, population and
environment and tourism.
Elected minister during the NC-UML government
in 1998, he was also a member of the 2002 Chand
cabinet.
Radha Krishna Mainali,
Education and Sports
Founding member of Nepali
Communist Party (ML). Unable to
get membership in the permanent
committee of the UML after the
Janakpur Convention in 2003, he
has distanced himself from the party. Served as
chairman of the United Left Front and was elected
minister during the nine month NC-UML coalition
government.
study the details, apply and pay
online. Names of the groups
whose applications have been
accepted will also be posted on
the website. “This new
arrangement will involve no
paper work and will be hassle
free for tourists who visit Nepal
for mountaineering,” said
Trityal. The Tourism Ministry
has also decided to give the
initial permission letter to
expedition teams two days after
applications are received. The
final permission letter will be
given a day after the
mountaineers have arrived.
Earlier, the process used to take
at least a week.
Spice mobile
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Nepal Samacharpatra, 8 Feburary
Spice Telecom, a licensed private
mobile phone network, has
decided to start a dual band
based mobile system with the
‘Mero Mobile’ trademark. Spice
Telecom plans to launch with
GSM 900 and 1,800 bands from
April, according to company
officials. “Using these bands will
improve the quality of mobile
phone service,” says Spice
Nepal’s Indra Subedi. Though
the company is all set to start,
due to the change in the
country’s situation, it will
probably begin with a soft
launch. Meanwhile, it is
scouting for the best possible
location for its base station.
Spice Telecom will offer both
prepaid and post-paid mobile
phone services but they will
have the same kind of numbers,
says Subedi. Nepal Telecom’s
prepaid and post-paid services
have different range of numbers.
Spice Telecom has recently
tendered for one million mobile
phones from Nokia, Siemens,
Ericsson and three others.
Negotiations are being conducted
with these companies, says
Subedi. Russia’s Megaphone
Company holds 60 percent share
of Spice Telecom.
Krishna Lal Thakali, General Administration
Minister for General Administration in the first
Deuba cabinet, little known politician but
created own identity by taking a strong stance
against UML’s frequent and random transfer of
government officers. Appointed member of the
National Assembly and member secretary of
the Gumba Development Committee of Mustang.
Buddhiraj Bajracharya, Culture, Tourism and
Civil Aviation
Former mayor of Lalitpur, also served as
pradhan pancha during the Panchayat era.
Bajracharya says he will continue on culture.
Elected mayor of Patan under a UML ticket
and is a member of the Raj Parisad.
Khadga Bahadur GC, Local Development
From the Maoist-affected Pyuthan district,
served as zonal commissioner and was
known as a hardliner. Began in politics with
the leftist students’ union.
Tanka Dhakal, Information and
Communication
Twice appointed to the Rastriya Panchayat,
used to be general secretary of Nepal
Nationalist Independent Student’s Council,
never before been appointed to an executive
post.
11
Dan Bahadur Shahi, Home and Law,
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Former secretary of the Civil Service
Commission and Ministry of Agriculture,
Zonal Commissioner of Kosi during
Panchayat.
Madhukar Shamsher Rana, Finance
Development economist, was special
economic adviser at the Ministry of
Finance, served as adviser to Finance
Minister Prakash Chandra Lohani during
the Thapa government. Founded CEDA at
Tribhuban University, president of Nepal
Management Organisation, training adviser at UNDP,
Geneva.
Durga Shrestha, Women,
Children and Social Welfare
RPP central member, also served as
member of the Rastriya Panchayat in the
old days.
Ram Narayan Singh, Minister for Labour
and Transport Management: Former CDO.
2
EDITORIAL
[email protected], www.nepalitimes.com
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
Published by Himalmedia Pvt Ltd, Chief Editor: Kunda Dixit
Desk Editor: Abha Eli Phoboo, Aarti Basnyat
Design: Kiran Maharjan Web: Bhushan Shilpakar
Advertising: Sunaina Shah [email protected]
Subscription: Anil Karki, [email protected]
Sanchaya Kosh Building, Block A-4th Floor, Lalitpur
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 01-5543333-6, Fax: 01-5521013
Printed at Jagadamba Press, Hatiban: 01-5547018
Reason over reaction
What should be the prescribed course of action
for the international community?
BETWEEN THE LINES
W
I
t must be said that outside the capital’s intellectual, activist
and media circles there was general approval for King
Gyanendra’s February First move. The talking heads in the
puff pieces on NTV are not all propaganda.
To be sure, people aren’t exactly jumping up and down with
joy. But there is cautious hope that this could be a way out of
long years of instability, anarchy and violence. The Nepali
people are desperate enough to go along with anyone who can
fix this mess.
The photo studio owner in Dilli Bajar, teashop wallas in
Mugling, bus drivers, dairy farmers in Dhading, Panauti’s
vegetable growers were all fed up with bandas and blockades
that put their livelihoods in jeopardy. Across Nepal, along
landmined highways thousands of bus passengers stranded for
weeks are willing to give their monarch the chance provided the
interregnum doesn’t last too long. King Gyanendra vested
executive powers in himself, declared an emergency.
We in the media have been warned of broad and unspecified
punishment for broad and unspecified transgressions. The
directives contain ominous-sounding references to ‘confiscation
of assets’ and ‘house arrest’ against those making ‘public
comments affecting the morale of the security forces…and
disturbing the sovereignty, integrity, peace and security’.
We can’t say we are happy with this, but that doesn’t mean
we can ignore a general lack of public outrage on the streets
about the king’s move. Pro-democracy activists, politicians and
we in media have to ask ourselves why. And we’re not saying
that just because there is this guy looking over our shoulder.
The communication blackout was a nuisance. But in Nepal
there are only 1.6 land phones for every 100 people, one mobile
phone for every 10,000 and only 26 internet subscribers for
every 10,000 Nepalis. For a vast proportion of this country’s 25
million people, therefore, it didn’t matter that phones didn’t have
dial tones because most don’t have phones anyway.
Even so, good sense prevailed and communications were
restored. What is less reasonable is the continuing restriction on
FM radio because this information vacuum is being filled by
those with clandestine transmitters. A blanket ban on information
for people who have become used to free and unfettered access
is counterproductive--especially because there is no such
restriction on news on private tv channels.
News bulletins a la 1985 won’t work anymore. People can
read between the lines, and we know they know whatever it is
that is being tried out there is limited time to make it work.
ith the royal
proclamation of February
First, Nepal has once
again been thrust into the
international limelight. The
question at hand is not whether
to support or oppose King
GUEST COLUMN
Dipta Shah
Gyanendra’s actions. What is
lacking is a range of perspectives
emanating from those to whom
political developments in Nepal
matter the most: Nepali citizens.
And what should be the
prescribed course of action for the
international community? Let’s
dispense with some of the more
common misperceptions that
mainstream media has capitalised on.
First, media reports have been
rife with official statements from
foreign governments which have
bluntly demanded the immediate
restoration of previously
established ‘democracy’ in Nepal.
Those who subscribe to the
underlying ideals of democracy
(and comprehend not only
democratic freedoms but also
associated responsibilities) can’t
seriously insist on the reestablishment of a set of
principles that ceased to exist
years before February First.
What Nepal had was a
judiciary with the power to indict
but not prosecute, political
parties with the ability to incite
but not be held accountable,
security forces with a broad
mandate to protect but no clear
objectives which to execute.
Surely, when responsible world
leaders call for the restoration of
Nepal’s system of ‘multiparty
democracy’, one would hope that
they are not implying a move
towards the status quo, ex-ante?
Second, the right to assemble,
freedom of speech, and the right
against preventive detention
(while extremely important) are
not the only principles
enshrined under the broader
democratic umbrella. The right
to peaceful co-existence (without
fear of intimidation), the right to
education (without political
disruption), the right to a proper
childhood (without being subject
to indoctrination) these are also
fundamental rights that every
Nepali citizen is entitled to,
independent of the prevailing
system of governance.
Third, it would be misleading
for the international community
to formulate its course of action
based on the assumption that a
minority two percent
(representative of Nepal’s
relatively educated and
politically savvy elite) accounts
for the collective views of a
nation of 24 million. This is
especially true when no
consensus exists within that two
percent itself.
Also erroneous is the
underlying assumption that the
‘representative elite’ is guided
purely by populist concerns. No
more need be said on this except
to note their self-serving nature
and absolute unwillingness to
even begin to grapple with the
problems of the country. And
although it is unfair to group all
Nepali politicians in this inept
category, it would also be a great
disservice to imply that there are
more than a handful of
respectable leaders.
While the prospect of nearauthoritarian rule (for the
interim) is alarming, one must
take into account the alternative:
L E T T E R S
BOB MARLEY
It is with great interest that I read
Anoop Pandey’s article on Bob
Marley (‘Raja of rasta and reggae’,
#232). I am a professor of
mathematics here in California as
well as a reggae DJ and a
historian on the side for the last 12
years. I am afraid that Bob Marley
has never been to Nepal or India. I
am good friends with Roger
Steffens (Marley’s archivist and
historian). Him and I have had
countless hours of discussion on
Bob Marley’s life. We have
concluded that he has never been
to Nepal. Bob’s music touched us
in the 1970s and I was very
pleased to see that his music is
just as strong today in Nepal. I
was there only a month ago and
left many rarities of Bob Marley
CDs with some of my friends and
also some bars around Lajimpat
and Thamel. Also, there has been
quite a discussion on sadhus vs
rastas but there is yet to be any
link between them other than the
few similarities in lifestyle.
Sanjay Dev, California
Thank you for that excellent
curtain-raiser on the Bob Marley
60 th anniversary. Bob Marley was
not just a musical prophet, he was
also a messiah for the Third World
and decades ahead of his time.
What he did for African pride and
for the self-esteem of the ‘twothirds world’ through his music is
incalculable. Perhaps the reason
MIN BAJRACHARYA
for his popularity in Nepal is that
the Nepali people feel
downtrodden and want to sing his
redemption song?
Kumar Pradhan, Kathmandu
in our beautiful country and that
they will continue to hold the soil
and other components of the
ground together.
Nripesh Dhungel, New York
TREES
Thank you very much for the
editorial. There are readers
around and across the world who
can measure the depth of an
article. Thank you for being loyal
to your profession as well as your
country at the same time.
Anup Kaphle,
Westminster City Council, UK
I think your editorial was
extremely good. At first, I was
taken aback by the simplicity and
irrelevance of the material, but I
was forced to read between the
lines. If I am thinking what you are
thinking then this is an excellent
piece of journalism. Well done
and keep up the good work.
Buddha Shrestha, email
I am very touched by your
editorial this week. I too truly
believe that the trees shouldn’t
have been axed even though they
may have caused problems at
times along our streets. In a way,
the planting of these trees in the
1990s had given a great ambience
to the Nepali community and it is
sad that they have been axed. I
hope that greenery forever exists
Once more the Nepali media
has shown that it will rise up to
the occasion and show that it will
not be meek and compliant. When
will the authorities realise that
curbing information makes it
worse for them because it
spreads negative rumours,
provokes panic and paranoia?
And when they finally end up
telling the truth no one will believe
them. And what could be a more
vivid example of shooting oneself
in the foot than the fact that we in
the outside world had no
information from Nepal except
from underground groups since
the ban on Nepal-based websites
also affected the government’s
own homepages!
Tashi Namgel, Seattle, USA
Your editorial on tree felling
represented a welcome if perhaps
NATION
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
Maoist totalitarianism. Clearly,
endorsing Maoism is not a viable
option by national or
international standards. This is
even more the case when
considering the Indian position
that has not swayed from its
declaration of the Maoists as
terrorists and the US government’s
addition of the Maoists to its
terrorist watch list.
India simply can’t afford to
alienate Nepal at this critical
juncture. If New Delhi was to
abandon Kathmandu, all bets
would be off including certain
arms procurement covenants
between the two countries, which
may then leave Nepal with no
option but to deal with the
Chinese, a nightmare for both
India and the US.
More seriously, disengaging
Nepal now would open the door
to the Maoists’ long-sought
Compact Revolutionary Zone
through which Indian and Nepali
Maoists function across national
and state boundaries in much the
manner of the communists in
Southeast Asia in their fight
against the Americans during the
1970s.
All of Nepal’s well-wishers
want genuine multi-party democracy in Nepal. There is no ambiguity or ulterior motive. But the
time to forward this agenda will
undoubtedly come and will be
accomplished with support, but
not direct involvement from the
international community.
That time however, is not
now. And lobbying to force the
king to reverse his decision,
threatening to cut off foreign aid
to Nepal, and alienating the new
government are not means with
which to ensure a democratic
future for Nepal. If we can’t unite
to guarantee the sovereign
integrity of our nation, there is no
honor, no pride in calling ourselves Nepalis.
Ten days old
involuntary change from the
Nepali Times’ tradition of
outspoken political commentary.
At a time when the only things
that seem to be on people’s
minds are politics and conflict, it
was refreshing to read about a
real issue. My only quibble with
your otherwise excellent piece
was the somewhat contentious
point about imported exotics,
such as the poplar or the
eucalyptus being less sturdy
than indigenous varieties such
as the Gorkhali tree. I don’t
entirely share that point of view.
Indigenous varieties are often
well adapted to the local
environment, perhaps better so
than imported exotics. But in the
face of, for example, global
climate change, indigenous
varieties, precisely because they
have evolved in highly specific
environments, may prove less
adaptable and less hardy than
many exotic species. Cutting
down such imported varieties,
then, may be doubly shameful,
particularly if the indigenous
species prove themselves
unable to adapt to a changing
environment, and (in conformity
with the Darwinian principle of
natural selection) become
extinct. Then we would have no
trees left whatsoever in
Kathmandu and that would be
intolerable. A world without trees
would be like living without order
in our lives. Nonetheless, this
minor difference between us
should not be allowed to get in
the way of a genuine meeting of
minds. My hearty
congratulations on reminding us
Ashwini Nepal gave birth to this baby girl at 11:00 AM on 1 February at Patan Hospital.
that in the midst of our eventful
daily lives, we should not be
allowed to lose sight of the wood
for the trees.
Purna Puri, email
PERIODS
Contrary to the implications of the
advertisement for Kotex in Nepal
Times (#226) the normal menstrual cycle is not a debilitating
illness or incapacitating disability
but rather a periodic indication of
the female power of fertility. It is
quite obvious to any female
reader that the Kotex advertising
campaign has been conceived
and composed by persons who
have never ever had a menstrual
cycle, namely men. Otherwise
they certainly would know this to
be true, despite the fact that such
men must witness women in their
lives who do not disable themselves five days a month, as the
advertisement explicitly
suggests, which thereby
illustrates their inability to
transcend their own ignorance on
the point. It is safe to say that
your advertising department is out
of touch with the customer profile
of your female readers. Nepal
already suffers from a severe
chronic wretched case of menstruation and female-related
paranoia without you adding to it.
Furthermore, you might ask
your advertiser to promote hightech fibres and design
construction thereby honouring
the intelligence and dignity of the
potential customer instead of
insulting it as it is presently
doing. Another approach would be
to politely suggest that Kotex
3
DEEPENDRA BAJRACHARYA
come back to Nepali Times
after redesigning their advertising campaign at an agency that
includes significant numbers of
conscientious women among
its staff.
Surely there is at least
once such firm in Nepal? It is
really surprising to see that
Nepali Times, with so much
credibility earned among its
readers over the years, has
succumbed to demeaning itself
in its quest for advertising
revenue, having ignored or
failed to see the tragic nature of
the advertising campaign it has
accepted.
Long-time Nepali Times
subscriber, strong, healthy
menstruator, and long-liberated
menstrual CUP user
4
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
NATION
23 weeks to go Still in the pipeline
Time for the media to take stock of itself
O
ne hundred and eighty days. That’s how long the current gag
on media is meant to last and enough time for the Nepali media
to do some much needed soul-searching.
These are challenging times for those in the news business as
they try to communicate in a time of censorship. It tests the media’s
creativity and ingenuity to find news beyond the headlines.
Nepal’s media has been obsessed with reporting politics, the
antics of politicians and their quarrels. The next six months provide
an opportunity to do things
differently and untangle itself from
NEPALI PAN
politics. With objectivity and
Srinkhala Sharma
fairness, the media can stand tall
and fearless. Before the royal
takeover, one had to read an assortment of newspapers to get a
sense of what actually happened. Just reading one newspaper,
watching one TV channel or listening to one radio station, never
gave the whole story.
Journalists must also bring themselves down from their
pedestals, the ivory tower from which they talk down on those they
interview or question. That arrogance and cynicism comes across as
journalists connect with interviewees. The greatness of reporters
comes in quashing their egos, staying in the background and letting
their subjects speak.
These days most newspapers have slimmed down and seem
hungry for matter—a perfect time to start chasing real stories. This is
the opportunity for investigative journalism and there are hundreds of
stories waiting to be told: ‘safe’ issues like environment, health,
education and day-to-day living. Why is there an increasing trend of
deadly road accidents? How are Nepali families who have fled the
conflict managing? What are their children doing? What about
displaced children? Why have so many sidewalk trees been
chopped down all over the valley? Are all the orphans really
orphans? How has the anti-chhaupadi campaign changed the lives of
the men and women in the far-west? Do the sand and stone mining
syndicates on our rivers understand the ecological impact of mining?
Publishers have always argued that such ‘soft’ stories don’t
interest the public as much as juicy political ones. This could be true
but only because the public wasn’t given a choice. This could be the
time to start doing news that is relevant to people’s lives, raise their
awareness and even spread optimism and motivation. In the past
years, with the escalation of conflict there have been unending talk
shops. On a typical day there would be simultaneous workshops
covered in excruciating detail by tv, radio and print. Gosti-patrakarita
dominated coverage with visuals of inaugurations, chief guests
speaking from the podiums, cameras panning across the selfconscious audience and journalists then scooting off across town to
cover another series of talking heads. Today, media has fewer
functions, workshops and seminars to cover and should use the time
to do real news.
The media must be introspective and improve accuracy in
reporting. As they diversify the nature of stories, journalists have to
re-educate themselves in getting it right. Many have forgotten
journalism school rules to cross-check facts, make sure quotes are
correct and contextualised, privacy is respected and there is no
defamation. They must also re-learn to do followups and move
beyond event reporting. The horrific bus accident in Pyuthan last
month that killed more than 40 people was reported as just another
accident, not as part of a serious trend in escalating highway
fatalities. There are all these issues about road safety, the poor
conditions of roads, easy availability of licenses, overcrowding and
intoxicated drivers. To be fair, some media have followed-up on the
accident and analysed the aftermath, including the decision by the
widowed not to don white mourning garb.
Ten days have passed, there are 161 days to go. There is time
for the media to take stock of itself so that it surfaces stronger and
more powerful. z
Melamchi set to roll again with new Chinese contractor
NAVIN SINGH KHADKA
he much-delayed
Melamchi project designed
to boost Kathmandu
Valley’s drinking water supply
is set to roll again with the
appointment of a new Chinese
contractor.
The project had faced
uncertainty and delay ever since
the Korean contractor, Haniel
Koneko demanded cost overruns due to Maoist threats and
walked out without finishing
even five percent of the work on
the access road. Koneko was
demanding Rs 100 million extra
as compensation while its bid
amount was Rs 450 million.
Negotiations between
Koneko and the Melamchi Water
Supply Project (MWSP) were
deadlocked for over a year and
construction ground to a halt.
The government finally
terminated the contract with
Koneko last year, seized its
performance guarantee of Rs 50
million and called for new bids.
The China Civil Engineering
Corporation (CCEC) was chosen
over five Chinese, Indian and
Japanese bidders.
The controversy even
dragged MWSP officials to the
corruption watchdog, CIAA and
the National Vigilance Centre
which began an investigation.
“We think we have been able to
convince the commission and
the centre that everything is
above board,” one MWSP
official told us.
The project and its main
creditor, the ADB, seem happy
with the selection of the
Chinese company and say its Rs
1 billion bid is “quite
reasonable”. Koneko, they say,
had quoted an artificially low
amount to be selected with the
intention of “padding it up
with overruns” later. Bidders
have used loopholes in the
FIDIC contracts in the Kali
Gandaki and Middle Marsyangdi
projects to quote low and
demand high variation costs
once selected. MWSP and ADB
officials say there is less chance
T
of this happening with CCEC and
hope the project can now resume
construction of the access road.
But whether CCEC will live
up to expectations remains to be
seen. For one thing,
Sindhupalchok is a heavily
Maoist-affected area and it is
accepted wisdom that
construction can only resume
with the blessings of the rebels.
When completed in 2010, the
$500 million project will bring
170 million litres of snowmelt
from the Melamchi Khola to
Sundarijal through a 2 km tunnel.
The project can be expanded to
500 million litres daily by adding
more rivers at the intake. Progress
has been delayed because the
access road to the headworks are
not finished yet. Only once the
road is ready can foreign engineers
come for the tunnelling phase.
The project also needs to
implement a distribution plan for
Kathmandu Valley through
private contractors for which
several new legislations and
amendments to existing acts are
needed. Melamchi’s donors want
the laws in place before tunnel
work begins.
MWSP officials said they are
preparing to invite tender for the
appointment of the contractors of
tunnel construction. “We will
call for the tender by August,”
said Dhruba Bahadur Shrestha,
executive director of MWSP.
Since the first 20 km of the
tunnel construction is being
funded by Norwegian and
Swedish governments in grant
and mixed credit, contractors of
only those two countries will be
allowed to bid. With the Asian
Development Bank funding the
last seven km of the tunnel
construction, international
bidding will be allowed for that
part.
The government is not able to
meet even half the current
demand for 200 million litres a
day in Kathmandu Valley.
However, critics say the Melamchi
project is too expensive and
cheaper alternatives like building
storage reservoirs inside the
Valley have not been adequately
explored. z
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
BUSINESS
Kofi warns child soldier recruiters
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In the annual report he submitted to the security council, UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan has not missed out Nepal while
referring to child soldiers across the world. The other countries
mentioned in his report are Burundi, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Sudan,
Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda. “In
Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist recruited underage
soldiers and killed children, including more than 50 in the first half of
last year,” the report said. In the report, Annan has recommended
sanctions against groups who use child soldiers. “These sanctions
could include travel bans on leaders, arms embargoes and a
restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties
concerned,” he said. The UN Security Council is to debate Annan’s
report on 23 February. The UN special representative for children in
armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, said Annan’s report marked a turning
point for ‘transforming words into deeds’. Some 54 groups, including
state and rebel forces, use children as soldiers.
ARV costs
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Even though the price of the anti-retroviral drugs to treat AIDS
patients have come down to Rs 33 per person a day, only 25 out of
5,000 infected people in Nepal are getting it. Those who have
access to the drugs pay $420 per year. “The common minimum price
that was discussed was $200 per person a year,” said Rajib Kafle,
an activist who himself has HIV. Kafle said that the price of antiretrovirals came down because of generic drugs that ended the
monopoly of multinationals. Though brand manufacturers claim that
their investment on research and development has added to the high
cost of their drugs, generic manufacturers disagree. Kafle says ARV
drugs can be made cheaper in Nepal. Says Kafle: “China is the
largest producer of the active ingredients, India is the biggest
exporter of the generic anti-retrovirals and Nepal lies between the
two.”
Tour operators all smiles
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Despite series of booking cancellations due to the disrupted
telephones and Internet last week, tourism entrepreneurs are all
smiles now about business prospects. “The cancellations should be
no problem at all,” says Bhola Thapa of President Travel. “What
matters for us now is that the situation is improving and soon we will
see boom in travel trade.”
Tour operators have seen massive cancellations in the wake of
the disruption in telecommunication. But they believe that the
situation, at least in Kathmandu, is fast improving and they are
spreading the word. “We do not know what is happening outside
Kathmandu but in the capital we have seen that things have changed
tremendously and we are informing our international travel agents
about it,” said Ravi Poudel of the Nepal Association of Tour and
Travel Agents.
NEW PRODUCTS
JASTAPATA: Rajesh Metal Crafts has introduced RMC Jastapata, a
new brand of corrugated metal sheets in the Nepali market. The
company, which has been manufacturing and distributing
construction materials for more than a decade, is following up on the
significant success of RMC pipes.
5
Bottom of the pyramid
How to eradicate poverty through profit
W
ith phones lines down,
the omnipresent Internet
disconnected and news
channels off the air, this Beed
enjoyed getting back to basics—
reading. And the pick of the
season is CK Prahlad’s Fortune at
the Bottom of the Pyramid.
ECONOMIC SENSE
Artha Beed
This book surely has a lot of
insight for us Nepalis who are at
the junction of events that will
direct our nation’s future. As your
columnist has often repeated,
Nepal’s problems are economic
and not political. Therefore,
irrespective of the state of
politics, the economics should
surely move on. And what better
platform for the new finance
minister than to take on this
challenge.
Fortune at the Bottom of the
Pyramid provides an interesting
analysis of the people who are at
the bottom of (what else?) the
pyramid. Those marginalised by
all, especially the private sector.
The billions that comprise more
than 60 percent of the global
population are yet to be served
and therefore present a
tremendous opportunity for
business.
The poor are in fact brand
conscious and willing to pay. For
instance, they pay astronomical
rates of interest to moneylenders.
Banks can surely gain by servicing
these markets. The poor consume
a lot, that’s why product
development and packaging have
to be innovative. The success of
one-rupee shampoo sachets in
India led multinational
companies into this segment, as
the volume at the bottom of
lxdfn 9flsG5 ===
pyramid is always large.
Similarly, distribution channels
need to be innovative. The
traditional distribution channels
used to service urban markets may
be expensive, so newer ways of
getting to the consumer willing to
buy the product becomes
challenging. The consumer is
willing to buy but at a price that
is far lower than the prevalent.
This book illustrates through
examples innovative efforts that
are the mission of ‘eradicating
poverty through profits’. These
range from banks like ICICI in
India, e-Choupal initiative of ITC
in India to Casas Bahia a retail
chain in Brazil and Cemex, a
construction service provider in
Mexico. All case analyses lead to a
single message: there is growth
potential if one focuses on the
bottom of the pyramid which
most companies, especially
multinationals ignore.
Nepal can surely replicate
these successes. There is much
more for the private sector to do
than seek protection or lobby
against punitive actions for
wilful defaulters. This book is
also a must-read for people
working in development who
think that the private sector is
always manipulative and antipoor.
Rather than run more ‘social
security programs’ and use
conflict management in all
aspects of life, donors would find
many answers to their questions
here. Students and corporate
executives should be motivated to
find more ways to ‘compete for
the future’. Surely, as the book
says, our search for economic
sustainability is never ending.
Insights like these that ‘enable
dignity and choice through
markets’ are always welcome.
=== t/ lxdfn pl3|G5 klg
k|ultkydf tkfOFsf] e/kbf{] ;fyL
www.arthabeed.com
6
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
REVIEW
The singing Rinpoche
ABHA ELI PHOBOO
I
t is a new crop of popular
artistes that the Nepali music
scene has turned to, not hiphop, rap or sappy romantic songs
but soothing melodies with
simple lyrics. When Ani Choying
Dolma’s debut album Moments
of Bliss topped the charts for
months, it came as no surprise
for her record company Opal
International. Now, they have
come out with another album of
the same genre: Dharma Dhwani
by Dhilyag Subchu Rinpoche.
“I don’t expect to become a
phenomenon, I just want to share
my prayers through music,” says
the Rinpoche who adores Pandit
Jasraj and Karna Das as
musicians. “Technology is a big
platform, we can use it to share
and inspire peace of mind.”
Dhilyag Subchu Rinpoche,
21, became a monk at the age of
six, growing up in Swayambhu
which he says was also his home
in his first life. Chanting for
nearly 30 minutes each morning
is the only musical training he
has had but his voice has an
energy that is quiet and soothing.
Dharma Dhwani, his first album,
comprises of prayers and chants
in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Nepali.
Initially, it was meant to be
distributed only among fellow
Buddhists and disciples but
Opal International approached
him and proposed to market it
for a wider audience.
“Usually, this sort of music
is targeted at the international
market but we wanted to share it
with Nepali listeners also. These
are turbulent times and such
soothing music restores our zest
for life, giving us a positive
attitude,” says Anand Tuladhar, of
Opal. “We expected the older
generation of listeners to like it.
When, to our surprise, the young
Nepali audience took to Ani’s
album also, we realised that right
now prayers are what we need.”
The lyrics in all the eight
tracks of the album Dharma
Dhwani are simple. Some are oneline prayers, pure and beautiful.
For the title song Dharma Ko
Dhwani, Nhyoo Bajracharya and
Durga Lal Shrestha, famous for
their work in Phool Ko Aankha Ma
have teamed up again. And again,
it is geared to be a hit with its
unobtrusive soothing melody. As
cliché as it might have sounded,
the lyrics with Bajracharya’s music
gives the words new meaning that
it is hard to imagine any other
voice singing it.
With the mesmerising sound
of the sarangi and the flute, the
music itself is a prayer. The
musical experiment represents the
essence of Buddhism with peace
not only as its essential ingredient
but also as the desired result. The
album was released in Maitreya
Gumba, Swayambhu where the
singing Rinpoche learnt to chant.
Proceeds from the sale of the
album will go to the restoration of
the Gumba.
Swayambhu, one of the eight
cultural World Heritage Sites in
Nepal, needs restoration work and
better facilities. The butter lamps
also need to be improved as a year
ago, an accidental fire destroyed
the ancient Pratapur temple. Two
people were killed in a landslide
on the northern side, and the
eastern side remains in danger of
collapse.
Dharma Dhwani is available in music
stores for Rs 250.
Right now, prayers are what we need
MIN BAJRACHARYA
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
SPORTS
Hole after hole
Management of emotions on the
golf course can make it easier
V
ery often, we hear golfers say, “After a triple bogey in the
beginning, I lost my cool” or “I got angry and over tried, and
ended up dropping a few more strokes”. Golfers, especially
amateurs, get easily frustrated after a bad shot or a bad hole inviting
more bad shots and ruining their game. Why does anger and
frustration adversely affect a golfer’s game? Lets find out.
When a player swings the club, his entire body moves in unison
to make the swing. The ideal swing aims to follow the same swing
path each time at an identical speed to make identical contact with
the ball. These elements result in
the ball receiving an identical
TEE BREAK
amount of energy, direction and
Deepak Acharya
launch angle leading to identical
shots.
However, when a player gets angry or tries harder to produce
better shots, his thought starts to vary. This results in the pre-shot
routine changes in muscle tension level leading to minor variations in
the club head speed, direction of swing path and ball contact.
Changes in the state of mind ultimately change the overall ball strike,
hitting it in the wrong direction.
If you watch top players in action, they seem unperturbed after
bad shots or bad holes. With experience, I reckon, they are
convinced that good shots will also follow bad ones. They realise
they have many more holes to play and bad shots holes are as much
a reality of golf as good shots. This way, professionals are always
able to balance their scores in each round.
So what do you need to do to maintain an identical state of mind
and tension level? The answer is simple: switch off interfering
thoughts or better still, support the process by training yourself to
think identically. Positive visualisation can help it further. The bottom
line for consistency is follow an identical routine during shot making,
which gives each swing the best possible chance of success.
Coupled with patience, it will result in the highest probability of a
player optimising his skills.
In this era of golf, we hear about top players doing yoga and
meditation to compete at the highest levels. These practises help
maintain the tension levels of the mind and body while executing
shots on the golf course. As they say, golf is for those who have
patience and can keep their cool. Trust me, with routine, faith and
patience, existing abilities can produce better results. In the end, it is
about putting your belief to practice over a period of time.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Golf Director at
Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.
[email protected]
LUCIA DE VRIES
W
hen Pabitra Tamang’s
parents found out she
was suffering from a lifethreatening disease called aplastic anaemia, they took a
desperate decision: they left their
jobs as daily labourers to take care
of five-year-old Pabitra and her
two sisters.
With no money to pay the
rent, the landlord threatened to
throw them out of their tiny
Bhaktapur room. All three
children left school and moved
into the hospital, much to the
chagrin of the medical staff. Only
Pabitra kept smiling: she loved
the extra attention and her chance
to visit the hospital’s playroom.
While Pabitra received regular
blood transfusions and
medication, the hospital bills
increased. The small plot of land
back in Makwanpur district was
put up for sale but the Maoists
stopped them from selling it. A
loan was taken and the parents
started visiting churches to ask
for contributions. The doctors
said even with the best care
Pabitra would not survive long
unless she was taken to India for
bone marrow transplant or
immunosuppressive treatment.
Average costs for which was Rs
700. The parents were
bewildered. At the rate things
were going they could no longer
feed their children, let alone
travel to India.
Due to the armed conflict, the
number of destitute children
suffering from serious diseases is
increasing everyday. Especially in
the hills, village health facilities
have been seriously affected as
general health conditions
deteriorate. In 20 VDCs in Mugu
for instance, there is no health
care to be found. Mobility has
been hampered as a result of
which, an increasing number of
sick children arrive in the capital
with chronic medical conditions.
Treatment tends to be difficult
and costly. With no proper
government support system in
place, a growing number of
parents are left with only one
option: take their sick child
home to die. In some ways,
destitute Nepali families facing
7
Little heroes
No child should ever be sent home
without treatment for lack of money
or information
Pabitra Tamang on the
phone at the hospital.
severe health problems are worse
off than tsunami survivors in
other parts of Asia.
Some hospitals run some
sort of a welfare scheme. Social
Action Volunteers, started by
Father Eugene Watrin 20 years
ago, conducts programs in
villages in Kathmandu Valley as
well as in Kanti Children’s
Hospital. Food, clothes and
lodging are provided if needed,
as well as blood and some
financial support. Thanks to the
large number of student
volunteers in the program, each
year over 200 sick children are
supported in one way or the
other.
Jayanti Foundation,
established by Princess Helen
Shah in the memory of her
daughter Jayanti, donates the
income of Pokhara’s Fishtail
Lodge to support heart patients.
Each year some 120 patients
undergo sponsored heart surgery,
60 percent of them are children.
The organisation is supported by
Nepal Youth Opportunity
Foundation and a number of
hospitals, which provide 30
percent of treatment costs.
Unfortunately, due to reduced
incomes and Maoist threats to
close down Fishtail Lodge,
support is gradually dwindling.
Ganjala Outreach was
established last year in the
memory of eight-year-old Raju
Basnet, who died from untreated
a-plastic anaemia in September
2004. A group of concerned
individuals got together to create
a pool of blood donors and
establish a support system for
children such as Raju. Ganjala’s
founder Netup Lama dreams of
establishing a nation-wide fund
for ill and destitute children.
“The suffering of these
children in the hospitals of
Kathmandu is shocking. No
child should ever be sent home
without treatment, simply
because of lack of money or
information,” says Netup Lama,
who feels such a fund should be
initiated and managed by a
committed network of welfare
and business organisations.
Pabitra was lucky. Ganjala
Outreach requested the All India
Institute of Medicine to provide
heavily subsided treatment and
helped raise funds. Pabitra has
been in Delhi for the past month
and responds very well to the
treatment. From her hospital bed
she says she feels well and looks
forward to being reunited with
her sisters this week.
On Saturday, 12 February, Ganjala
Outreach organises Night for Little
Heroes at 1905, Kantipath to raise
awareness of funds for sick destitute
children. Contact: 9841-350008,
[email protected]
8
ENERGY
Hurrah, Nepal’s future is in the
Being able to turn cattle manure into cooking gas was the best thing that
NARESH NEWAR
T
hirty years ago, when
textile engineer John
Finlay was involved in
constructing a biogas plant for a
private household in Bhairawa,
the last thing he expected was
that the technology would
transform Nepal.
Finlay was a young and
ambitious engineer at the Butwal
Technical Institute set up by the
United Mission to Nepal (UMN)
in 1974. He was looking forward
to create small-is-beautiful
technologies that would help
Nepali farmers.
One day he met the Belgian
Jesuit, Fr Bertrand Saubolle at St
Xavier’s School in Godavari who
boiled water from a
demonstration gobar gas plant on
his balcony. You mixed cow
dung and water, put it inside the
drum and out came methane gas:
it was as simple as that. Finlay
nearly shouted “Eureka!” and
together with Saubolle began
designing lifesize models for
Nepali homes.
He went to Ajitmal across the
border in Uttar Pradesh in 1974
and met Ram Baux Singh of Gobar
Gas Research Station, the Indian
biogas pioneer. Together with
Nepali engineers, the first plant
from an oil drum was constructed
and exhibited at an agricultural
fair during the coronation of King
Birendra in 1975.
The government was so much
impressed that it launched a gobar
gas program and backed it up with
interest-free loans for farmers to
install plants. The United Nations
stepped in with subsidies and the
project took off. UMN helped set
up the private sector Gobar Gas
Company (GGC) in 1978 which
started building affordable biogas
plants with indigenously
designed underground digesters
that did not need maintenance
like the Indian drum model.
With the UMN, Agricultural
Development Bank and Fuel
Corporation as three major
shareholders, GGC built 10,000
plants in 10 years.
The Nepali biogas design was
so cheap and efficient that it
spread like a tarai grass fire. The
design proved to be far superior
and popular than those built in
India and China, where biogas
technology has existed for 100
years. They also had incredible
lifespans, some of the plants that
Finlay helped build 25 years ago
are still going strong. “Unlike in
India, over 95 percent of gobar gas
stations in Nepal have continued
to work,” explains Finlay.
By 1992, the Dutch aid group
SNV introduced a comprehensive
Biogas Support Program (BSP)
and Nepal’s biogas program was
poised for another big leap
forward. Financed with
microcredit hundreds of
thousands of new plants were
built across Nepal. Subsidised
loans made the plants affordable,
the farmers saved on firewood and
forests were conserved. Kitchens
became smokeless and children
didn’t fall ill. In addition, the
effluent slurry could be made into
rich fertiliser.
“Nepal is now the highest per
capita user of biogas in the world,”
boasts Sundar Bajgain of BSPNepal which has now spun off
from an SNV project into an
autonomous group. There are more
than 140,000 biogas plants all over
Nepal. The basic underground
dome design and the credit
subsidy model has been replicated
in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and
Cambodia where about 1.3 million
of people have access to biogas.
Biogas users in Nepal have been
reaping benefits for decades. All it
takes is an investment of Rs 11,000
but the rate of return is 35 percent
and the investment is recouped in
three years. It is a cheap alternative
to LPG, kerosene, firewood and
electricity. “The returns keep
coming throughout their life,”
explains Bajgain. According to
Alternative Promotion Energy
Centre, one biogas plant can save
two tons of fuelwood, 0.8 tonnes
of agricultural waste, 0.45 tonnes
of dung cake and 50 litres of
kerosene per household. And
women make up 90 percent of
the beneficiaries of gobar gas
because it saves them drudgery
and provides smokeless
kitchens. The organic fertiliser of
the spent slurry saves farmers
money because they don’t have
to use chemicals.
Biogas is now also going to
benefit the country because we
can claim compensation from
the International Clean
Development mechanism (CDM)
project for saving carbon
emissions into the atmosphere.
With the Kyoto Protocol going
into effect on 16 February, it is
possible for Nepal to actually
trade the carbon dioxide not
emitted by using biogas and earn
up to $ 5 million per year.
Unfortunately, Nepal has yet to
ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which
was an opportunity missed
during the Sher Bahadur Deuba
time when there was lack of
decision and parliamentary
mandate. Many are now pinning
their hope on the new
government which can make this
possible through a Royal
Ordinance.
“If we reach the target of
building 200,000 plants by 2009,
Nepal can claim $30 million
every year from the CDM,” says
Finlay for whom the success of
Nepal’s biogas program is also
his crowning achievement in
Nepal.
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
9
e dung heap
ever happened to rural Nepal
“A model for the
rest of the world”
Irishman John Finlay has been in Nepal for the last 30 years promoting biogas
technology. A self-taught engineer who never went to university, Finlay started as an
intern in a factory. Now nearing retirement, 66-year-old Finlay spoke to us about
Nepal’s manure wealth.
What is your overall impression about biogas development in Nepal?
All we did was try to show the way, I never thought it would be such a big hit.Nepal’s
biogas program is now an international model. It is amazing to see how a little
project we started in Butwal has now turned Nepal into a global rural development
phenomenon. I’m so proud of Nepal and the BSP and SNV have done a great job.
What was the reason for this success?
To start with, Nepal has quality designs. Around 1978, we were trying to find out how
to build a market and commercialise biogas on a large scale. We prioritised the
technical and engineering aspects trying out 10 different designs to find the cheapest
and best option that suited Nepal, requiring minimum maintenance. We worked on
appliances, stoves, gas stops which were all manufactured here.
Who has benefited the most?
Rural Nepal, and I feel especially happy for the women and children who are now
less burdened with gathering firewood. They save a lot of money from medical
checkups because they used to work in smoke-filled kitchens before. They used to
suffer from eyesores and lung problems. But not anymore.
Has it also helped the people financially?
They have saved money by using biogas. And a lot of jobs have been generated for
villagers. Many are working as masons and technicians to install as well as maintain
the plants.
And the future? What is there left to do?
There are still tens of thousands of gobar gas plants to be built. The gobar gas
worked so well that the country now has scope in applying the renewable energy
technology in electricity generation and solar energy.
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10
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
FROM THE NEPALI PRESS
Just couldn’t take it anymore
Himal Khabarpatrika, 29 January-11 February
Extortion by the Maoists have terrorised not just
businessmen and civil servants but also the poor
who cannot even afford a square meal. This fear is
stark in Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilbastu.
Dirgha Narayan Kewat is an ordinary wage
labourer in Butwal but the Maoists have demanded
Rs 60,000 and 10 quintals of rice from him. To
save himself, he took a loan of Rs 10,000 and
some rice to pay the rebels.
Murari Pahalman from Nawalparasi was
abducted in Rupandehi. He was released 22 days
later on condition that he pay Rs 160,000. “I sold
my land and paid the amount to save my life,” said
Pahalman, who joined a group of Nawalparasi
villagers waging an armed retaliation against the
Maoists. He sent his wife and children to India for
security. Mohammed Salam of Rupandehi fled to
India with his 10-member family after the Maoists
demanded Rs 200,000. Unable to endure the
constant pressure for donations from the Maoists,
several families have resettled in Butwal
according to Salam. Besides money, they were
also required to donate food grains.
The businessmen in Rupandehi receive the
worst brunt. Many of them have been asked to pay
between Rs 200,000 to 900,000. “Every time we
pay, they say it’s the last but the demands
continue,” said an hotelier. “Now they are asking
for even more, around Rs 800,000 from every
businessman.”
Many villagers from Paklihawa of Nawalparasi
have begun a team to fight against the Maoists. It
has spread to over six-dozen villages. Dipendra
Yadab, who is working with the Armed Police
Force, has also joined them. The rebels tried to
kill him while he was visiting his parents at
Paklihawa. Till date, more than a dozen villagers
have lost their lives in encounters with the
Maoists. They have so far managed to capture
and handover five Maoists to the local police. A
few weeks ago, while the Maoists were playing
carom, the villagers attacked seven of them in
Ratnaganj. They also killed the Nawalparasi
section commander after the Maoists asked for
Rs 30,000 from a farmer and handed Gita Poudel,
area member, over to the administration on the
same day. The villagers beat five Maoists to
death in Parsauni and Bedauli the next day and
set fire to several rebel shelters.
According to the village retaliation
committee, Suresh Yadab and Rakesh were
among the five Maoists killed, who had come on
motorcycles to ask for donations. On 9 January,
they killed a Maoist sympathiser in Bedauli. The
Maoists avenged by killing Ramkripal Gupta,
former chairman of the committee. “We have
asked the Maoists and their supporters to
surrender and join our team. Those who turned it
down have fled,” said Muna Khan, the committee
chief. Around 22 Maoists have surrendered so far
and are working with the villagers. “They feed us
confidential information,” said Khan. Today,
nobody can enter the villages without Khan’s
permission, not even journalists and human
rights workers. The committee has blacklisted
over two dozen rights workers and journalists
who visited the village during an observational
tour. The people who have to walk through these
villages are frisked and interrogated by the
retaliation team members.
Op-ed pages of Deshantar and Prakash weeklies.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“No individual in the current council of ministry is a decision-maker. The
decision maker now is the king who also has the prime minister’s portfolio.”
- Radha Krishna Mainali, Education and Sports Minister
9 Feburary in interview in Jana Astha
SELECTED MATERIAL TRANSLATED EVERY WEEK FROM THE NEPALI PRESS
Special envoy
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Nepal Samacharpatra, 7 February
In the wake of the latest
developments in Nepal, the
Indian government is preparing to
appoint a special envoy in order
to establish direct contact with
King Gyanendra. A source at the
Indian Embassy in Kathmandu
said the incumbent Indian
Ambassador Shiva Shankar
Mukherjee would continue but
India is keen on appointing
someone else as special envoy
considering the new
developments in the country. The
source added that the security
committee of the Indian cabinet
had recently held a meeting under
the chairmanship of the Indian
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
to discuss the appointment of the
special envoy. No name has been
fixed yet. To coordinate with the
international community on
Nepal, Britain appointed Sir
Jeffery James as special envoy to
Nepal. The Hindustan Times has
also mentioned the special envoy
proposal and says three possible
candidates, MK Rasgotra, KV
Rajan and Deb Mukherjee, were
discussed during the meeting of
the Indian cabinet’s security
committee. All three were former
Indian ambassadors to Nepal. The
Nepali Foreign Ministry however
is unaware of any such move. A
ministry official said India had
not informed the ministry
officially yet. “Perhaps they have
not informed us about it because
the name has not been decided,”
said the official.
Hydro power
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Rajdhani, 9 February
A micro hydropower project
under construction in
Solukhumbhu district’s Lukla
Bajar will save forests in
Sagarmatha National Park. The
100 kW micro hydro plant was
built on the Chaurikharka stream
in partnership with the Rural
Energy Development Program
(RNDP). The Buffer Zone Council
and the park chipped in Rs 1
million and RNDP contributed Rs
1.3 million. Local people
volunteered labour for
construction. Surya Bahadur
Pandey of the Department of
National Parks and Wildlife
Conservation said, “This is an
example of how national park
authority and the local people can
work together.” Local people are
happy the hydroelectric project
will help them conserve
rhododendron trees. “Now
deforestation will stop,” said the
Buffer Zone Council’s vice
chairman Dawafunti Sherpa.
“Without electricity people don’t
need to cut trees for fuel.” The
project will benefit 150 families
in and around Lukla and boost
tourism.
No scoop
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Nepal Samacharpatra, 8 February
Foreign journalists who came to
Nepal were caught with their
pants down when the
communication system went dead
just after the royal address.
Newspapers and television
stations around the world
decided to paradrop reporters
with satellite communication
equipment but many were stuck
at Delhi airport. “We arrived at
11AM but had to wait until night
because none of the flights were
able to fly to Kathmandu,”
explained a journalist who
arrived here at midnight. After
arrival, they couldn’t reach their
local contacts because the phones
were out. Their attention was
geared towards arrests of leaders,
press censorship and the
communication blackout. Most
have now left and moved on to
other stories because they
couldn’t find any scoops. They
were unable to meet any of the
detained leaders. Some, Sujata
Koirala, Minendra Rijal and Arjun
Narsingh went to Hotel Yak and
Yeti to offer interviews.
Radio news
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Editorial in Kantipur, 9 February
Radio came to Nepal in 1951,
barely 30 years after it became
widespread in Europe with the
BBC. Today, there are many
private FM stations in Nepal and
there has been a phenomenal
growth of radio making Nepal a
model for the developing world.
FM radio is constantly tuned on
everywhere, even in the taxis,
auto rickshaws and public buses.
It has already become a major
source of information for the
citizens whether it is about the
weather, flight schedule, traffic,
accidents and national issues.
Unfortunately, since last week
when the government stopped
radio stations from airing news
and programs, there has been an
obstacle in the development of
radio. Hundreds of media people
are out of jobs. Unlike the print
media, the FM stations are
heavily controlled as they can no
longer air any news and they feel
left out. The government probably
feels that radio stations will not
adhere to the notification given
by the government as per the state
of emergency declaration. But the
radio stations know they have to
be responsible and will work
within the limitations stated by
the government. On the contrary,
FM stations can make a
significant contribution in the
present situation by providing
responsible and credible
information.
e-expeditions
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Rajdhani, 8 February
For adventurers in foreign lands,
acquiring permission for
mountaineering in Nepal is now
only a click away. The Tourism
Ministry declared that it would
soon introduce a system through
which mountaineers can apply
for expedition permission on the
Internet. The Ministry will scan
the online application and let the
applicant know, also through the
Internet, if permission has been
granted.
According to the spokesperson
of the Tourism Ministry, Sharda
Prasad Trityal, all information
regarding application processing
will be posted on the website and
the application procedure will be
paperless. Mountaineers can
12
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
INTERNATIONAL
Jump-starting freedom
Just like you can’t be half-pregnant, you can’t be half-free
D
emocracy is supposedly on
the march in the Middle
East. But Arab dictators are
afraid of true democracy with its
civil liberties and competitive
elections, so they conjure up
potions that protect the status
quo by selecting bits of western
political models and adding some
religious interpretation to ensure
a patina of Islamic legitimacy.
Saudi Arabia fits this
ANALYSIS
Mai Yamani
description to a tee. Its rulers—
some of the most autocratic in the
world—say that democracy is
incompatible with Islam. So they
prefer the term ‘participatory
government’. But a majority of
Muslim scholars, including such
eminent men as the Sheikh of Al
Azhar in Cairo and the influential
Qatar-based Sheikh Qaradawi,
believe that Islam is compatible
with democracy, at least as they
define it: respect for the rule of
law, equality between citizens, a
fair distribution of wealth, justice
and freedom of expression and
assembly. What remains debatable
and contentious is the right of
citizens to choose their leaders.
Yet pressure to democratise is
mounting, in part due to the
smaller Gulf States, which
compete with each other in
democratic reforms. Qatar and
Oman have elected consultative
councils and enfranchised
women. Parliamentary elections
are to take place in Kuwait and
Bahrain, and at the end of last
year, Sheikh Mohammad al
Maktoom, Crown Prince of Dubai,
suggested Arab leaders must
reform or sink. Iraq’s elections
turned up the pressure even more.
So, threatened as the regional
hegemony, Saudi Arabia has
joined the reform race by
announcing partial municipal
elections to consultative bodies
in which the royal family already
appoints half the members. The
first election were held in the
capital of Riyadh on 10 February,
followed by the oil rich eastern
region and the southern Asir
region on 2 March, and Mecca and
Medina in the western Hijaz
region and al Jouf, in the northern
Region, on 21 April.
The government describes this
as a ‘new political era’. But
women remain excluded from the
vote despite attempts by several
to participate in areas that the
Wahhabi religious authorities
deem acceptable to the ‘nature of
women’. Moreover, in accordance
with Saudi tradition, the ruling
family appoints a prince as
chairman of the general
committee overseeing the
elections—a sign not of wider
political participation but of
business as usual.
Despite efforts led by Crown
Prince Abdullah to urge
participation, voter registration is
low, which suits the government
as high turnout could lead to the
development of an electoral
culture. Low turnout, by contrast,
could convince western audiences
that despite the Saudi state’s best
efforts to jump-start democracy,
its people are satisfied with the
status quo.
In a Black mood
A movie that provides some solace in troubled times
T
he late Kathmandu winter has turned
dreary, creativity is stifled and so it is
time to visit the Jai Nepal theatre and
take in Bollywood’s latest offering. Though
it is a gloomy tale of pain and loss and
despite some loose ends which will
certainly deprive it of an anticipated Oscar,
the movie Black has the ingredients to uplift
the spirit. Bollywood is finally waking up to
the
desire
SOUTHASIA BEAT
for good
Kanak Mani Dixit
cinema
and the
senses that benefit reach out across Indian
frontiers.
Hindi films have always been a
Southasian phenomenon, since when
Lahore was the centre of celluloid and the
Pathan hunks had yet to migrate south to
Bombay. But back then, the language was
Hindustani of the folk boli rather than the
stultifying labaj preferred by latter-day
Bombay scriptwriters. That was also the
time when the titles and even casting used
to be in three scripts: English/Roman,
Hindi/Nagari and Urdu/Arabic. Somewhere
in the 1980s, the Urdu quietly slipped out
with political realignments in the northern
subcontinental plains. As maverick
filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt told this writer a
year ago, “What a good idea! Yes, let us
bring back Urdu!”
In Black, director Sanjay Leela
Bhansali provides superstar Amitabh
Bachchan with the opportunity to observe
Saudi intellectuals attribute
the lack of voter interest to the
absence of free expression and
assembly, which frustrates
genuine political participation.
Moreover, leading reformers have
been jailed since last March for
signing a petition asking for a
constitutional monarchy, which
has reinforced the general lack of
trust in the government’s
agenda.
If Saudi Arabia’s rulers were
serious about ‘participatory
government’, they would
encourage liberals, moderates
and pragmatists. Instead, they
repress, censor, silence and even
imprison the moderates and
appease the religious radicals.
penance for all the television commercials
he inflicts upon satellite television
audiences from Chittagong to Quetta. It is
a well-crafted film based on the story of
Helen Keller, with a fine performance by
Bachchan as a tippling teacher past his
prime who, towards the end, succumbs
convincingly to Alzheimer’s. He takes on
the mission of rescuing the being of a
hearing and sight impaired Anglo-Indian
Shimla girl, played by Ayeesha Kapoor
who grows up into Rani Mukherjee.
The film is targeted at the urban and
non-resident Southasian (NRSA) uppercrust and packs a sophistication to match.
A production such as this is made possible
through diversification achieved by the
Indian film market and the emergence of
the stand-alone Anglophone upper middle
class audience. Gone (perhaps) are the
days of one-size-fits-all films with generic
packaging including three-hour length, six
to eight songs, stereotyped characters and
melodrama that simultaneously
incorporate extreme tragedy and comedy.
Continuing segmentisation has made a film
like Black viable, with nary a song, at
under two hours, and a poignant plot that
demands subtlety in performance and
presentation.
When Bollywood brings out fine Hindi
films, all Southasia joins in the pleasure.
We cannot live the fiction that only (North)
Indians watch these productions. But the
incongruity remains: even though the
larger audience knows no boundaries
these films are made for an audience
within India and the expat NRI. That is why
unsettling chauvinistic productions like
Gadar (2001) hit the big screen with
regularity and we can only hope for the day
when the international box office takings
The authorities have killed some
of the more violent jihadis in
their ‘war against terrorism’ but
they fear that a wider crackdown,
however necessary, would alienate
important tribes and clans.
Despite cynicism, apathy,
frustration, despair and violence,
some Saudis still hope for the
emergence of a prince on a white
horse who will place the kingdom
on the path of reform. But there is
no such prince, there are only the
old ones, clinging to power
without legitimacy and toying
grotesquely with their people’s
aspirations. Project Syndicate
Mai Yamani is an author and Research
Fellow at the Royal Institute for
International Affairs.
from the Southasian diaspora will reign in
the producers. Damage done by the
Pakistan-bashing jingoism of a single Gadar
cannot be undone by 10 saccharine-sweet
bhai-bhai films such as Veer Zaara (2004).
For the moment, the gentrification and
enhanced quality of Hindi films has
benefited the urban ‘A’ segment and
Southasian diaspora: the lower stalls are
pronouncedly empty. We await therefore a
further evolution to provide the larger
population of the Indus-Ganga basin with
better fare. Otherwise, we will forever be
stuck in a time warp with bizarre films like
the Lahore-made Joh Dargaya Woh Margaya
(1996).
As production technologies become
cheaper and there is a diffusion of skills,
some simultaneous trends must be
encouraged. Firstly, there has to be
devolution of Hindi filmmaking power from
Bombay to other centres. It is incredible and
unnatural that no more than a handful of
megastars monopolise a market of nearly
half a billion. Other centres of film
production must evolve in Hindi and as the
regional economies expand, they must take
in Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi and so on.
The turn of the wheel will also hopefully
and at long last bring back regional cinema
to the north of the Subcontinent, emulating
what has happened in the south. If celluloid
is to bring quality entertainment to the thirsty
masses, beyond Hindi and its dialects,
cinema has to be (re)discovered by Bengali
and Punjabi Oriya, Asamiya, Sindhi and
Nepali.
While we await this utopian future, it is a
good idea to go see Black, as a motion
picture that provides some solace in
troubled times and as a harbinger better
things ahead.
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
CITY
ABOUT TOWN
FESTIVAL AND EXHIBITIONS
Saraswati Puja on 13 February.
The Solitude of Colour Paintings by
Binod Pradhan at Siddhartha Art Gallery,
Baber Mahal Revisited. Until 18 February.
4411122, 4218048
Peaceful Breathing Exhibition of
ceramic works by Jang Moosik at Buddha
Gallery, Thamel. Until 15 February.
4441689.
Exhibition of Japanese Kites and Tops at Nepal Art Council, 8-17
February, 9.30 to 4.30 PM.
Sama Theatre Festival at Gurukul, Maitidebi, 4.30 PM onwards. Till 13
March. 4466956
EVENTS
Night For Little Heroes on 12 February at 1905, Kantipath. Proceeds go to
Ganjala Outreach for ill, destitute children. 4225272, 4215068
Prajatantra Dibas Long live democracy on 18 February.
Taudaha Jamboree on 12 February. Entry Rs 75(students), Rs 100(Nepalis)
and Rs 200(foreigners). 4470 770, [email protected]
Kathmandu Chorale Rehearsals, 7.10 PM at The British School,
Jhamsikhel. 5534737
Sanibaar Mela Every Saturday at the Dharahara Bakery Café, 12AM-5PM.
3rd Annual Wave Web Winner 2004 Website designing contest. Entry
deadline 15 February. www.wavemag.com.np.
The God Dance of Kathmandu Valley Tuesdays at Hotel Vajra. 4271545
MUSIC
Last Waltz at Moksh, Pulchok on 11 February, 6PM onwards. Jam session
with Full Circle, 1974AD, McTwisters and Lolo. 5528703
Good Time Blues Band at Rum Doodle every Friday, 5PM to 7PM.
4701208, 4701107, [email protected]
Classical vocals and instrumental music, 7PM onwards, every Friday at
Hotel Vajra. 4271545
Jatra Saturday nights with Looza, 6.30 PM onwards. 4256622
Jukebox experience with Pooja Gurung and The Cloud Walkers every
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Rox Bar. 4491234
Happening live jazz in town at Upstairs Jazz Bar, Lajimpat. Every
Wednesday and Saturday, 7.45 PM onwards.
FOOD
Executive Lunch Every Saturday and Sunday, 11AM to 2PM, all through
February at Moksh, Pulchok, Jhamsikhel. 5528703
Barbecue Dinner Every Friday at the Summit Hotel. 5521810
Taste of Thailand at Rox Restaurant, Hyatt. 4491234
Seasons Special Luncheon at the Shambala Garden Café, Hotel Shangri-La
for Rs 450. 4412999
New delicacies Introducing pastas and snacks at Roadhouse Café,
Jawalakhel. 5521755
Sizzling Weekend Treat with live music, dance, barbeque and karaoke at
Garden Terrace, Soaltee Crowne Plaza. 4273999
Delicious barbecue dinner Fridays at Summit Hotel. 5521810
Farm House Café Unlimited nature with delicious meals at Park Village
Hotel. 4375280
Café Bahal Newari and continental cuisine under the giant Cinnamon tree at
Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel. 4700632
Barbecue-Ban Bhoj at Godavari Village Resort. 5560675
Splash Spring BBQ Wednesday and Friday evenings, 6PM onwards.
Radisson Hotel, Kathmandu.
The Beer Garden at Vaijayantha, Godavari Village Resort. 5560675
Dwarika’s Thali Lunch at the Heritage courtyard. 4479488
The Tharu Kitchen at Jungle Base Camp. [email protected]
GETAWAYS
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge Pure relaxation to escape the Kathmandu
chill. 4361500
Shivapuri Heights Cottage Great views, birdwatching and tranquil
atmosphere at the edge of Shivapuri National Park. [email protected]
Chiso Chiso Hawama One night two days package for Rs 1,700 at Club
Himalaya. 4411706
Jungle Base Camp Lodge, Bardia, special package and prices.
[email protected]
Malaysia Dream Holidays Packages starting from Rs 45,500 per person.
2012345, [email protected]
Getaway package Night’s stay at Godavari Village Resort, includes dinner
and breakfast. 5560675
AAA Organic Farm and Guesthouse Rs 950 with three meals. 6631734
Temple Tiger One night package $250. 4263480
Machan Wildlife Jungle Resort special packages available. 4225001
Weekend Special at Park Village Resort, Budhanilkantha. 4375280
Jomsom Mountain Resort Two nights-three days at Rs 5,999 for Nepalis,
$199 for expats including airfare and food. 4496110, [email protected]
JAI NEP
AL CINEMA
NEPAL
14
Michelle McNally (Rani Mukherjee) is special in more ways
than one. She cannot see, hear or speak. She inhabits a world
of infinite black, of a seamless, endless void where nothing
reaches her and she reaches nothing. On the sheer will of her
ferocious rage against destiny, Michelle struggles to stay afloat
in the impenetrable whirlpool her life has become. Into this
devastating isolation enters a battle weary teacher, Debraj Sahai
(Amitabh Bachchan). With a single-minded obsession, Debraj
takes up the challenge to lead this wild, uncontrollable child into
the light of knowledge. Thus begins a journey of two headstrong
individuals.
Call 4442220 for show timings
www.jainepal.com
Now Showing
KATHMANDU AIR QUALITY
As the weather warms up, Kathmandu Valley’s inversion layer is not as persistent
and this has led to a slight improvement in concentration of fine dust in the air. But
pollution level is still on the high side. The concentration of particles below 10
microns (which are dangerous because they are small enough to enter human lungs
and stay there) along busy streets like Putalisadak and Patan Hospital last week
were two times the national standard of 120 micrograms per cubic metre. Only if
you live in rural areas of the Valley such as Matsyagaon and Kirtipur, will you be able
to breathe freely.
16 - 22 January 2005 in micrograms per cubic meter.
Source: www. mope.gov.np
Good
< 60
Ok
61 to 120
Unhealthy
121 to 350
Harmful
351 to 425
Hazardous
>425
Putalisadak
Patan H
Thamel
Kirtipur
Bhaktapur Matsyagaun
by MAUSAM BEED
NEPALI WEATHER
Due to the winds of change from the
west, Nepal got precipitation well above
normal in December and January. This
is expected to continue this month also
as the westerly jet stream is still intact
over the Himalaya. This satellite image
from Thursday morning shows a fresh
westerly front advancing over the
Pamirs expected to reach us over the
weekend. The good news is that the
frosty weather could dissipate faster
due to warmer afternoon sun. In
February, the Valley normally receives
18 mm rainfall when mercury level
fluctuates between two to 20 degrees
in average. The weekend will see cloudy
intervals with the possibility of light rains
over the higher mountains. Thereafter
the days will be warmer while the nights
will be less frosty, but still chilly.
KATHMANDU VALLEY
Fri
Sat
Sun
Mon
Tue
19-5
18-4
20-2
21-1
20-3
Walkathon Postponed
We wish to inform that the walkathon scheduled to be
organised on Feb 17, 2005 has been postponed for an
indefinite period. We wish to thank all those friends,
supporters and well-wishers for their goodwill gestures.
Radio Sagarmatha/Nepal Forum of Environmental
Journalists (NEFEJ) Family
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
Guitarrista de Nepal
M
NEPALNEWS.COM
BUTTER LAMPS : Women lighting lamps to celebrate the royal
proclamation of February First on Tuesday at Darbar Marg.
MIN BAJRACHARYA
SATELLITE WORKS: AFP’s Deborah Pasmantier reports on location
via satellite phone during a rally at Putali Sadak on Thursday.
SURESH NEUPANE
SANDS OF TIME: Sand mining has resumed in the past week after
being banned for 10 years because it undermined the foundations of the
Bagmati Bridge.
KIRAN PANDAY
IN TOUCH AGAIN: Internet surfers at Newa Cyber Cafe, Thamel soon
after access to the Internet was restored on Tuesday.
KIRAN PANDAY
LET THERE BE LIGHT: A woman lighting lamps at Boudha on Losar,
which fell on Wednesday.
ukti (left, first row) and his
several bands of brothers
have consistently kept the
blues alive in Nepal for more
than 20 years. He has
transformed from a boy
dreaming of being in a rock
band to forming some of
Kathmandu’s most happening
groups, from becoming a father
and businessman in Spain to
returning to the music scene
here time and again.
Mukti grew up listening to
everything: from ethnic Newari
music to his older brother’s
strumming and singing. “My
brother would leave the guitar in
the room after he was done and
then I’d pick it up and have a
go at it,” recalls Mukti. In
1979, as a teenager, he
formed a band called
Radium in which he
was the bassist. He
got himself a
custom-made guitar
from India and soon
life was swinging. “For
a while it was what we’d
dreamt of,” he says of
fame, parties and money,
but creative differences
cropped up and the
band split.
In 1982, Elegance
was launched with
Mukti as lead
guitarist. The
members shared their
vision of writing
Nepali originals to playing
western covers. It was difficult
making ends meet. “Now I hear of
singers making money, buying
bikes and cars after releasing an
album,” says Mukti, “Things were
different back then.”
Mukti moved to Spain with his
Spanish wife, Maria. The blues
man turned into a businessman,
shuttling back and forth for three
years before he packed up his
ventures and returned to music,
15
doing everything from busking on
streets to jamming with bands.
In 1996, the first Mukti and
Revival performed their last show
together in Basantapur. Their
opening act Newaz impressed
Mukti and they later morphed into
the new Revival with Roshan,
Upendra, Rabindra and now Maria.
In 2000, Mukti and Revival
released its hit debut album
Kalanki Ko Jam. The second
album Bujhai Deu was released
in 2003.
This time, Mukti has come to
Nepal not for music but for the
Samyak Mahadan, a Buddhist
festival that takes place every 12
years at Swayambhu. Mukti’s
father has chaired the organising
committee for 48 years now and
this is the second time Mukti has
worked as the festival’s chief coordinator.
“I came for a different reason
altogether, I wasn’t planning on
recording anything,” he says.
But Roshan had arranged for
a concert in Shillong on 6
February so Mukti’s stay in
Nepal has been extended.
“I figured the band might
as well record a few songs
since I’m going to be here
for awhile,” he adds.
Mukti also fronts a blues
trio called Mn’M in
Spain and says with a
grin on his face: “We’re
not that famous in
Spain but most people
around our town know
me as that guitarrista
from Nepal.”
Kashish Das Shrestha
ANUP PRAKASH
11 - 17 FEBRUARY 2005 #234
All the news that
is fit to print
Statutory Notice: An official Fact-finding Committee has pre-tested this
column on lab animals and certified that it contains permitted synthetic
dyes and preservatives and has declared it fit for human consumption
provided the childproof seal is not broken at the time of purchase.
However, one can’t be too careful during these perilous times so readers
are advised to exercise individual
caution on a case-by-case basis.
UNDER MY HAT
Management is not responsible for the
Kunda Dixit
consequences, especially if
perpetrators are apprehended
perusing this in broad daylight, charged with indecent exposure and
sentenced to 36 lashes with a wet rattan cane on each hind cheek.
Now that we have those legal niceties out of the way, we can get down
to what you have all been impatiently waiting for with barely-concealed
boredom, which is a roundup of this week’s main events:
Togo Felicitated
HMG has congratulated the Democratic People’s Republic of Togo on the
smooth transition to a new government.
A free email SMS was sent to the new leader of Togo, Dr Sir Tyronne
George Baboonga Wala-wala, MBE, wishing him personal happiness and
prosperity and the Togolese people continued progress in their relentless
march towards being a pariah state.
“We know what it is like to be one of the poorest countries in the world
and it heartens us to see that you are doing a great job maintaining that
position and being reviled by the international community,” the message
read, adding, “one has to do what one has to do.”
In another congratulatory message the Chairman of the Nepal-Togo
Friendship Society expressed the hope that bilateral relations between the
two countries would expand in the years to come in the spirit of
panchashila and mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial
integrity. He added: “I am glad to note that there are no major bilateral
irritants between Togo and Nepal, and we hope that will change in the nottoo-distant future.”
Nation Already in Ballantine’s Day Mood
Every country in the world marks the International Day of Love on 14
February in its own quaint way and Nepal is no exception.
This year’s Ballantine’s Day will be celebrated for three days
nationwide in a grand manner under the slogan ‘Make Love Not War’. Most
people will stay at home to implement it (but only in groups of five people
or less) nursing scotches on the rocks and drinking themselves silly,
according to a press release issued by the Chairman of the Publicity subCommittee of the All-Nepal Ballantine’s Day Commemoration Main
Committee.
“You’ll all be pleashed to know, hic, that at the present time advansh
shelebrations have already shtarted,” said the sub-Chairman of the Nursing
Committee at a pre-launch press conference, denying rumours that he was
sloshed. “My speech may be slurred, but I am not plastered,” he added,
instructing journalists to exercise restraint and only report “the tooth and
nothing but the tooth”.
CDO Regd No. 194/056/57 Lalitpur, Central Region Postal Regd. No. 04/058/59
www.nepalitimes.com ISSN 1814-2613
16

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