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Lawmaker: End Chhaugoth demolition drive 

Nepal Communist Party MP Gajendra Bahadur Mahat has demanded an end to an ongoing drive to demolish Chhaugoth, an outdoor shed where women are exiled to during menstruation, mainly in western Nepal.

Speaking at the parliament on January 31, Mahat, a lawmaker from Jumla, claimed that the Home Ministry, which is spearheading the campaign, was terrorizing his constituents under the pretext of ending Chhaupadi.

“Our homes are being demolished in the name of Chhaugoth. Is it okay to demolish homes because one person died in a hut? Eight people have recently died in a hotel. Shall we demolish the hotel too? Thousands of people are dying in bus accidents each year. Does that mean we now resort to burning buses?” he asked the Speaker referring to the death of a woman in Achham last month which sparked the campaign.

On 2 December, Parbati Buddha Raut, a woman from Achham, was found dead inside a Chhaugoth in the far western district. Following her death district administration offices across the far and mid-western Nepal started demolishing menstrual sheds. The drive has drawn criticism from some quarters who say that the government should first work on “demolishing the sheds that are inside people’s minds.”

FNJ rejects qualifying exam for journalists

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) has asked the government to  remove a clause added to the controversial Media Council Bill that would require aspiring journalists to pass a written examination in order to start a career in journalism. Issuing a statement on Thursday, January 30, the FNJ said that the clause was against the spirit of freedom of the press and the Constitution.  

Earlier in the week, the Legislation Committee of the National Assembly had endorsed the bill, which came under fire initially for having provisions which authorized the Council to hand out hefty punishments for journalists found guilty of violating the Council’s code of conduct. While the amended bill has removed the provisions related to punishment, it added a clause prescribing eligibility criteria for future journalists. Among others, the clause states that an individual would have to first obtain a license through written examination in order to pursue journalism.

Picture Credit: Federation of Nepali Journalists

Following criticism, the Minister for Information, Communication and Technology has said that it would remove the provision of written examination from the bill.

MCC to be endorsed by the winter session

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that the ongoing winter session of the parliament would endorse a bill concerning the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, a multi-million dollar grant scheme through which the United States would invest USD 500 million in infrastructure projects in the country.

“There are several bills that need to be passed including the MCC which has come a long way, passing various steps through tenure of six or seven prime ministers and is awaiting approval of the parliament,” the prime minister told the parliament on January 28.

A day later, PM Oli, while addressing the ongoing central committee meeting of the Nepal Communist Party, urged party members not to mistake the MCC as being part of the Indo Pacific Strategy.

Although supported by the opposition parties including Nepali Congress, several NCP leaders are calling on the government to reject the fund, describing it as a component of the US’s Indo Pacific Strategy, which seeks to strengthen US cooperation with the region stretching from India to the west coast of the United States. Analysts see the IPS as a strategic counterbalance to China’s increasing geopolitical power and ambitions.

SC refuses stay on Speaker appointment 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, January 28, refused to stay the appointment of Nepal Communist Party MP Agni Prasad Sapkota as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. A single bench of SC Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla, however, has summoned authorities concerned to submit a detailed report of the investigations surrounding the charges against Sapkota. Malla has also ordered Sapkota not to misuse his office to influence the case against him.

Senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi had filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on January 24, seeking a halt to the election process and requesting the court to order Sapkota’s immediate arrest citing his alleged role in the killing of a school administrator during the Maoist insurgency.

The petitioner argued that Sapkota is unfit for the office as the Speaker is also an ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council which is also responsible for appointment of justices and heads of constitutional bodies.  Sapkota was elected unopposed to the post on January 26.

NCP Central Committee meet

Executive Chairperson of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proposed to hold the party’s general convention in April next year. Dahal made the announcement while presenting a political document on the first day of the party’s central committee meeting underway at City Hall in Kathmandu.

Picture Credit: RSS

In his political document, Dahal has described infighting, factionalism and lack of discipline as a threat to the institutionalization of the ruling party that was formed through merger between the erstwhile UML and CPN (Maoist Center) parties.

NCP central committee members are putting forth their views on a document that is set to serve as a foundational guide to the party’s future plans in order to strengthen itself on the organizational, ideological and political fronts.

Other urgent issues surrounding the government and the party including MCC, issues of governance, border dispute with India, and NCP’s performance in by-elections are being discussed at the meeting. The meeting amended the party statute to appoint Bamdev Gautam as the vice chair.  

The conclave ended on February 2 after unanimously endorsing a joint political documents presented by party Oli and Dahal.

Government official charged with embezzling nearly a billion rupees 

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a graft case against Rajendra Basnet, a government clerk, charging him with embezzling around 89.8 million rupees during his career as an office assistant at the Land Revenue Office in Chabahil in Kathmandu.

Basnet, who joined the civil service in 1988, was first caught red-handed while receiving NPR 1,100,000 in bribe on 11 October 2018. The anti-graft agency in its charge sheet filed before the special court on January 30 has named Basnet and also his wife, mother and a nephew for aiding and abetting him in hiding the money.