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Nation Weekly July 25, 2004, Volume 1, Number 14 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-07-25

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 THE NEW BUDGET I WAR OF INTELLIGENCE I CASINO ECONOMY
JULY 25, 2004 VOL. I, NO 14
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COVER STORY
20 Alternate Highways
By Satishjung Shahi
Both the 72-km. Kathmandu-Hetauda Tribhuvan Rajpath as well as the Prithivi
Rajpath are now too clogged and risky for traffic during monsoon
Dead End
By John Narayan Parajuli
There's no shortage of ideas for alternatives to the Tribhuvan and Prithvi
Highways. Officials however are indifferent
Interview: Madan Gopal Maleku, Director General ofthe Department of
Roads
COLUMNS
11 AIDS in Focus
By Suman Pradhan
At the World Conference on AIDS,
three issues stood out—all directly
linked with U.S. policies
29 Political Logjam
By Lok Raj Baral
If all agree on the agenda of
constituent assembly without any precondition, the prospects of ending the
logjam are clear
30 Patchwork Green
By Samuel Thomas
Conservationists have pushed the idea
of community conservation areas for
some time now. Why is this all the
more relevant today?
38 Policing Traffic
By Deepak Thapa
If the traffic police really want to be
effective in preventing accidents, there
is a lot they can do beyond checking
licenses or issuing tickets for illegal
parking
40 Casino Economy
By Ujol Sherchan
'There's a brand new gimmick everyday
Just to take somebody's money away"
18 Women At Work
By Satishjung Shahi
The Royal Nepal Army is preparing to
cast off its traditional image by
recruiting women into the regular
forces. They will do jobs that have so
far been handled only by men in green
battle fatigues
26 War Of Intelligence
By John Narayan Parajuli
The Army and APF have helicopters
and big guns, but they seem to be
fighting the intelligence war almost
unarmed
BUDGET 2004-05
32  Walking The Tight
>j_   Rope
ByB. L. Narayan
Itwas never going to be an
W^   f      easy budget. The Finance
Minister made
compromises on all fronts—and with
all political players—and ended up
presenting a run-of-the-mill document
that lacks much imagination
ARTS & SOCIETY
34  Woodcutter Who
Dances
BBy Sanjeev Uprety
Natwar Tharu has two major
interests: to go around the
village performing his
tradition dance and to cut
wood
36
m
Reigning Story
Teller
By Sushmajoshi in Vermont
Even Moore may have been
unprepared for what is
happening with his new film
that aims to dethrone Bush
DEPARTMENTS
6
10
14
16
39
44
45
46
LETTERS
PICTURE OF THE WEEK
CAPSULES
BIZ BUZZ
CITY PAGE
KHULA MANCH: SASHI MANANDHAR
BOOKS: THE DA VINCI CODE
LAST WORD
 ■■Nepal has a vibrant
3      press, all right, but
the vibrancy often
deviates
w
PETERJAMES
In Your Honor
Honor without reward means little (Re:
"In Your Honor," Gurkhas, July 11). It is
good to see a young journalist like Satish
Jung Shahi introducing the Gurkha Museum in Pokhara to the readers. But it is
more important to highlight the exploitation ofthe Gurkha soldiers, indeed of
martial races from Nepal as a whole, in
the British Army.
It is unfortunate that the Gurkhas are
struggling to preserve the "status" of their
museum and, in extension, their history If
we only could tap the goodwill and trace
all the money that is supposed to have gone
into the welfare the Gurkhas, we would
not only secure ourselves a well-managed
Gurkha Museum, but also provide
healthcare, education and other services
for the welfare of our ex-servicemen and
their families. But the big question is: who
will bell the cat? While millions of rupees
are spent each year in reunion parties, I
have to say with great sadness that we could
not save the Victoria Crosses of our gallant
soldiers for the Gurkha Museum.
YAM GURUNG
RETD. BRITISHARMYSOLDIER
IALITPUR
All's not lost
Cricket probably tops the list of unpredictable sports ("All's Not Lost," Cricket,
July 18) .You never know when the tides
will turn and the Davids will bring the
Goliaths tumbling down. The best of
teams have had shock defeats at the hand
of supposed minnows. We have only to
look back at the performance of Kenya in
the 2003 World Cup to understand the
rather capricious nature of the game.
Nepal's defeat in the last ACC trophy—
Qatar playing the spoilsport this time—
came as no big surprise to me, unlike what
you made it out to be. These things happen in cricket, even with the best of teams.
There is no point in unduly criticizing
our cricketers; they have been doing exceeding well in the last couple of years,
bar a few glitches now and then. Nepal
will qualify, I believe, for the ICC trophy
in Ireland next year. Let us continue to
support our budding cricketing stars. A
year ago, I firmly believed Nepal would
secure a World Cup slot for the 'West
Indies 2007," and my faith in our team has
JULY 18, 2004   |  nation weekly
 not been shaken. Let us not forget, cricket
is still in its infancy in Nepal, and it will
be some time before we consistently perform well at the international level. We
played all our matches on artificial pitches
not long ago. Now, we have proper
cricketing pitches with first-rate turfs;
and, we will boast a cricket academy soon.
Besides some on-field disappointments,
we have achieved a great deal in a relatively short time. It may, after all, only be
a matter of time before we start delivering the goods on the field—and consistently as well. We have always had good
bowlers and our fielding has been very
impressive. The tough art of batting will
take some time to blossom, though. But
things are looking up. The players themselves have raised their bar—illustrated
by the disappointment ofthe Nepali captain, Raju Khadka, after the defeat to
Qatar—which only bodes well.
I agree with Vaidya on his larger message, though: that all is not lost. The sheer
number of cricket enthusiasts makes me
believe: outside the 10 Test-playing
countries, Nepal has the brightest future.
The ICC may have so much in mind in
awarding the Asian Cricket Council
academy to Nepal. Of all international
sports Nepal participates in, cricket is
probably the best hope for putting us on
the international map. Though football
is undoubtedly more popular, let's face
it, it will be ages before we make any
mark in the Asian scene—let's not even
talk about the world stage.
We should keep supporting our
cricketers, every way we can. The government should pay heed to the sentiments of commoners and identify more
resources for the development of the
gentlemen's game in these not so gentlemanly times.
PARAS ADHIKARI
SIMALTAR
Belly or the beast
I agree with Ersty Fisher that Thamel is
just a part of Nepal, and not Nepal itself
("The Belly Of The Beast," Arts & Society, July 4). Tourists flock to Thamel and
yet you see them doing the same thing
they do back home: spend hours at cyber
cafes, talk about western meals while
having dal-bhat. It appears that many of
them have traveled to Nepal just because
it is much cheaper to be here than back
home. They should try to understand
Nepal for what it is and not see it through
the lens ofthe guide books.
KRISHNA THAPA
KATHMANDU
It's futbol
The FIRST PERSON column by Jenny
Maya "It's Futbol" (July 11) is more appropriate for a magazine of
teenyboppers, not Nation Weekly. On
the other hand, as a fan of Sushmajoshi,
I think her article carried under the column VIEWPOINT lacks a definite point
of view ("Middle Class Race," Viewpoint, July 11). Her piece is basically
descriptive—her observation ofthe mall
culture and so on. It is more like a first-
person account than an argument piece.
Her writing could therefore have come
under FIRST PERSON instead of
VIEWPOINT.
BISWAS POKHREL
KOTESHWOR
Seize the day
The "Last Word" this week had one of
your better editorials ("Seize The Day,"
Last Word,July 18). A foreigner living in
Nepal for the past few years, I am not
much of an expert on Nepali politics.
But I am well aware ofthe situation that
led to the breakdown of the two peace
processes. You make a strong case for a
roadmap and that it was the absence of
one that led to the breakdown of two
rounds of peace processes. I am especially impressed with your criticism of
the press coverage during the peace process (a belated mea culpa?) and your attempt to see what ails Nepal's media. As
you put it, Nepal's media indeed has
been part ofthe problem. You only have
to turn the pages ofthe newspapers to
see that their coverage suffers from an
extreme degree of myopia, and even anarchy. Nepal has a vibrant press, all right,
but the vibrancy often deviates so far that
the reader fails to get any perspective. As
you put it, "As journalists, are we just
writing stories that we want to believe?"
I ask this question to all media persons,
including you.
PETERJAMES
VIA E-MAIL
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Vol I, No. 14. For die week July 19-25, 2001, released on July 19
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nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
 POLITICS SPORTS ARTS AND SOCIETY OPINION
Did you, too, O friend, suppose
democracy was only for
elections, for politics, and for
party name? I say democracy is
only of use there that it may pass
on and come to its flower and
fruit in manners, in the highest
forms of interaction between
people and their beliefs—in
religion, literature, colleges and
schools—democracy in all
public and private life...
Walt Whitman
 DEVELOPMENT
EDUCATION
CIVIL CONFLICT
BUSINESS
No Light
At The End Of
The Tunnel
ALTERNATE
HIGHWAYS
www.nation.com.np
EVERY      MONDAY
 ofthe
.
LITTLE BHANU BHAKTA: Pallavi Bhandari, a sixth-
grader of Bhanu Bhankta Memorial School poses
as Aadi Kabi Bhanu Bhakta to mark the late
poet's 191st birth anniversary
nation weekly/Sagar Shrestha
 Meanwhile
AIDS In Focus
At the World Conference on AIDS, three issues stood out—all directly linked with U.S. policies
BY SUMAN PRADHAN
FDr much ofthe past week, the world's spotlight was once again
on HIV/AIDS, thanks to the 15th World AIDS Conference in
Bangkok. Several issues pertaining to the deadly virus and disease were hotly debated. Three stand out.
The first is access to anti-retroviral drugs therapy. The second is ABC
(which stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, and use Condoms), which the
United States is pushing as a means to fight the spread of HIV. And the
third is the U.S. government's penchant to bypass international mechanisms. Before we discuss these issues, let us begin with a simple fact:
No, there's still no cure for HIV. It looks years away.
Now to the three hot topics. Access to affordable drugs has been a
major battle cry for AIDS activists since scientists developed a potent
cocktail of anti-retrovirals (ARV) in 1996 to combat the spread ofthe
virus in the body. In Bangkok, 'Access for all "was indeed the theme of
the conference. The drugs don't cure the disease but help to keep the
immune system stronger for long periods and therefore extend productive lives. For these reasons, AIDS today has been a manageable disease in rich countries.
But in poorer countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, HIV infection is
largely still a death sentence. That is because the anti-retrovirals are
expensive. A year's supply costs well over US$ 4,000 for a patient,
which even in the developed world is considered expensive. This is why
governments in rich countries have
stepped in to ensure that the ARVs are
available to those in need.
In Asia and Africa however the costs
ofthe drugs and the sheer number of
infected people has led to much finger-
pointing. Poor countries once used to
argue that the pharmaceutical manufacturers in the west (who research, develop and market the drugs under brand
names) have kept the prices deliberately
high and out of reach ofthe poor. The
western companies responded that the
high prices reflected the high costs of research and development without
which the drugs would never have been developed in the first place.
This debate pitted morality against intellectual property rights, and
ultimately led to the rise ofthe generic drug manufacturers. Generic drug
manufacturers produce the same ARVs but they don't put a brand name
on the drugs. These are less expensive because the generics don't have
to recoup costs of research and development, and rarely do they spend
much in marketing.
For countries in the middle of an HIV epidemic, the generics provide
a cost-effective way to combat the spread ofthe disease. India and
Brazil, which have a relatively developed pharmaceutical manufacturing base, allowed their drug companies to produce ARVs in bulk. These
countries were also instrumental in pushing for a significant concession
from the WTO by way of which patent rights on life-saving drugs can be
XV International AIDS
Conference Bangkok
suspended in case of national health emergencies to allow for bulk
generic drug production.
Generic ARVs have been a boon to poor governments. The generics
have another advantage: since they don't adhere to patent rights, they
can combine two or three different drugs to make a single pill. This makes
it easier for infected people to comply with the medication.
In Bangkok, the ARV debate was largely centered around the U.S.
government's policy. Having initially fought for patent rights, the United
States agreed to the WTO concession. But the $15 billion President
Bush promised last year to fight HIV/AIDS around the world is largely
spent on purchasing brand name drugs from western manufacturers.
Under current policies, no recipient of U.S. aid can purchase generic
ARVs. They have to stick to buying branded drugs.
The issue is important because, though cost ofthe branded drugs have
themselves been slashed (and in some cases distributed free bythe manufacturers), they are still expensive. Though the United States has now simplified how foreign generic manufacturers can get their ARVs approved (they
have to apply for a review by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration), it still
hasn't satisfied the activists because, as one put it recently, "this means the
FDA will act as a supra-national body for clearingall generics."
The ARV debate is directly connected to the second hot issue in the
Bangkok conference. The ABC campaign—modeled along the successful
program in Uganda—is controversial because the U.S. government puts
enormous emphasis on A (abstinence from sex) than on C (condom use).
This isa politically-weighted decision, especially in an election year, because the
Bush administration has a large religious
base to please. Activists want more emphasis on C than on A because they
feel A is impractical while C has been
proven to halt HIV's spread. The fear
among activists is that, putting emphasis on abstinence over condoms merely
risks the lives of women.
The third hot topic, again, is connected
to the Bush administration, particularly its
penchant to bypass global mechanisms.
The prime example is Bush's plans to spend US$15 billion on HIV/AIDS.
The plan, launched in early 2003, pledges to provide anti-retroviral treatment to two million people with HIV, prevent seven million new HIV infections
and offer care to 10 million people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS,
including orphans and vulnerable children in 15 focus countries.
But activists decry that rather than work through the existing global
mechanisms, the U.S. plan works unilaterally. They charge that the United
States is putting conditions on poor governments who are in need of
funds to fight HIV. This is the reason why French President Jacques
Chirac castigated the Bush administration in Bangkok by accusing the
United States of "blackmailing developing countries into bartering their
right to produce generic HIV drugs for free-trade agreements."
This istheAIDS debate in a nutshell. □
suman66@hotmail.com
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
11
 support
SANGINA
through letters, greeting cards, emails
for the 2004 Olympic games at Athens.
(Sangina is the first Nepalese ever to qualify for the Olympic games)
O
.Let's tell
Sangina
"the nation is with you"
Just a few encouraging words from you can help Sangina fulfill
her dreams and bring pride to our nation. So, gear up right now
and send in your messages to the following address:
SANGINA GREETINGS,
G.P.O Box 660, KATHMANDU
Email: sangina@greetings.lnfo.com.np
www.ictc.com.np/sanglna
Campaign is supported by
™hi JsiiNVsi Committed to the nation
All the messages will be handed over to Sangina at an official function, before her departure to Athens.
Media Support
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 Capsules
NSU coup
Nepali Congress (NC) dismissed the central committee of its student organization,
the Nepal Students' Union,
headed by Gagan Thapa and
Guru Raj Ghimire. Both were
at the forefront ofthe "anti-
regression" movement and
are said to be at loggerheads
with the party geneal secre
tary Sushil Koirala, who announced the decision. The
party formed a 30-member ad
hoc committee to prepare for
the next NSU convention
and elections. Keshav Singh,
a Koirala loyalist, was nominated the president of the
committee.
Endangered sites
Kathmandu-based World
Heritage Sites are at risk of
losing their venerated status.
So much was said in a meeting ofthe UNESCO World
Heritage Committee held in
China. The warning comes
amid concerns that the sites
have been constantly eroded
due to uncontrolled urbanization. Seven groups of
monuments in Kathmandu
Valley, including the three
Durbar Squares of
Kathmandu, Patan and
Bhaktapur, with some 130
monuments in total, fall in
UNESCO's list. In the meantime, the committee has put
these sites on the endangered
list and withheld the decision
to remove them from the list
until its next meeting.
Court refusal
The Jalpaiguri District Court
in West Bengal refused to release Maoist leader Mohan
Baidhya on bail despite a
lower court order to do so.
Baidhya has been in custody
since he was arrested in
Siliguri on March 29. Kantipur
quoted Anup Mitra, Baidhya's
lawyer, as saying that a petition
would be filed at the Kolkota
High Court regarding the district court's refusal to release
Baidhya. Baidhya is said to be
the second-in-command in
SAUDI ABUSE
Foreign workers in
Saudi Arabia are get
ting a raw deal from
the Saudi judiciary, the New
York-based Human Rights
Watch (HRW) said. Foreign
workers—who comprise
one-third ofthe kingdom's
population—face torture,
forced confessions and unfair
trials when they are accused
of crimes, it said. There are
as many as 100,000 Nepalis in
Saudi Arabia, according to
unofficial estimates. One
such Nepali, Jit Govinda
Maharjan was killed in the
city of Jeddah on June 29 in
what was believed to be a hit-
and-run case. Maharjan had
reportedly left his job after
the Maoist hierarchy. Outgoing Indian ambassador Shayam
Sharan told the Nepali media,
"The Indian legal system is
complicated. If produced before a magistrate or law, the law
takes its own course. After that,
extradition cannot take place
unless legal process goes
through."
No respite
Dhan Bahadur Bam, mayor of
Dhangadi, was shot dead by a
suspected Maoist. He was
shot while coming out of his
office and died on the way to
the hospital. His driver also
sustained bullet injuries.
There have been a series of
attacks on heads of local bodies who have been ordered
by the Maoists to step down.
Harka Bahadur Gurung and
being harshly treated by his
employers. The HRW report
titled "Bad Dreams" documents the failure ofthe Saudi
government to enforce its own
labor laws in the face of significant abuses of foreign
workers.
Gopal Giri, mayors of
Pokhara and Birgunj, have
died in such attacks while
the Punaram Pokharel,
mayor of Butwal, had a narrow escape.
Skull sale
Human skulls exported from
Nepal were seized in
Canberra, reported The
Herald Sun in Australia. The
officers of Fair Trading were
quoted as saying that they had
found an importer bringing
decorated human skulls, said
to be up to 100 years-old,
from Nepal and selling them
in Australia. They were sold
as decorative items and serving bowls. The seller had
been advised that the sale of
human skulls was potentially
an offence under Australian
law. The skulls are no longer
on sale in the market.
Refugee issue
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat
will holds talks with with his
Bhutanese counterpart on the
sidelines ofthe SAARC foreign ministerial meeting in
Islamabad this week. Mahat,
who leads the Nepali delegation to the meeting, will hold
talks with Bhutanese Foreign
Minister Khandu Wangchuk.
About 100,000 Bhutanese
refugees have been living in
seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal for more than 13
years.
14
JULY 18, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Railway connection
The first cargo train from India arrived in the Birgunj dry
port. The train from Kolkata
came in with food items sent
by the United Nations' Food
and Agricultural Organization. Nepal and India reached
a railway agreement last year
to make the dry port operational. This latest development has been hailed as a milestone for Nepal's trade. The
railway connection would cut
the transportation costs, The
Himalayan Times quoted the
Secretary of Industry, Commerce and Supply
Purushottam Ojha as saying.
Chinese reply
The Chinese Embassy said
that the verdict sentencing
two Nepalis to death have not
yet come into force. Ishwori
Kumar Shrestha of
Sindhupalchowk and Rabi
Dahal of Morang were
handed death sentences on
charges of drug trafficking and
have appealed to a higher
court. The embassy was responding to a plea made by
the wife of Shrestha and human rights organizations, including the Amnesty International. Concerned Nepalis
should believe that the Chinese court will take due
course making a just verdict,
the embassy said, adding their
concerns will be duly communicated to the Chinese
authorities.
Royal snag
Crown Prince Paras escaped
from a major road mishap in
Pokhara. Newspapers reported that the prince's car
skidded off the road after hitting a ditch around 7 a.m. at
Sahid Chowk on July 11. Rumors are rife that the Crown
Prince was behind the aerial
firing in the premises ofthe
Hotel Everest in the early
hours ofthe day before. He
had reportedly spent time at
the Galaxy Disco at the hotel
till the wee hours before flying to Pokhara the next morning. The Palace has remained
silent over the incident.
Student fees
The task force entrusted to
revise the school fees has put
the monthly ceiling for the
urban areas at Rs. 450 for primary level, Rs. 550 for lower
secondary level and Rs. 650
for secondary level. In "municipality areas," the school
fees for the same levels stand
atRs. 500, Rs. 600 and Rs. 700.
Similarly, the fee arrangements for the rural areas are
Rs. 300, Rs 400 and Rs. 500.
However the report allows
schools some room for flexibility, putting the ceiling 50
percent higher in case where
the concerned schools have
additional facilities. The
taskforce also recommends
scholarships for 10 percent of
the total student body.
Rain havoc
Heavy rains in Eastern Nepal
continued to wreak havoc
with the death toll exceeding
100. While the Eastern and the
Central Regions remained
flooded, Doti in the Far-
western Region faced an
acute drought. With rice saplings going dry, farmers dependent on rains were wor
ried that they would lose the
staple crop for the season.
Only a small number of farmers with irrigation facilities
have escaped the dry spell.
SAARC sore
Around 142 private contractors, mostly involved in the
face-lift constructions in the
Valley during the SAARC
Summit in 2002, are organizing a relay sit-in in front ofthe
Department of Roads (DOR)
office in Babarmahal. President of Kathmandu Valley
Construction Committee
Purna Bahadur Tamang told us
that the government still hasn't
paid Rs. 165.6 million it owes
them dating back to the Summit. DOR Director General
Madan Gopal Maleku said the
payments had been delayed
because no budget had been
allocated for construction
work during the SAARC
Summit He said the payments
will now be made through the
DOR's own accounts.
Army response
The Royal Nepal Army has
court marshaled a soldier
who had shot dead a civilian,
Rajiv Shrestha, in a road rage
incident in Kathmandu last
November. Shrestha's car had
hit an Army bus. Army officials told us the action was
taken in view ofthe possible
use of "excessive force" by the
soldier." "It wasn't murder,"
RNAs head of human rights
cell Brig. Gen. B A Kumar
Sharma told Nation Weekly.
"But the soldier has been jailed
for two to three months." He
said the case did not need to
go to a civil court as demanded
by the Nation Human Rights
Commission as the soldier
was in a security operation
outside the barracks.
Botched attempt
Ulas Vaidya, an official ofthe
Nepal Electricity Authority,
was killed during an attempt
by security personnel to round
up a suspected Maoist activist, Krishna Adhikari. Adhikari
was caught red-handed while
Vaidya was handing him counterfeit notes. Earlier, Vaidya
had informed the security
personnel ofthe extortion attempt and they had promised
him a security cover. Vaidya
was hit by a stray bullet when
the security personnel opened
fire at Adhikari who died amid
a hail of bullets. The Maoists
later said Adhikari was not
their cadre.
BUDGET FOR SALE: Street hawkers selling copies ofthe Financial Ordinance
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
15
 Biz Buz
NABIL BANK CELEBRATES
20 YEARS OF SERVICE
Nabil Bank, the first joint venture bank in Nepal
completed its 20 years of service on July 12.
Initially christened as Nepal Arab Bank Limited, it started with its first office at Kantipath
in 1984 under the technical service agreement with Dubai Bank Limited.
Today, Nabil Bank has 18 branches
across the country. Recent investments in
its computer systems and hardware communications now have made it possible for
the bank to provide customers access to their
accounts and services from any branch. The
bank is also in the process of rolling out a
comprehensive network of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) at prime locations in Kathmandu,
Pokhara, Biratnagar, Dharan and Butwal.
The Bank offers Visa Electron debit card, local currency Visa and MasterCard, foreign currency MasterCard, US Dollar MasterCard and
foreign currency travel quota MasterCard. On
the credit loan side the Bank offers products
ranging from customers loans like Auto, Home
and Personal loans to corporate facilities to national, regional and multi-national corporations
and business houses.
BRAND AMBASSADOR
NIMA RUMBA
SUBISU has appointed pop-star, Nima Rumba
as its brand ambassador. SUBISU has also
launched "Cablenet" becoming the first company in Nepal to provide internet through cable.
Users can also watch over 68 television channels over the same connection. The company
uses fiber optics technology and provides other
facilities like "virtual private network," "video on
demand" and "conference vlan." The monthly
service fee for daytime users is Rs. 2515 and
for nighttime users is Rs. 1315. The speed limit
over SUBISU's connection is 64 kbps.
CHINA OUTBOUND SEMINAR
A two-day seminar was organized by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and PATA Nepal Chapter on
"China Outbound" in Kathmandu. The main
objective ofthe seminar was to disseminate
the most updated information on the Chinese
outbound market.
Addressing the participants were several distinguished personalities like John Koldowski, Managing Director-Strategic Intelligence Centre, PATA
Headquarters, Mr.
TonyTSEof
the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of The Hong Kong
Polytechnic University    ^te
and Mr. Sim KokChwee, Director, PATA Headquarters. The habits and idiosyncrasies ofthe Chinese traveler, their likes,
dislikes and jinks which make a difference to
their lives were discussed in a presentation
"Knowing the Chinese Traveler." Participants
also discussed Nepali tourism products. Mr.
John Koldowski and Mr. Tony Tse made presentations on crisis management while the NTB
outlined its promotional activities in China. Fifty-
four participants from the private sector, Nepal
Tourism Board and PATA Nepal Chapter participated in the seminar.
TVS-E PRINTERS
Speed International Pvt. Ltd., the authorized
distributor of TVS Electronics in Nepal, launched
a new range of TVS-E printers. TVS Electronics
has offered a two-year warranty on all models
ofthe dot matrix printers. Gartner and IDC Survey 2003 and DCQI Survey 2003 have rated
the TVS-E printers as number one in terms of
sales and services in India. The company is
promoting these printers as being value for
money in terms of reliability, technology and
prices with affordable prices and economy rate
of printing. The TVS-E printers are claimed to
be suitable for offices, factories and business
houses.
ADB LOWERS LENDING RATES
ADB has lowered its lending rate for US dollar
pool-based loans. For July 1 to December 31
this year, the rate will drop to 6.09% from 6.27%
per annum in the previous half-year. While the
average cost of borrowings during the first half
of 2004 of 5.69% per annum was as compared to 5.67% in the previous half-year; 0.20%
per annum ofthe lending spread was waived.
On 29 April the conversion of the multi-currency pool-based loans to Japanese yen pool-
based loans was completed. For July 1 to
December 31 the lending rate for Japanese
yen pool-based loans will be 1.93% per annum as compared to 2.13% in the previous
half-year due entirely to the waiver of the
lending spread. The average cost of borrowings during the first half of 2004 has
remained at 1.53% per annum.
NEPAL SALES MISSION
IN SRI LANKA
Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) in association with the Royal Nepalese Embassy in Sri Lanka organized the first
ever Media and Tour Operators Meet in
Colombo on July 13. The meet organized at
the Taj Samundra aimed to develop the tourism ties between Nepal and Sri Lanka and to
increase the awareness about Nepal as a tourist destination. Some 75 representatives comprising of top Sri Lankan Tour Operators, media
persons and other important dignitaries attended the program. The Nepalese ambassador to Sri Lanka Bala Bahadur Kunwar was the
chief guest ofthe program.
Colombo is connected to Kathmandu via India, South East Asia and the Middle East by
various airlines at an affordable price. Last year
the Nepali embassy in Colombo had issued
about 4000 tourist visas. Nepal and Sri Lanka
have also identified common products for products and marketing linkages in the region.
NIBL APPOINTS NEW CHAIRMAN
The Board of Directors of Nepal Investment
Bank Ltd unanimously elected Prithivi Bahadur
Pande as the Chairman ofthe Bank on July
13. Pande who is also the Chief Executive Director ofthe Bank, was appointed in place of
former Army chief, Dharmapal Bar Singh Thapa
who resigned from the post in June. Mr. Pande,
will now hold both positions. Pande, a Chartered Accountant has been in the banking sector since 1978 and started at Nepal Rastra
Bank where he
worked for 12
years in various
capacities. In
1991, he set up
Himalayan Bank
Ltd. as a founder
member and
served as the
Chief Executive
for 10 years.
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 Armed Forces
The Royal Nepal Army is preparing to cast off its traditional image by recruiting women into the regular forces.
They will do jobs that have so far been handled only by
men in green battle fatigues
BY SATISH JUNG SHAHI
AT THE BASE OF PEACEFUL
Swayambhu lies the well-
guarded military base of
Chhauni. Inside, the Jag Dal is living up
to its name. Jag, "foundation" in English,
is the new Royal Nepal Army base for
training women for the regular forces, a
first for the nation's largest organization.
The scene in the parade grounds is
unique: women in battle fatigues carry
Indian INSAS rifles and perform tasks
such as crossing the teda-meda (zigzag)
bar, climbing a "nine-foot ditch" and doing the monkey crawl. When the Nation
Weekly team reached the Jag Dal for an
exclusive photo-op last week, the 200
women trainees were practicing the drill
for their passing-out ceremony, slated
for July 30. Their five-month training,
Army officers say, featured the same full-
fledged curriculum—including physical
training, weapons handling and military
operations—that men have to undergo.
"The women aren't behind their male
counterparts," says Royal Nepal Army
spokesman Brig. Gen. Rajendra Thapa,
who was earlier with the Army's legal
cell. The Army first started recruiting
women in non-technical field in 1998—
a member ofthe batch, Evita Rana, also
ofthe legal cell, now holds the distinction of being the first RNA woman to
serve overseas. She was posted in East
Timor last year. But the 200 women currently training in Chhauni are the first
batch of all-women regular recruits.
Women's recruitment in the Army
dates back to 1962 when they served as
nw/SS
nurses and parachute folders (in "technical" fields), but this is the first time
women are graduating in the non-technical field or, as spokesman Thapa stresses,
"the regular Army." These women will
now do jobs that have been handled so far
only by men in green battle fatigues.
Among them are three "single women,"
whose husbands died fighting the Maoist
rebels. All other trainees are unmarried
and between the ages of 18 and 22.
Chief of Army Staff Pyar Jung Thapa
told a military gathering marking King
Gyanendra's birthday early this month
that the Army planned to strengthen its
women forces up to five percent ofthe
Army personnel, whose number currently stands at around 78,000. Already,
new applicants are being screened for
the next batch of 250 women, who will
start training immediately after the first
batch graduates.
Not everyone supports the idea of
inducting women in the armed forces,
currently engaged against the Maoists.
"The decision (to recruit women)
emerged from the basic reality ofneed-
18
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 ing more bodies in the fight against the
Maoist insurgency," writes Seira Tamang.
Recruiting women for certain positions
will enable militaries to free more men
to fight, she argues.
According to spokesman Thapa, the
current trainees will work as technicians, computer operators, military police, band musicians and drivers. "Every
few months you'll hear that new fields
have been opened for women, though
we cannot say if women will make it to
the battle frontlines immediately," he
adds. The British Army still does not allow women to serve in a combat role in
the armed forces, though the policy is
currently under review.
"We have now overcome the psychology that mixing up genders could
create problems in barracks," says
spokesman Thapa. "The only problem
right now is to slowly build the infrastructure for new women recruits in all
military installations. That needs to be
tackled phase-wise."
Senior Army officers say women soldiers will substantially enhance policing as they can body-search women without offending them. Their presence will
also assist in ironing out security mat
ters as Nepalis have been found to be
more open to women.
The idea of recruiting women in the
Royal Nepal Army didn't come easily
though. Ironically, many say, it was the
massive recruitment of women by the
Maoists since 1996 that opened doors for
women in the Army. The wife of influential Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai,
herself a NCP (Maoist) central committee member, is on record claiming that
women comprise about 40 percent ofthe
party's militia.
Officials however dismiss any comparison with the Maoists. "The decision
to recruit women would come over
time," says spokesman Thapa. "Like any
other institution, the Army too has a history that is not possible to change overnight. It was the same case when women
first entered the banking sector, and many
people perceived it as a negative." Going
at least by the number of applications
the Army received—as many as 1,300 for
the current 200 seats—the Army officials
are positive that's not the case. Let's hope
it remains that way.  E
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
19
 Both Tribhuvan Rajpath as well as
Prithivi Rajpath are now too clogged
and risky for traffic, especially during
monsoon. Considerable research has
been done on alternate highways, but
very little has been done on the
ground in making them a reality
BY SATISH JUNG SHAHI
IN BHAKUNDE BESI
i
S IN EVERY MONSOON, KATHMANDU WAS STRANDED FOR
days early this month. Both the major highways linking the capital to the rest ofthe country were blocked after incessant rains
caused landslides in at least three different places. And as usual,
vegetable prices shot up as news ofthe landslides made headlines.
The stories are the same each year: heavy rainfall, landslides, blocked highways and stranded passengers. "It looks
\ as if people in Kathmandu have taken landslides and blockades as part of their daily lives," says Bikram Karmacharya.
He came to Kathmandu from Pokhara on a marketing assignment for his biscuit
company, Karmacharya Biscuit, but got held up by a landslide in Fishling for hours.
"It's surprising that the government hasn't come up with fresh alternatives rather
than just fix broken highways each year."
Continued on page 25.
 *LL<m
 Story
ftgfH YWB BeJi^Sway
Satish Jung Shahi of Nation
Weekly talked to Madan Gopal
Maleku, Director General ofthe
Department of Roads.
Haven't we spent too much
money on road maintenance?
Proper maintenance is a necessity. Our study shows that if we
spend Rs. 1 on maintenance, you
will likely save Rs. 2 in something
else. If the roads are well kept,
you will save time and you are
most likely to use lesser spare parts
and your vehicles are likely to depreciate even lesser. Road maintenance is like housekeeping.
What are the other
alternatives available?
We have already initiated the work
of bu i Id ing a fast-track that wi 11 connect Kathmandu to the East-West
Highway in Nijgaad along Patlaya
near Birgunj. The Japanese will be
conductinga feasibility study soon
after monsoon is over. We have
plans to build tunnels at landslide-
prone areas. The cost is going to
be very high but it will be the most
reliable highway and will connect
Kathmandu to Tarai in one and a
half hours.
How will that be of help?
It is normal for people abroad to
travel up to one and a half hours
to work. The Kathmandu-Nijgaad
Highway will allow people to live in
Tarai, even Hetauda, and come to
work daily in the capital. Also, the
present international airport in
Kathmandu has no space for expansion. The private sector has already been invited to submit their
proposals regarding the airport.
What about the existing
Pharphing-Kulekhani-Hetauda
road?
Half of that highway is just an inspection road built by the
Kulekhani Dam. The rest was built
by the local VDCs to connect the
villages. It cannot take heavy loads
and is extremely steep. Al I that can
pass through are vehicles up to
mini trucks and that would not be
economically viable. The cost to
revamp the Kanti Highway is a
huge investment amounting up to
an estimated Rs. 3 billion.
Is the Banepa-Bardibash Highway going to be of any help?
It is going to help Kathmandu connect to the east and will reduce
travel time. But the Kathmandu-
Nijgaad Highway is still going to be
more efficient as we are talking
about vehicles that can ply at an
average 60 kilometers per hour
along that highway.
When do we get to see the
completion of that plan?
It is a fast-track so we would also
like to see it completed fast. Itmight
take up to five or six years.
THE ROAD BUDGET
PRIORITIES: 2004-05: Outreach districts without road connection; complete bridges under construction; implement projects in the Mid-Western and
Far-Western Development Regions; and
extending road network throughout the
country.
Feasibility study of fast-track connecting Kathmandu to the East-West Highway within four months and begin construction.
Encourage private sector in the construction of tunnel, fast-track, urban
road, electric train and rope-way under
the Build-Operate-Own-Transfer
(BOOT) system.
TOTAL ALLOCATION: Rs. 5.5493
billion - Construction of roads, bridges
and maintenance.
STATUS COMPARED TO LAST
YEAR'S BUDGET: Increase, by 36.5
percent.
ALLOCATIONS: Rs. 893.8 million -
Road Networking and Development
Project of Dolalghat-Chautara, as well
as upgrading and construction of
Belbari-Chauharwa, Damak-Gaurigunj,
Biratnagar-Rangeli-Urlabari, Pauwa
Bhyanjyang-Phidim, Basantapur-
Chainpur-Khanbari and Hile-Basantapur
Has the Maoist insurgency in
any way affected your work?
It has made construction of new
roads difficult in the rural hills, as
we cannot use explosives to clear
up huge boulders. In some places,
we have taken help from the security forces but that is very much
minimal.
How do you view the new budget as the head ofthe Department of Roads?
The government has always made
transport a top priority and has allocated funds for the right project.
Our job is to create new roads
and blacktop existing rough
roads. You have to see the road
network as key in poverty alleviation. Roads help us with national integration as
well as creating new
opportunities for the
villagers on innovative
businesses such as
herbal and horticulture,
for example. Roads will
also help eradicate social tensions from which
the Maoist insurgency
arose. I am so far happy
with what the government has done, though
this could have been
done at a fester pace. ■
sections; Rs. 774 million - Complete
blacktopping of Gorusinghe-
Sandhikharka Road as well as maintenance and upgrading of Tribhuvan Highway, Silgadi-Safebagar, Harthok-
Tamghas, Lamahi-Kohalpur, Shaule-
Silgadi, Mohana-Attaria and
Narayanghat-Butwal sections; Rs. 767
million - Construction of 30 bridges;
Rs. 460 million - Sukhet-Jumla Highway; Rs. 362.8 million - Maintenance of
total 4000-kilometers of roads under the
Road Board; Rs. 245.5 million - Additional 12-kilometers of Bishweshwore
Prasad Highway.
OTHER ALLOCATIONS: Trishuli-
Shyabrubesi-Rasuwagadi Road and
Thankot-Chitlang sections of
Ganeshman Singh Highway.
22
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 DEAD END
There's no shortage of ideas for
alternatives. Officials however are
indifferent
BY JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI
Are you tired of Kathmandu's heavy dose
of pollution, traffic-snarling protests and
exploding population? How about commuting to the warmth and open spaces of
Hetauda or thereabouts after work? Sounds
like science fiction, doesn't it?
Perhaps not. All great projects—the Taj
Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and even Singha
Durbar—started with bold imaginations. As for
Kathmandu, it is clear that alternate highways
are becoming a necessity, not a choice. This
need is felt acutely each year in the monsoon
when traffic on the roads to the capital comes
to a standstill for days and the country's nerve
center remains cut off from the rest ofthe country. Early this month, it happened one more
time.
"It took me almost three days to reach
Kathmandu," says Sandeep Bhandari, a resident of Damak, Jhapa. On July 11, Bhandari
had to walk across a makeshift bridge on the
Rapti River, near Hetauda, with his heavy luggage and then change over to another bus. It
was also a time of heavy rain. Bhandari's experience epitomizes the discomfort thousands
of passengers have to bear annual ly. Are there
alternatives?
Experts say there are many. Two stand out:
the Hetauda-tunnel link road and the
Kathmandu-Birgunj railway project. Although the
feasibility studies on these projects were done
years ago, lack of proper initiative and policy
have left them unexplored. There is also a psychological reason behind this inertia: we fail to
look beyond our immediate needs. That goes
for our officialdom too.
With the Tribhuvan and Prithvi highways, the
only major links between Kathmandu and Tarai,
crumbling under heavy traffic and heavy
weather, the need for an alternative is strongly
felt. "The government needs to decide on an
alternative link real quick that would cater to
the country's growing needs for notjust 10 or
20 years but for 100 years," says Badri Nath
Khatiwada, a long-time proponent ofthe ambitious Kathmandu-Birgunj railway.
However the response from the concerned
authorities is so halfhearted that no one be
lieves that an alternative link will be coming
anytime soon. "As an alternative to existing highways, we are exploring the possibility of building
either the tunnel link road or a railway line,"
Tirtha Raj Sharma, Secretary at the Ministry of
Physical Planning and Works, told a press gathering last week. There was little discussion on
specificities.
Such remarks have been churned out with
routine regularity for the last 50 years with nothing to show except grand plans. And now as the
clamor for an alternative highway grows, officials have started down another road: seeking
Japanese support to bail out Nepal's troubled
transport routes. But officials are still undecided
as to which option to pursue. "We will let the
Japanese decide on the alternative," says an
official.
The feasibility study ofthe Hetauda-tunnel
link road was completed almost 10 years ago,
bya private firm supported by FINIDA, the Finnish International Development Agency. A private construction company, R.S. International,
even submitted a proposal showing its interest
in constructing the tunnel link road.
Officials at the Ministry of Physical Planning
and Works are however apprehensive about
the proposal. A year ago they raised the issue
of cost. The estimate for constructing the 65-
km tunnel road was about $167 million then.
Although the benefits of a tunnel road, which
could cut the distance by more than one-third,
are clear, there are concerns about the safety
of the tunnel, and its ecological impact. The
tunnel passes through an area that is prone to
geographical hazards like flash floods and landslides.
Engineers at SILT Consultants, who conducted the feasibility study, put it differently. "If
wejust stick to the issue of safety, nothing can
be done. Maybe the critics are questioning our
expertise in tunnels, but let's put it this way: if
everyone had become cynical about the safety
aspect, perhaps no tunnel would have been
built around the world," says an engineer with
thefirm, insisting anonymity. He thinks that this
is a very lucrative and viable project for private
companies. "The rate of return is very high,
and private companies would find it interesting," he adds. However, the government officials do not seem to find the project as interesting and the construction is unlikely to go
ahead anytime soon.
Senior engineers are increasingly rallying
behind another major option: the Bagmati corridor project, which includes a link road and a
railway. Both these projects would follow the
course ofthe Bagmati River. Engineers say that
the railway is the best alternative considering
geological and economic factors.
Infrastructure Nepal, a private consulting
firm, conducted a pre-feasibility study ofthe
railway link some 10 years ago. The idea is to
build a two-track broad gauge railway line along
the Bagmati River to Birgunj, a distance of 135
km. Electric trains would pass through the
Bagmati gorge to Thingal, then to Chhatiun in
Makwanpur, on to Nijgadh and Patlaiya, and
finally to Birgunj. The proponents of this project
argue that it is eco-friendly, cheap, fast and, to
top it all, would cater to the needs of the
Kathmandu Valley and the country as a whole
for over 100 years. Experts put the cost of
building the railway system at around $175
million, as expensive as the Middle Marsyangdi
Project that never got off the ground. NEBECON
did a similar study on the road link along the
Bagmati corridor.
Although the projects seem attractive, proponents complain about the government's
apathy to an alternative plan. A study of Nepal's
transport needs reveals that the capital has
required an additional highway every 20 years.
The requirement will continue to grow: an alternative highway or mass transportation railway
system is unavoidable. The longer insurgency
and complacency put off the decision, the more
expensive will the alternative become. ^
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Continued from page 20.
Both the 72-km. Kathmandu-
Hetauda Tribhuvan Rajpath as well as the
Prithvi Rajpath (that links Kathmandu
to Pokhara built by the Chinese in 1972)
are now too clogged and risky for traffic
movement, especially during monsoon.
Considerable research has been done on
alternate highways, but very little has
been done on the ground in making alternative highways a reality.
The Birendra Rajpath, which links the
60-km. stretch between Pharphing to
Hetauda via Kulekhani, is one such alternative. When the Nation team visited the
highway up to Talku in Dudhechaur VDC
on a motorcycle last Tuesday, the four
meter-wide highway was barely passable,
especially the slippery slopes.
"You will meet the pitch road after
Indra Sarowar, Kulekhani (23 kilometers) and then follow the rest ofthe road
comfortably till Hetauda," a local resident, Binod Kumar Bhandari, told us.
Though occasional motorbikes were still
taking to the road, the bikers told us that
they were only traveling to adjoining villages and larger vehicles avoided the
route throughout the monsoon. According to Bhandari, microbuses charged Rs.
250 for a three-hour ride from Kalanki
(in Kathmandu) to Kulekhani last winter along the same route. "There were
even a few large buses that plied this route
when the Maoists called a banda in
Dhading (along the Prithvi Rajpath)," he
said. "But the security forces halted
movement of heavy vehicles, saying it
could damage the Kulekhani Dam."
Prem Shahi, an engineer with Welink
Associates, who was conducting a private feasibility study to blacktop the
Birendra Rajpath, said the highway could
be used as an alternate route to connect
the Valley with Tarai. "It is extremely important, as we do not have any alternative so far," he said. Like others, he has
no idea when the potential alternative
will translate into a reality.
It's pretty much the same story with
the Kanti Rajpath that connects
Kathmandu with Hetauda via Thankot.
There have been researches on and off
but little progress on the ground. And
the same applies for a Japanese-conducted survey on the Ring Road-
Sitapaila-Dharke (Dhading) highway.
Of all these, the most feasible alternative is the 158-km. Dhulikhel-
Bardibas B. R Highway that is currently
being built with Japanese assistance. We
drove up to Dapcha Bridge, Bhakunde
Besi, some 18 kilometers from
Dhulikhel, last Thursday. That stretch
ofthe highway has been blacktopped and
Here's a common refrain:
development projects are
being stalled due to the
Maoist threats
NORMALCY RETURNS: On this
section of the B.R Highway in
Bhakunde Besi Maoists ran over
a police post in February 2002
the drive offers great views. The ride
was very comfortable except for a number of hairpin bends, which could make
it tougher for vehicles to run smoothly
both ways. The pitch road continues till
Kaldhunga, about seven kilometers further, and the buses ply up as far as
Nepalthok 50-km. off Dhulikhel. The
highway, when complete, will drastically
bring down traveling time between
Kathmandu and Biratnagar.
"It is going to open up this place to
the outside world," said Haan Bahadur
Shah, a resident of Gucchataar and nearby
Bhakunde Besi, whom we met with a
quarter-size bottle of Gill Mary whiskey in a local teashop. "Already people
near the highway have started hotel and
tea-stall business to make most ofthe
highway traffic." Outside the tea stall
were huge weighing machines where the
Kathmandu-bound green vegetables
were being loaded. "Business is really
good since this highway opened," a
farmer told us as he was loading his sack
of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and cabbage on a blue Tata pick-up.
Shah, who had just returned from
Malaysia where he had worked (he
wouldn't be specific) for several years,
said that the government had already asked
those livingwithin 25 meters ofthe highway to dismantle their makeshift tea stalls
and houses. "I am planning to build a hotel here soon," he said, with an inevitable
qualifier, "if the Maoist insurgency doesn't
get any worse."
It was a common refrain all through
the alternative highways: security concerns are widespread and the talk of development projects being stalled due to
the Maoist threats was common. Many
recalled how a deadly Maoist attack on a
police post in Bhakunde Besi in February 2002 killed 16 policemen and stalled
road construction for a long time. Now
work has resumed, albeit at a slow pace
and the police post houses huge bulldozers and other construction vehicles.
"Our police post is going to be another
transit hub like Thankot after the highway
is opened," said police Sub-Inspector
Sitaram Hachhethu at Koteshwor, the entry
point to the Banepa-Bardibas Highway But
that will have to wait and chances are that
I the talk of alternative highways will die
down once the monsoon rain dries. Just as
g the previous years. E
■■- :.-*
CO
CO
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
25
 The Army and APF have
helicopters and big guns,
but they seem to be fighting the intelligence war almost unarmed
BY JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI
IN A BIZARRE INCIDENT LAST
Tuesday, security forces mistakenly
killed a civilian at Purano Baneshwor
Chowk. Ulas Vaidya, a senior official at
the Nepal Electricity Authority, had
tipped off police that he was meeting a
suspected Maoist extortionist. The police were to subdue the lone criminal
and take him under their control. But
the plan went completely awry. While
Vaidya was handing over a pile of notes,
most of them counterfeit, the security
forces opened fire at the Maoist suspect,
who was on a motorcycle. In the hail of
gunfire, a stray bullet hit Vaidya. He later
died in the hospital.
"Itwas a grave mistake," says a police
officer. 'Vaidya died a needless death. We
were tipped off on time and were tailing
the Maoist suspect for a while. The sting
operation was supposed to be limited to
taking control ofthe extortionist, but we
lost an innocent civilian."
A lot more was lost in the botched
operation than an innocent life, it seems.
The extortionist, Krishna Adhikari, was
apparently a member of a wider network
of Maoist sleeper cells in the Valley. (After keeping mum for days, the Maoists
on Thursday said that Adhikari was not
one of their cadres.) In any case, the security forces lost an invaluable intelligence link to an extortion ring. It was a
colossal intelligence failure.
A day later, two unidentified gunmen
shot dead a schoolteacher in Samakhusi.
The very next day, an explosion in front
of the   Nepal  Telecom  office   in
26
Jawalakhel killed 70-year-old Maiya
Chhetri.
These incidents and a series of other
killings in recent weeks have fueled a
new round of questions: have the
Maoists infiltrated the Kathmandu Valley; has the long-feared urban warfare
started; and, perhaps most importantly,
what is the state of official intelligence,
key to battling the insurgency?
The answers are, at best, sketchy.
There are reports that despite added
vigilance there is a steady flow of small
arms into the Valley. The Maoists alsoj"
have developed an intelligence network |
and function in independent cells. Analysts attribute the Maoists' ability to<o
sustain the "people's war" to their organized intelligence. In a guerrilla war,
information gathered on the ground by
people—human intelligence or
"humint" in spy-speak—contributes
more to victory than military hardware.
Many say the Army and the police are
weak in this area. "It needs good [human] intelligence," wrote Retired General Ashok K Mehta of Indian Army in
an article, in reference to the Royal
Nepal Army.
A legacy of the past
For many years the Army remained isolated from the people, only occasionally
venturing out from the
barracks. Although the RNA has recently put a lot of effort into revamping
its intelligence network by planting informants and deploying regular army
personnel undercover, many say the security personnel are easily recognized
and killed by the Maoists. The key failing may be that the Army still hasn't been
able to build much rapport with ordinary Nepalis. "I was able to foil at least
three major operations while I was
posted in a Maoist hotbed," says a police
officer. "On all occasions, I was tipped
**-
 off about the impending attacks by civilians."
The Maoists owe their intelligence
superiority, at least in their strongholds,
to unsuspecting children, say those who
have experienced fighting the Maoists
outside Kathmandu. The Maoists use
minors as soldiers, porters, cooks, messengers and informants. Children are
more obedient, do not question orders,
are easier to manipulate and seldom become suspects in the eyes of outsiders.
The Maoists are happily taking tactical
advantage of them.
"School children ingenuously extract
information from visitors and strangers:
they could be informants of either the
Army or the Maoists," says a journalist
who recently returned from Salyan. "One
has to be careful." There are also reports
of Maoist infiltration into the ranks of
the Army, vigorously denied by the RNA
spokesman. There is ample evidence that
a substantial number of "snipers" with
small arms have made their way into the
Valley to orchestrate what military strategists call urban warfare.
Urban warfare?
There have been six daytime assassinations in the capital since Prime Minister Deuba took office on June 2. The
three recent deaths followed barely a day
after a senior security official in the Valley told Nation Weekly that Maoists have
overhauled their special task force (STF)
in the Valley and may launch a wave of
assassination bids.
A security source estimates vaguely
that up to 300 STF members might have
infiltrated the capital. The Maoists may
have a plan of hit-and-run attacks in the
capital. They may target VIPs and those
belonging to the security wings. Even
politicians are at risk, especially those
tainted by charges of corruption, the
source claims, which will give them a
messianic dimension. Last year, the
Maoists had prepared a hit-list of 217
VIPs. Some of them were assassinated,
most prominently the chief of Armed
Police Force (APF), Krishna Mohan
Shrestha, and his wife Nudup Shrestha.
There are other soft targets that the
Maoists may try to attack. Tax offices;
Indian-affiliated multi-national companies; embassies, especially American,
Indian and British; the airport; telecom-
""27
 munication towers; and water reservoirs
could be high-priority targets for sabotage, officials say. But the officials concede their intelligence is sketchy and
could even be speculative.
Conflicting conclusions
Security forces and civilian experts disagree on what this all means. An official
familiar with the situation describes the
new pattern as just a "seasonal variation"
in the Maoists' tactics. During the monsoon it becomes nearly impossible to
protect logistics and weaponry in the
jungle, he says. "This is what is forcing
them to shelve their plans for high-profile attacks."
Brig. Gen. Rajendra Thapa, the Royal
Nepal Army spokesman, believes the
Maoists are merely engaged in a psychological warfare because they are not in a
position to deliver a major "shock-and-
surprise attack of Salleri and Bhojpur
proportions." He contends that the
Maoists have been seriously debilitated
by the Army in the post-emergency period but adds with a note of caution, perhaps for his own men. "The Maoists are
weak now, but it would be sheer stupidity to think that they have been eliminated." He thinks that the Bhojpur and
Beni attacks were desperate attempts to
show that they are still strong, when in
fact they are not.
Professor Indraj it Rai, a military analyst, holds a different opinion. He believes that Maoists are under intense psychological pressure not to launch any major offensive because ofthe possibility
of peace talks and the arrests of top-level
leaders such as Mohan Baidhya, alias
Kiran, and Matrika Prasad Yadav by Indian authorities.
"No doubt their strategic balance has
been disturbed," says Rai, "partly because
the government has started rehabilitation
programs and initiated a psychological
operation of its own and partly because
the Indian government has arrested many
top (Maoist) leaders."
Rai adds, "The Maoists also have a
genuine desire to talk. They want to
come to the table with some sort of third-
party mediation, preferably the United
Nations. For this reason they think that
large-scale bloodshed may harm the environment for talks."
Other observers however believe
that the Maoists are now trying to tilt
the asymmetrical war in their favor by
escalating hit-and-run tactics like
landmines and assassinations. The idea
is that these tactics will inflict heavy
damages on the opposition while the
Maoist will suffer little. In the last six
years more than 500 people have lost
their lives in landmine explosions. The
dead include security forces and civilians. "In a guerilla war the insurgents have
an upper hand," says a retired army officer.
The military establishment realizes
this. "There are 11 infantry brigades and
seven specialist brigades. Most of them
are engaged in Kathmandu or committed to safeguarding city centers and other
installations in district headquarters.
Only a small force is available for search -
and-destroy missions. The Army is
stretched thin to contain the insurgency,"
says a senior RNA official.
Some Indian military analysts have
often alleged that the Maoists receive
funding and training from foreign intelligence outfits. Rai says he has no
knowledge of such links but believes
"underworld links" can't be ruled out.
"Since the Maoists have already made a
name for themselves in the underworld
by sustaining the insurgency for eight
years and more, there is always a possibility that other underworld organizations as Al-Qeada may be looking to have
a tie-up with them," he says.
An RNA official says the Army has
no information of the Maoist tie-ups
with either state intelligence outfits or
Al-Qaeda, adding, "They are tied up with
the Revolutionary International Movement and regional organizations like the
Peoples' War Group and the Naxalites
in India are helping them."
In the insidious war of intelligence,
the security apparatus seems to be armed
with little more than vague information
and conflicting analyses. And unless it
overhauls its system and relies more on
human intelligence than gizmos and gadgets, the security forces will continue to
miss opportunities, and the threat of urban warfare will increase.  E
28
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 iewpoint
Political Logjam
If all agree on the agenda of constituent assembly without any pre-condition, the prospects of ending the logjam are clear
BY LOK RAJ BARAL
Q
uirks of history and sys-
Itemic evolution are two
different aspects of development History and politics have
a tendency to converge when the
country's environment is shaped
by turn of events, idiosyncrasies,
personal motivations bereft of minimum ideological content. Unprincipled political actors—kings and
politicians—perennially influence
the Nepal politics, and trajectory of
history is in tandem with the latter.
Even if party politicians swear by
principles, they fall prey to the ambition of monarchs. The post-1990
politics of Nepal has witnessed the
continuity of history that was characterized by high degree of opportunism, compromise of values and
personal aggrandizement.
Party leaders whose political incarnation started with the extreme
radical movement have now reincarnated themselves as eulogiz-
ers and courtiers. As a result, rampant aberrations in public life and
breakdowns of established institutions, indicating no future direction, are being observed.
Such developments and political uncertainty have not only provided breeding grounds for the
Maoists, whose mission is to transform the existing conditions into a
qualitatively different order, but have
also worked for more radicalization
of others, who have losttheirraith in
empty promises and slogans. This
loss of faith can be attributed to the
fact that prom ises are easi ly forgotten soon after the politicians are in
power. And it is reflected in the current political impasse as well.
Whythe political logjam remains
unattended needs to be probed at
greater depth. The recognition of
power centers—the monarchy, the
Maoists and the parliamentary parties—and the failure of political
parties to prepare a common
roadmap have helped to put a lingering shadow on the progress of
Nepal. On the one hand, they harp
on the balance of power theory
between the three forces, but their
public posturingand various lists of
demands contradict their action.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of
Nepal, 1990 was based on the
theory of compromise between the
King, the Nepali Congress and
some parties that were involved in
the movement for the restoration
of multiparty system in 1990. And
the political forces seemed to have
once more given the benefit of
doubt to the King that he would
henceforth behave as a constitutional monarch. However, the later
developments proved that the King
was not reconciled to changing his
role to a constitutional monarch, but
on the contrary it was an immediate tactical move of the King for
accepting the politics of compromise. The late King Birendra had
shown his displeasure with the constitutional arrangement that he defied duringthe course of implementation ofthe constitution. And King
Gyanendra accomplished the task
of asserting monarchical power on
October 4, 2002, reminiscent of
1954 that had exalted the position of monarch vesting all powers
with the King.
In England, controversies have
arisen about the constitutional discharge of royal functions but they
remain procedural, merely legal
wranglings. The constitutional head
is not expected to be a usurper of
power as his/her powers and functions are well defined by conventions.
The British model of parliamentary system can only be replicated
to a certain extent in Nepal. In Britain, the struggle for rights and democracy came from above, while
the struggle for democracy and
freedom in South Asia was germane to the lower level. The Nepali
democratic struggle has some
variations because ofthe country's
non-colonial background making
the native Rana regime the target
of the movement. The participation of the monarchy in the anti-
Rana movement could camouflage
the later democratic developments
that gradually sidelined the key role
of parties from mainstream power
politics. On the contrary, the King
came to the center-stage turning
other pol itical actors into the pawns
on the royal chessboard.
Such a situation continues today with political party leaders playing a game of musical chairs of
power. The slogans and protests
against the rising Royal power, or
what they call pratigaman (regression), are thus feeble yielding no
effective result. The anti-regression
movement launched by these par
ties is not yet clear about its own
roadmap or the future model with
these parties railing to identity a few
key elements crucial for future essence of democratic progress.
Nonetheless, the four-party alliance now agitating against regression needs to be clear about—(1)
how they make the movement effective and with what new agenda
of democratization? (2) how is it
going to open dialogue with the
Maoists whose demand of constituent assembly is now accepted
by most political parties? (3) what
modus operandi do they accept for
ending the present crisis? The nag-
gingproblem is ofthe armed guerillas—the source of Maoist strength,
which, ironically, remains to be problematic for unarmed political parties. Armed to the teeth, the
Maoists have to assure the pro-
change political parties that they
can indeed work together for bring-
ingabouta qualitative transformation from the existing regressive and
"status quo"-ist regime into a vibrant democratic system protected
by the empowered people. If all
agree on the agenda of constituent assembly without any pre-condition, notwithstanding the pressure
on them for sticking to the politics
of status quo, the prospects of
ending the logjam are clear.
Given the mindset ofthe politicians and tne effixtstnatwll be made
by the regressive forces to sabotage
the prospect of constituent assembly, it will not be easy to accomplish
the agenda. The existing power balance between the King the Maoists,
and the political parties would work
against it unless the popular forces—
the Maoists and political parties polarize themselves for changing the
status quo. For this to happen, the
Maoists should convince that they
would not betraythe cause of pluralist democracy along with an agreeable solution to the issue of armed
guerilla forces. The laying of down
arms and peaceful struggle by all the
democratic and progressive forces
alone would create conditions for
peaceful democratic change and stability. H
L
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nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
29
 Broadside  VJ
PATCHWORK
GREEN
Conservationists have
pushed the idea of Community Conservation Areas for
some time now. Why is this
all the more relevant today?
BY SAMUEL THOMAS
ONE OF THE MAJOR RECOM
Mendations from the World
Parks Congress held in Durban
last year related to community conserved areas. It can be summarised under two points. One, that certain areas
have long been managed by communities, and that these areas are under threat
today from centralized political decision-making processes. Two, that these
systems can be revived so that conservation addresses the interests ofthe people
who depend on these resources the
most, and that conservation management
takes into account local knowledge and
skills rather than imported ideas and conservation models.
The idea of Community Conservation Areas emerges from the manner in
which biodiversity "hotspots" and other
representative landscapes have been protected often at the expense of communities that have enjoyed customary access
and use rights for centuries. In that very
fundamental sense, they are therefore
more than just another conservation category. The role of communities in conservation and sustainable natural resource management, often based on customary tenure systems, norms and institutions, has been recognised by various
other international conventions dealing
with environment and human rights. The
Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) for instance stresses on
biodiversity-relevant knowledge, skills,
innovations, and practices of communities, and the draft Declaration of the
30
^m      <$
 Rights of Indigenous
Peoples acknowledges
the right of such
peoples to control and
manage their territories. The World Parks
Congress recommendation 5.26 put it rather
straight: "A considerable part ofthe earth's
biodiversity survives
on territories under
the ownership, control, or management of
indigenous peoples
and local (including
mobile) communities.
However, the fact that
such peoples and communities are actively or
passively conserving
many of these sites
through traditional or
modern means, has
hitherto been neglected in formal conservation circles."
Now, link this with
the current network of
protected areas in the country, both in
terms of ecosystem network and representation and community involvement
as an integral part ofthe decision-making process.
The Nepal Biodiversity Strategy
Action Plan (NBSAP) is explicit about
the under representation of ecosystems
in the existing PA network: "The most
effective way of maintaining biological diversity is to protect a representative array of ecosystems. Therefore, a
network will be designed to represent
all ecosystems in Nepal with particular emphasis on: (i) tropical evergreen
forests, (ii) far-eastern subtropical forests, (iii) lower temperate broad-
leaved forests, and (iv) subtropical
broad-leaved forests located in the
west ofthe country. These forest types
would be best represented in the districts of Kaski, Lamjung, Tanahu,
Lalitpur, Udayapur, Taplejung,
Sankhuwasabha, Bhojpur, Terathum,
Dhankuta, Ham, Morang, and Jhapa,
which have a rich biodiversity, especially of mammals and birds." By the
government's own admission more areas need "protection."
Take for instance the Tinjure Milke
Jaljale area, the junction of three eastern
hill/mountain districts—Taplejung,
Terhathum and Sankuwasabha. This area
provides a natural niche for dozens of
rhododendron species—mixed to pure
stands of over 28 species and a host of
other plants and animals. A community
conservation area was proposed for this
area in the mid-90s, (covering 16 VDCs,
3 districts) linking with the
Kanchanjunga Conservation Area to the
northeast, and the Makalu Barun National Park and Conservation Area to the
northwest. According to the French
botanist Rene de Milleville, author of
"The Rhododendrons of Nepal," Milke
danda has what are "arguably the largest
rhododendron forests in the world."
Given that this area is part of one the
largest transboundary and landscape corridor efforts—with Qomolangma in Tibet and Sikkim and Bhutan—the corridor integrity ofthe area is important to
preserve, even as an outlying corridor
area. Nearly a decade later that idea of a
community conservation remains just an
idea.
Given that there are ecosystems
underrepresented in the Protected Area
(PA) network, and given the emerging
global and local realities in terms of environmental governance, what are the
options before Nepal?
Protected areas in Nepal have mostly
been managed under strict protection regimes, and in the last decade there have
been some efforts at co-management.
However, they still are a far cry from
community conservation areas in the
true sense: in terms of subsidiary, in
terms of devolution and local autonomy,
in terms of local environmental governance, in terms of conserving local ecological knowledge, skills and practices,
and in terms of costs and benefits sharing. Nepal is considered a world leader
in involving communities in the management of forests and this model of
community forestry evolved over a two-
decade long period of refining policies,
rules and regulations, and engaging with
ground realities. The idea ofthe Community Conservation area then argues
for taking this success forward, as a progressive next step in local environmental governance. The Local Self Governance Act (LSGA) clearly pushes for
decentralised environmental governance. The National Biodiversity Strategy too calls for "strengthening the involvement of local and indigenous
people in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity." In other words,
the idea of community conservation areas sits well with stated country priorities.
At the local level community conservation has to do with decision-making and the sharing of costs and benefits, essentially changes in the structures of power governing the management of natural resources that affect
equitable cost and benefit sharing. Admittedly, costs and benefit sharing in
the existing PA system is skewed. And
part of the reason for advocating this
shift is the failure ofthe system in place
to deliver equity in real terms to people
who usually lose from delineation and
management of conservation areas. What
the WPC did recommended among
other things was that governments "promote a multisectoral process for recognizing, enlisting, evaluating, and
delisting CCAs; recognise and promote
CCAs as a legitimate form of
biodiversity conservation, and where
communities so choose, include them
within national systems of protected
areas, through appropriate changes in
legal and policy regimes." It also calls
upon governments to ensure "that official policies, guidelines, and principles,
recognise diverse local (formal or informal) arrangements developed by
communities on their own or in collaboration with other actors, for the
management of community conserved
areas."
The alternative model that therefore
emerges is one that engages with and corrects the mistakes of the past, that addresses issues of how traditional knowledge and skills associated with conservation are integrated into PA planning
and implementation, that access and benefit sharing issues are addressed, that customary rights issues are addressed and
that the future of conservation is a diverse network of protected ecosystems
that have "interest-based rights" at their
core. The diversity of ecosystems and
peoples demands a diversity of governance types if it is to be relevant at all. A
patchwork green.  C.
X
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
31
 Budget 2004-5
WALKING THE TIGHT ROPE
It was never going to be an easy budget. The Finance
Minister made compromises on all fronts—and with all
political players—and ended up presenting a run-of-the-
mill document that lacks much imagination
BYB.L. NARAYAN
FOR BHARAT MOHAN ADHIKARI,
his second budget speech, delivered last week required tightrope-
walking skills ofthe highest order. Not
only is the country going through a grave
phase in its history, but there were also
political pulls and pressures from all directions: the coalition partners, the
Army, the Palace, and from his own party,
the CPN (UML), which was keen to use
the budget to score political points over
its rivals. In the end, the Finance Minister produced a budget that may not upset
anyone but that is also unlikely to significantly change the state of affairs in
the country.
In a way, there is little he could have
done anyway, faced as he is with a situation where the capacity of the government to affect the lives of people has been
fast receding.
On the one hand, government activities that better the lives of people have
been steadily decreasing. Development
expenditure has more than halved from
over 13% ofthe gross domestic product
(GDP) in FY1991 to about 6% in FY2004.
Spending in education and health has
stagnated. This is no doubt due in large
part to the security situation and political instability but the government inertia and inability to adapt to the changing
scenario have also been contributing factors. To effectively deliver development
assistance, many bilateral donors have
entered into agreements with the
Maoists—a grim reflection of the fact
that the government writ does not run
outside too many district headquarters.
On the other hand, the government
has been spending more and more on its
own upkeep. Regular expenditure has
doubled from 6.5% ofthe GDP in FY1991
to 13% inFY2004. Security expenditure
has taken a disproportionate share, in
creasing from about Rs. 4.1 billion (1.6%
ofthe GDP) in FY1996 to Rs. 15 billion
(3.1% ofthe GDP) in FY2004 while increases in salary and burgeoning debt
servicing requirements have also added
to the burden. This crowding-out effect
of security expenditure on government
development spending is exerting a significant negative impact on the development of physical and human resources.
This will reduce the stock of human and
physical capital and depress the long-
term economic growth ofthe country.
With regards to debt, sins ofthe past
seem to be catching up with the government. While the country's debt stock has
piled up over the years, their inefficient
use has meant that they haven't done
enough to sufficiently increase the size
ofthe economy. Debt servicing expenditure as percentage of total government
expenditures has, thus, increased from
11% in FY1991 to 20% in FY2004. It
could soon assume alarming proportions
in absence of strong economic growth.
In this backdrop, Adhikari has proposed a budget outlay of Rs. 112 billion.
Of this, Rs. 32 billion has been allocated
for capital expenditure while Rs. 68 bil
lion for recurrent expenditure. Despite
earlier commitment to the contrary,
Adhikari has failed to control recurrent
expenditure, which is estimated to rise
by 19%. Going against party line,
Adhikari has desisted from making cuts
to the Rs. 330 million allocations for the
Royal family; allocations for the Royalties are nearly three times the level in
FY2002.
As such, there is just a 10% increase
in security expenditure over the amount
allocated last year but this does not preclude the possibility of an increase later
in the year. A relatively large Rs. 9.4 billion allocation for miscellaneous items
means additional funds could be diverted to security spending. Last year the
Army spent 17% more than what was allocated to it in the budget.
The government is also reported to
have been keen on a salary hike for civil
servants but its attempts were stymied
by the International Monetary Fund,
which was insistent that the government
should not incur additional liabilities
without increasing its revenue. Even
without the raise, the government will
be spending nearly a quarter ofthe total
budget on salary and other benefits for
its employees.
The budget proposes a revenue target of Rs. 70 billion—13% higher than
the revenue receipts last year. Revenue
collections have grown by an average of
9% over the last five years, reflecting government efforts to reform customs administration. Nepal's government revenue at 12.8% ofthe GDP remains the
second lowest in South Asia—much too
low to meet the development needs of
the country. For revenue collections to
reach satisfactory levels, the government
needs to allocate more resources to modernization of tax administration through
widespread computerization, including
electronic filing, better data processing
and mining. It is also equally important
to establish a rigorous penal and enforcement mechanism to address tax evasion.
The foreign grant receipts ofthe government are projected to grow by almost
50% from Rs. 11 billion to Rs. 17 billion
32
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 but the fiscal deficit is still estimated at
5.3% ofthe GDP, up from 3.9%. Two-
thirds of the deficit will be financed by
foreign loans while the remaining amount
will be financed by domestic loans.
One ofthe major thrusts ofthe budget and one that carries the stamp of
Adhikari and his party is in the area of
education and health. Adhikari has proposed an increase of 25% in the education budget and 50% in the health budget over last year. Well and good. The
difficult part, however, is going to be to
ensure productive absorption of the
planned outlay, especially in view ofthe
conflict situation in most parts of the
country. More money for education and
health may not necessarily mean more
education and health unless delivery
mechanisms are improved. In this regard, the budget's proposal to speed up
the handover the management of more
and more schools and health posts to
communities and local bodies could
help improve the efficiency of these investments.
In a bid to live up to its billing as the
"peace budget," the new budget also proposes the establishment of a peace secretariat, allocates funds for relief and re-
Agriculture Others   Security    Health
7% 20%       13% 6%
Education
16%
Electricity  Debt Servicing
6% 18%
Driking
Water
3%
habilitation of the victims of the conflict, reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure destroyed in the
conflict, and "participatory" development and construction programs. However, the Rs. 1 billion allocation for these
activities is just a drop in the ocean given
the magnitude ofthe work at hand. The
allocation reveals both the low expecta
tions ofthe government in this regard as
well as the fiscal constraints it faces.
The budget also pledges to move
ahead with a slew of, mainly donor propelled, economic and social reforms and
projects, which have been gathering dust
for the last several years due to the conflict and political instability, and the lack
of initiative on the part of the government. The most prominent among these
are promotion of investments on Build-
Operate-Own-Transfer basis, construction of a fast-track to link Kathmandu to
Mahendra highway, land reforms, scholarships to women and minority groups,
establishment of special economic
zones, promulgation of economic laws,
and privatization of public enterprises.
Given past history of non-performance
in these areas, there is little reason to
hope that much progress will be made
on these fronts.
Overall, the budget is lacking in novelty. It disappoints in adopting a run-of-
the-mill approach and its inability to propose "out of the box" solutions to challenges facing the country Perhaps, Adhikari
justwants to keep all political players happy
by not rocking the boat. If that's the case,
he has succeeded mighty well C.
Iff
:C*
Presents
Produced by Tech Media House Pvt Ltd,
INFOTALK IS A TELEVISION SHOW BEING
TELECASTED BY,
Nepal Television, every Tuesday at 8:00 AM.
The repeat telecast can be viewed on
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The 1st IT - based T. V programme of Nepal
The fallowings are the highlights of this week's episode :
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The most successful name in nepali market
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 I INFOTALK is an entirely technical TV program based on information technology (IT). Including a wide range if computer technology based
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 Arts   Socio
FIRST PERSON
A Woodcutter
Who Dances
BY SANJEEV UPRETY
Natwar cuts deep into the body of
a fallen log with the sharp blade
of his axe. His body is drenched
in sweat and he is breathing hard. Oblivious ofthe villagers who are calling his
name, Natwar—also known as Nattu
around the villages of Sanischare and
Arjundhara in Jhapa—is consumed by a
singular passion: to break the entire pile
of brown logs before him into small
pieces of firewood.
One of the villagers tells me that
Nattu has two major interests: to go
around the village performing his traditional Tharu dance and to cut wood, a
task for which he is often summoned by
the more affluent among the village folk.
The head ofthe household whose firewood Natwar was cutting explained to
me, however, that Natwar only cuts
wood when he feels like it. "I sent repeated messages to him over the last
week, asking him to come over and cut
my wood. But Nattu never came. I only
saw him this morning after I was awakened by the sound ofthe axe smashing
against the wood. I came out of my bed
room to see where the sound was coming from ... and lo!... There was Natwar
Tharu cutting wood in my backyard
without speaking a single word."
All attempts to convince Natwar to
take a break proved futile. He neither
talked nor showed any interest as I
snapped my camera a few times to capture the image of this man with a mission. Another villager explained that
Natwar goes into some kind of a trance
while cutting wood and also when he
dances. "With his earrings bobbing up
and down Nattu makes a spectacular
sight for the eyes when he dances," he
said. "Children and grown-ups from the
neighborhood gather to see him dance."
The old villager further explained that
Nattu is extremely obstinate and irrevocably fixed in some of his habits. For example, he never rides a bus or a taxi, and
prefers to run all the way from Birtamod
in Jhapa to this Tharu village near Lahan,
Morang during his annual trip to the village of his ancestors. It takes him about
five days or so to complete his marathon
run. After spending a fortnight with his
friends and relatives, Nattu takes to the
roads again, and runs with a slow rhyth-
Imic motion back to the village of Sanischare, in the foothills of Jhapa, where he has
spent the last 10 years of his
life dancing, cuttingwood, and
of course running around.
A middle-aged woman told
me about another one of
Nattu's eccentricities. "Nattu
prefers to be paid in coins
rather than in paper money,"
she said. "He carries all of his
coins in a cloth-bag and loves
to listen to their jingling
sound." One of his favorite
pastimes is to take out all of
the coins, count them, and put
them back into his bag. He
does it several times during the
day and also before he sleeps.
Despite the fact that he is
sometimes cheated by those
who pay him in coins, Natwar still prefers the solidity and substantiality of metal
rather than the seemingly fragile paper
money.
Lunchtime arrived. Natwar finally
laid aside his axe and opened a paper
bag of red chilies. Those he mixed liberally with his meal of rice, vegetables
and dal served by the lady ofthe house.
He spent the next 10 minutes eating his
food with the same single-minded dedication and gusto that he had displayed
during the cutting of wood. Then he sat
back satiated and spoke for the first
time—to scold his hostess. "Make sure
you cook a kilo of roasted meat for tomorrow," he said. "How can a diet of
vegetables and dal support a
hardworking man like Natwar?" he said
referring to himself by his first name,
another one of his oddities. "Why don't
you get married Nattu?" she retorted
back. 'Your wife will cook you delicious meals of chicken and chilies. And
if you play some musical instrument,
perhaps, she will even do all your dancing for you." A shy smile creased
Natwar's face. 'Yes, Natwar will marry
when the right time comes, and when
he will find the right girl," said Nattu,
once again referring to himself in the
third person. "But no! No dancing for
her," he continued. "If she wishes she
could learn to play an instrument. But
it is only Natwar who will dance and
cut the wood."  E
34
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
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 Movi
The Reigning Story Teller
Even Moore may have been unprepared for what is
happening with his new film that aims to dethrone Bush
BY SUSHMA JOSHI IN VERMONT
Americans like their heroes to be
lean and mean—not fat and shaggy
shambling and unshaven like
Michael Moore, who won the best film
award for "Fahrenheit 9/11" at the Cannes
Film Festival. "Fahrenheit 9/11" asks questions that many of us have been asking
post-9/11. How come the Bin Laden family was flown out of the United States
before they could be questioned? Both
the Bush family and the Bin Laden family
have cozy business connections with the
Carlyle Group, an investment company
with deep investments in defense and
aerospace industries—how was this linkage never investigated? How come
Halliburton, a defense company
which has gotten multiple, non- .
competitive contracts for the war I
in Iraq, had Dick Cheney, current
vice-president ofthe United States,
as its former CEO?
Moore is a polemic documentary-maker and author, well-known
for taking on big business head-on,
and he does this unapologetically
and with his trademark bite of satirical humor. His previous best-
selling documentary, "Bowling for
Columbine," aimed at the incendiary topic of gun-control in I
America. He examined the incident I
in Columbine, where two young
boys went berserk and shot their classmates before killing themselves. "Bowling" raised questions about rampant and
uncontrolled gun ownership and was a
hit with audiences over America and
worldwide.
But even Moore may have been unprepared for what is happening with
his new film. "Fahrenheit 9/11" beat
the opening weekend of "Return ofthe
Jedi," broke "Rocky Ill's" record for
the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in
less than a thousand theaters, and went
to #2 on the all-time list for largest
per-theater average ever for a film that
opened in wide-release. Whoever said
Americans were not interested in politics?
And whoever said flag-waving and
patriotism was reserved for dumb
Americans who watch Fox News and
believe it? Moore's biggest coup is making this delicate shift from rabble-rouser
to patriot. He goes from a man who could
potentially be branded, in the fear-crazed
atmosphere of Terrorized America, as a
domestic terrorist to a true citizen of
America. And that's when the shambling,
I-come-from-a-factory-town-in-Flint-
Michigan-and-I-know-the-heartland
claim comes in handy. Cowboy Bush
may know how to say "Bring it on!" but
he should not have opened his big mouth
when he yelled at him cheerily: "Hey
Mike, get a real job!" This scene is ruthlessly used by Moore, who takes up the
challenge by showing how Bush was on
vacation 45 percent ofthe time just before the WTC bombings.
Bush stays in the classroom watching children reading a story about a goat
while planes destroy the World Trade
Center. Bush looks less like a president
than a deer caught in the headlights.
Moore's intention may have been to call
attention to Bush's ineptitude but he also
does a delicate job of slipping in the question—how can this man not have known
what was going on? The majority ofthe
highjackers in the plane were Saudis, not
Iraqis or Afghanis. And Moore spends a
great deal ot time dissecting the Bush
family's business connections with Saudi
Arabia.
Moore is acutely aware ofthe need
to be populist in his mission to get Bush
dethroned. To accomplish this mission,
he goes back to the voting heartland of
America. He picks a strong character—a
patriotic woman from Flint who loses
her son in Iraq. Filmed with quiet sympathy for a military family, this segment
is a coup d' etat, allowing both the antiwar Left who see soldiers as intrinsic
enemies, and the families of soldiers, to
participate in the outrage that is the Iraq
war. The military families, shielded from
the realities of 1,000 dead American soldiers and thousands of wounded by the
mainstream American press, get to know
that the per diem of each soldier as well
as veteran benefits have been brutally
slashed by the Bush administration.
The documentary is made and played
to be film's poor cousin. They rarely get
theatrical releases. Moore has changed
all this with his spectacular results
of the bottom line—box office
■ records. Time magazine even ran a
I point-by-point breakdown of the
Moore Method—comedy, tragedy
infiltration, confrontation and
speculation—analyzing what makes
him the undeniable master of his
own genre. Christopher Hitchens,
another documentary-maker who
shot to fame unmasking political
myths with "The Trails of Henry
Kissinger," rants jealously in
Slate.com about "Fahrenheit." Poor
Hitchens! Reduced to mediocrity,
he will never reach the same heights
as Moore, simply because he lacks a
showman's approach. Moore, more than
anything else, is an entertainer who speaks
truth to power. Who but Moore could
write a book called "Stupid White Men"
and get away with it—or even better, see
it soar to the top ofthe bestseller charts?
At the end ofthe day, a good story can
steal an election, launch a war, change the
face of global politics, and buy time for a
cabal of murderers. The entertainment
factor, more than the truth, matters in
America. By cuing himself to the populist power ofthe media and entertainment,
Moore might have made himself more
powerful than the President ofthe United
States. Now let's see who wins that
goddamn election. Bring it on!  □
36
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 A presentation fully
elegant and gracefully
GLOTHLINE
TARA
Tin Dhara, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu
Tel. 4244350,2082304
K
0
MOST
INFLUENTIAL
WOMEN
FNEPAl
 A Little Word
Policing Traffic
If the traffic police really want to be effective in preventing accidents, there is a lot they can do
beyond checking licenses or issuing tickets for illegal parking
BY DEEPAK THAPA
When seat belts were made compulsory for drivers and front-
seat passengers last year, there was quite a chorus of complaints that buckling up was quite unnecessary in the slow
Kathmandu traffic. But rules are rules and our zealous traffic cops did
their best to ensure compliance with on-the-spot fines. For some reason, however, buses, trucks, three-wheelers and some others were excused. Even on the highway, which does actually allow for potentially
fatal speeding, bus and truck drivers were able to get away without seat
belts. But, unlike the earlier very sensible decision to make helmets a
must for pillion riders on motorcycles (although it is still beyond reasoning
why people in mourning attire should be exempted from wearing helmets), the seat belt rule has been considerably relaxed even in
Kathmandu, wh ich on ly goes to show that a lot of heat was generated for
something that had not been planned carefully.
If the traffic police reallywantto be effective in preventing accidents,
there is a lot they can do beyond checking licenses or issuing tickets for
illegal parking. To begin with, they should crackdown on
"tandem biking" Nepali-style. Everyone must have seen
these pairs of cyclists, with the one on the saddle ped-
alingand the other on the crossbar steering. It is clear to
anyone that this kind of stunt should be practiced only
in an open field or a circus ring, not in the middle of
heavy traffic. But apparently that does not constitute
breaking the rule.
The police should also start penalizing vehicles that
do not dip their headlights at night. The glare of an
approaching car with headlights on high beam is very
dangerous for other drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and
even pedestrians, but not enough, it seems, to alarm
our traffic cops. On the subject of lights, it should also
be the law that all bicycles be equipped with reflectors
in the front and back, and possibly on the wheels too
(and kept mud-free as well). For a start, the police
could fix reflectors on their own bicycles and keep them
clean to serve their original purpose.
Fines should also be imposed on slow-moving vehicles that decide to hog the right-hand lane since it
slows down traffic and also encourages people to overtake them from the risky left side. That should also
extend to cyclists who merrily ride on the middle ofthe
road either through ignorance of traffic rules or foolhar-
diness in believing that they can pedal faster than motor-powered cars.
A speed limit should be enforced on public vehicles, on and off the
highway. Because ofthe dial system whereby the first in line gets to go
first, buses—regular, micro and mini—all drive at full speed to get to their
destination first. The drivers may be under pressure to increase their
earnings, but that should not be allowed at the risk of endangeringfare-
paying passengers as well as other users ofthe road. Many countries
have made speed governors mandatory on public transport, and there is
no reason why this should not be introduced here as well, especially
since many drivers of public transport seem totally unaware of traffic
etiquette. Perhaps the best place to begin would be buses carrying
school children. Similar to public buses, school buses are notorious for
speeding (not to mention sudden stops to let off children). Besides
endangering the life ofthe children, quick bursts of power and the swerving that such driving requires make the ride very uncomfortable for young
children. But of even more concern is that children—themselves future
drivers—could be picking up the wrong kind of driving tips from adults.
These arejust some pointers. We hear of senior police officers being
trained abroad on traffic management. But introducingfads like compulsory seat belts or preventing talking on mobile phones while at the wheel
are hardly enough to ensure good traffic behavior. Training the young
through the annual ritual ofthe "traffic week" is not any more useful.
Getting chi Idren to instruct pedestrians to use zebra crossings and wait
for the "walk" sign at traffic lights may look cute, but does it really accomplish anything in our country with perhaps 50 zebra crossings and even
fewer traffic signals? It needs much more imagination to make our roads
safe for everyone, and that is something we certainly have not seen
much of. □
J.
38
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 For insertions: 2111102
or editorial@nation.com.np
Page
CITY ThisWeek JH.
Monsoon Mela
Artistic, creative and designer items. At
Bhooja Ghar Party Palace. Date: July
19. Time: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. For information: 4421720,4445628.
Celebrating 25 Years
At Shangri-la Hotel, Lazimpat. M & M:
Maharaja's Masti Tandoor & Kababs Special. Date: July 24 and 25.
For information: 4412999.
Films @ Lazimpat
Gallery Cafe
Free Admission. All profits
from food and drinks during
the shows will go to PA Orphanage Nepal. Time: 7 p.m.
For information: 4428549.
July 22: Torque
Music video director Joseph
Kahn's directorial debut film
"Torque" is more like an extended music video itself.
"Torque" is a typical action movie—hot
bikes, hotter women and lots of loud
music to go with it. As for the script,
well there isn't one. "Torque" doesn't
try to be theatrical or dramatic. It
doesn't take itself seriously and no one
else should.
July 20: The 51st State
The movie is about an American chemist who travels to Britain to sell a new
wonder-drug. Samuel L Jackson stars
as the cool, black kilt wearing American
dude who travels to city of Liverpool,
famous for "The Beatles" and its football club (an important part of the
movie). Director RonnyYu puts first-timer
Stel Pavlou's script to work creating a
fast-paced, witty crime comedy.
Martin Chautari
Discussions at Martin Chautari, Prasuti
Griha Marga 509, Thapathali,
Kathmandu. Participation open to all.
THIS WEEK AT MARTIN CHAUTARI:
MANGALBARE DISCUSSION (JULY 20).
Time: 5 p.m. Topic: Women in Foreign
Employment. Pundit: Jagannath
Adhikari
MEDIA DISCUSSION (JULY
22). Time: 3 p.m. Topic: How
to increase the number of
janajati journalists? Pundits:
Chun Bahadur Gurung
(Raajdhani), Rudra Singh
I Tamang (Rautahat Times).
YOUTH DISCUSSION (JULY
23): Time: 3 p.m. Youth related discussions.
E-commerce training
A five-day training on e-
commerce, specifically for
handicraft products, organized by E-Sewa. The training will cover topics such as web designing, online transactions, and
website marketing and promotion.
Date: July 25 - 29. For information:
4414670, esawa@catgen.com
BRANDINSIGHT 200
Brandlnsight is the first event in the Nabil Bank Excellence Series
being held in celebration ofthe Bank's 20th Anniversary. Brandlnsight
is a workshop on the concept of "branding." Branding is just slowly
beginning to find its feet in Nepal. The workshop focuses on brand
creation, competition and differentiation. It is aimed at organizational leaders and managers.
The principle resource person for the event is Ajay Gupta, Managing
Partner of Brand Prophet, India; former Executive Vice President of
Saatchi and Saatchi and an alumnus of MM, Ahemadabad and NT
Kanpur. He has had over 25 years experience in building successful
brands.
Date: July 25. At Megha Hall, Soaltee Crowne Plaza. Time: 9 a.m. -
5 p.m. Registration fees: Rs. 5500 per person; 3 or more delegates
from the same organization Rs. 5,000 each. Registration can be
done with J & T Associates (Phone no. 2003020, e-mail:
info@jnt.com.np)
N - BIL BANK
£xce//enceSeries
'INSIGHT
2004
Monsoon Collection
An array of paintings by various artists.
Park Gallery, Lazimpat and Park Gallery,
Pulchowk. Till July 24. Time: 10 a.m. -6
p.m. (Sun - Fri) For information:
4419353,5522307.
Colors of Monsoon
An exhibition of paintings by senior artists. Gallery Nine, Lazimpat. For information: 4428694.
ONGOING
Dwarika's Thali
Enjoy Nepali cuisine, hospitality and heritage. At Dwarika's Courtyard, Dwarika's
Hotel, Batisputali. For information:
4479488.
Thakali cuisine
Enjoy a Thakali lunch with two kinds
of curry and great phapar Dhindofrom
Mustang and many other items. At
Thakali Thasang Kitchen. Time: 10 a.m.
- 2:30 p.m. For information:
4224144.
Earthwatch
Have a farmhouse breakfast with birds,
lunch with butterflies and dinner with
fireflies, at Park Village. At Park Village
Restaurant, Budhanilkantha. For information: 4375280.
Executive Lunch
Executive Lunch available for Rs. 170.
At Bhanchha Ghar Restaurant,
Kamaladi. For information: 4225172.
All That Jazz
Presenting the JCS Trio and the best of
jazz in Nepal. At the Fusion Bar,
Dwarika's Hotel. Every Friday. Time:
7p.m. Tickets: Rs. 555. For information: 4479488.
Live Music
Catch Hits FM award winning singer
Dimple and his band Full Circle live. At
The Bakery Cafe, Jawalakhel. Every Friday. Time: 7 p.m.For information:
4434554.
Grand Slam Offer
The dual tennis court packages a dual
delight of tennis plus breakfast. At
Godavari Village Resort. Tickets: Rs. 444.
Prior reservations recommended. For information: 5560675.
BBQ Dinner
Enjoy Summit's Barbeque dinner along
with vegetarian specials. At the Summit
Hotel. For information: 5521810.
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
39
 Through Tl
Casino Economy
There's a brand new gimmick everyday
Just to take somebody's money away
-BOB DYLAN, 'Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues'
BYUJOLSHERCHAN
It's hard to tell whether some companies in the instant noodles indus
try are merely using lottery-1 ike schemes to market their noodles or
actually promoting them as products in their own right on the back of
their noodles. Never mind the distinction. The government that shut
down pyramid schemes such as Gold Quest and Pentagone is oblivious
of this trend. And, it has not even registered on the consumer groups'
radar yet.
The trend hits the suspecting and unsuspecting rural and urban
poor as well as the lower middle class the hardest. Remember Jo Jo's
Dashain-era Khasi Kukhura and Naya Luga commercial aimed squarely
at rural Nepal? The message was: let them eat Jo Jo, so that they might
in turn win these offers. Such commercials that take undue advantage
of people's relative poverty by playing on their propensity for unrealistic
expectations have become so commonplace that we fail to notice this
trend for what it is: a nation-wide lottery phenomenon. The consumer,
like the proverbial frog in the slowly warming water, is essentially helpless in the face of this trend that's steadily picking up steam. Don't get
me wrong: Jo Jo tastes good but does the consumer have a choice of
paying for Jo Jo only, without having to also underwrite the Bokna
Sakne Jati Nagad Rupaiya scheme?
Watch the 2 PM Jackpot commercial on TV, and you'll notice right
away that it has nothing to do with 2 PM noodles and everything to do
with the Jackpot and a
chance to meet Rajesh
Hamal. Do not be fooled;
there's a big disconnect here:
many of these companies
are producing noodles, all
right, but what they are promoting is the lottery scheme!
There is very little attempt at
product differentiation;
mostly it is prize differentiation: what you might get if you
buy that particular brand.
While Shaka Laka Boom
comes with the Magic Ride
Offer, Rin Tin offers Cash
Awards.
Free market purists may
argue: what consumers do
with their money is their right. True, but only if such schemes are a "fair"
bet. When it comes to a lottery, or a gamble, there is a mathematically
exact definition of what constitutes "fair" and these schemes are anything but. The costs of running the lottery scheme are passed onto the
consumer (who ends up subsidizing the few winners, and possibly enriching the promoter) in the form of higher prices, so the scheme is
basically a glorified game of chance that smacks of a scam. Not surpris
ingly, celebrities like Rajesh Hamal are roped in to confer a veneer of
legitimacy on these dubious schemes.
Additionally, the lottery scheme may be more extensively rigged
than one realizes. I know a retailer who opens packets of noodles to
check for the winning coupon(s), and reseals them. You will never ever
win the 2 PM Jackpot if you happen to shop there. Apparently, the
noodles industry is not monitoring its own schemes. Moreover, who is
to say that some of those TV commercials showing lucky winners are
not phony? I do not always see an adherence to the costly-to-fake
principle in awarding the lucky winners, so I am naturally skeptical.
Clearly, in this game of chance, there are potentially many ways in
which the dice is loaded against the player or consumer from the get-
go.
What do you make ofthe bundling of Mayos noodles and the Millionaire Offer—two completely different products—for instance? Recently
the EU charged Microsoft with bundling Media Player with its Windows
operating system, thereby violating EU's competition law. Acase in point:
my sister insists that I too eat Mayos, because Rara, which I prefer,
doesn't come bundled with her favorite lottery scheme. I would tend to
think that a significant percentage of consumers, including my sister,
have switched brands "away" from non-lottery promoting noodles such
as Rara, and that their decision had nothing to do with the price or
quality. The prize was the clinching factor. If it were not so, why the
emphasis on the prize in the commercial? And if this is not unfair competition, what is?
Nowhere on my travel abroad have I seen the noodles industry
resorting to anything like the lottery scheme to influence a demand for
noodles. Wai Wai has a sizeable market in India but their lottery scheme
doesn't extend there. India's
enlightened consumer groups
wouldn't allow something so
blatant. However, in Nepal, the
noodles industry has taken
the lottery scheme to a whole
new level. Khashi Kukhura and
Naya Luga, the Mage Ride Offer, Bokna Sakne Jati Nagad
Rupaiya, the Millionaire Offer,
2 PM Jackpot, the Scholarship
Offer, the Employment Offer,
Hira Ko Har, Cash Award, etc,
etc.
Not to be outdone,
Samsung (Kaukuti Offer),
Konika (Gift Scheme), Muna
tea (Cash Award), Tokla tea
(Gold Locket), and Diyo, Puja
and OK washing soap—and on and on and on—are following suit.
When will the consumer groups wake up from their midsummer night's
dream and play their watchdog role? More importantly, when will the
government that prohibits Nepalisfrom visiting the casinos protect the
consumer from the emerging casino economy? □
(The author's views are his own and should not be attributed to the
organizations he is affiliated with)
.L
40
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 TEX. WORLD
Pu^-i
Species of the fabric as unlimited as fish in the sea,
from the daringly different, to the timeless tradition.
Unexplored colours unexpected co-ordinates you
will find unlimited possibility for your limited budget.
Spread your net at the Tex-World and spend some
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JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
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nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
 Khula Manch
I
Still A Novelty
Novelist Sashi Kala Manandhar has the distinction
of being the first woman novelist in the Newari
language. But Manandhar's entry into Newari
literature came more by chance than by planning. A student of science, she felt that her native language suffered
from neglect. There were not simply enough writers writ
ing in Newari, which has a long and rich
history of its own. A recent award, the
Gankee Basundhara Puraskar, she says is a
timely recognition for her contribution to
Newari literature. To date, she has published three novels and a short story collection. After working for several years, she
released her latest novel earlier this year.
Now that your novel "Jalla Theegu
Lanpu" has finally come out, do you
feel better?
Yes. My new novel is based on my travel
experiences in Europe, mostly England.
It's a first-person account of a student's
experience. I re-wrote it four times, and
I did it keeping in mind the criticisms
of my earlier novels. I've been working
on it for the past four years—three years
of writing, and a year of re-writing.
But there is criticism this time around
as well. Some say it lacks a central
plot or storyline?
I have heard that from a few people. I
decided to write this novel differently,
making it more of a narrative. I have focused more on the characters, and the
exchanges between them. Some people
may feel it doesn't rigidly follow the normal plots of a novel. But I wanted to
write something new.
What is the state of Newari literature?
There simply aren't enough people writing in Newari, especially women and
more specifically novelists. And at the
same time there aren't enough critics
who would be able to contribute in their
own right. The problem is there are few
new writers coming up while the old
ones have largely stopped writing.
What seems to be the problem, why
are there not enough writers?
The problem is that "Newari," in whatever forms it exists is largely a colloquial
language. Even within the Newar community, there are people who speak
Newari, but very few who read. That has
meant that there are even less people who
write in Newari.
How do you view the future
of Newari literature?
I wouldn't say that there are dark days
ahead. But there are going to very few
who read Newari. That signals troubled
times for Newari literature.
There simply aren't
enough people
writing in Newari,
especially women
novelist
Have the Newars as a community done
enough to conserve the language?
The community is now slowly waking
up to the fact that our language is in
trouble. There are organizations that are
now trying to promote the speaking of
the language. They are going out in the
community and trying to get people to
teach their children Newari along with
Nepali and English.
Is Newari literature
overshadowed by Nepali?
Not really. Each language has its own
place, and I'm talking about all kinds of
indigenous      languages—Newari,
I
S
8
Maithali and so on. But since there are
only limited number of people speaking these languages, the audience of such
literature is obviously limited.
Does the community have a critical
mass to sustain its own literature as
say Nepali?
I have been told that I need to write in
Nepali to reach out to a wider audience.
But I do not want to stop contributing
to Newari. I plan to translate some of
my works into Nepali so that they reach
a much wider audience. Right now, I am
translating my latest novel into Nepali.
Did you start out your
literary career with Newari?
I used to write in Nepali in the beginning. When I was an I. Sc. student in
Trichandra College, a Newari college
magazine asked me to contribute. So I
translated one of my writings, a poem into
Newari. That was back in 2033 B.S. It
was the first time my writing had been
published. Then the next year I wrote a
story in Newari for the magazine, and
then for various magazines. I believe most
of these magazines don't exist anymore,
but itwas through them that I started.
Why are there so few
women wiring in Newari?
There are but few who give it continuity. Writing needs to be given continuity.
It's like singing, where you need to constantly practice, just as singers require
riyaz. Many of those who were involved
got married, started a family, got busy
with other jobs. Many others say that
there are not enough material benefits.
And I guess they are right.  □
44
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Books
Master Of Intrigue
BY MEENA KAINI
Move over Ian Rankin, Jeffery
Archer and make way for Dan
Brown—the new master of
intrigue and suspense. This fourth offering from Brown has literally taken the
publishing world by storm.
"The Da Vinci Code" is a historical
thriller, which claims that Jesus was a
mortal and Christianity was a sexist conspiracy to exclude women from positions
of power. Priory of S ion—a European
secret society founded in 1099 and whose
members included Sir Isaac Newton,
Victor Hugo and Leonardo Da Vinci—
guards this secret to this date. Opus Dei,
a conservative network of Catholic
priests, is portrayed as a sinister and sadistic sect. It is a deeply devout catholic
DAN BROWN
■l     flNCELi    K     IIEMnHj
sect and has recently completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters in New York.
The thriller begins with the assassination of four members of Priory of S ion
who guard the secret about Jesus and
Mary, clues to which are hidden in works
of Leonardo Da Vinci. An American pro
fessor and symbologist Robert Langdon
(who has been a part of Brown's earlier
novel "Angels and Demons") and a
French detective and cryptologist
Sophie Neveu then go on a roller coaster
ride through France, England and Scotland sorting bizarre riddles to save the
secret ofthe holy grail—its central plot—
that a centuries-old conspiracy hid the
evidence that Jesus was a mortal.
Brown has done a masterly job of
combining history with conspiracy and
suspense. Starting with a murder at the
famed Louvre museum in Paris, the story
reaches a climax at Rosslyn chapel in
Edinburgh, believed to house the grail,
all in just 24 hours. The 489 pages of intricate details however do not make the
reader feel jaded. There might
be too much of history
pumped in by Brown but that
doesn't affect the storyline.
Some critics have been at a
loss to explain the book's success. The prose is routine and
the plot often confusing but it
works because according to
the author all description of
architecture, artwork, documents and secret rituals is accurate and therefore fascinating as well as believable. "The
Da Vinci Code" reads more
like a film script than a novel
as Brown's eye for detail is
phenomenal and one can easily visualize the action, as it
unfolds.
According to the publishers, Doubleday "The Da Vinci
Code" has now sold 10 million
copies worldwide, 7.5 million
in hardback, making it the biggest-selling hardback novel
ever. It has topped the New
York Times bestseller list for more than
a year and has been translated into 40 languages. For diehard fans, a special illustrated version ofthe Code is said to be
coming out on Christmas. It is soon to
become a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Ron Howard, of "A Beautiful
Mind" fame. □
Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ashok
Banskota is the co-proprietor of B&B Hospital and founding chairman ofthe Hospital and
Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children,
Banepa. An avid reader, Basnkota says his reading habits have changed over the years and he
is more selective about the books he reads
now. His favorite reads these days are spiritual
books and medical journals.
How did you become an avid reader ?
In St.Xavier's, Godavari we had this culture of
"book report writing." We used to review a lot of
books. So I got into the habit of reading books
at an early age.
What kind of books did you read then?
I used to read old classics by authors like
Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.
Who is your favorite author?
A. J. Cronin, a Scottish writer. I came across his
work for the first time as an eighth-grader. It
was his autobiography called 'Adventure in Two
Worlds," it inspired me to become a doctor.
There is another poignant and moving book of
his I recall, "Hatter's Castle." I have read every
one of his books.
What do you have on your bookshelf now?
I have filled my bookshelf with books of my
guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. He is a pioneer of yoga in the west.
What are you reading right now?
I am mid-way through the book "The Royal
Science of God Realization," an interpretation
of the Bhagvad Gita by Paramahansa
Yogananda. I would like to complete it sometime soon.
How do you find time to read ?
If there is something that you really love doing,
you can always find time for it.   d
nation weekly |  JULY 25, 2004
45
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Compromise Budget
We have mixed feelings about the
new budget. As a wartime Finance Minister, who is heavily
weighed down by a burden to rally disparate political actors, Bharat Mohan
Adhikari was always going to struggle
with the budget. We had feared as much
when he took office early this month.
His coalition partners, who don't share
his party's vision, were bound to safeguard their interests in the 111-billion-
rupee pie, the largest ever.
Notably, coming right at the heels of
the Cabinet expansion, we were also well
aware that the new budget was going to
be influenced by forces that held sway
before the CPN(UML) came aboard.
The best Adhikari could, then, do was to
fit in his party's interests and still come
up with a compromise document that
wouldn't ruffle too many feathers outside his own party.
And so he did. Unsurprisingly, most
ofthe budget is a routine affair. He had
little control over the fast ballooning security and Palace expenditures. The regular expenditure, which goes into meeting the salaries ofthe government officials, continues to
siphon off a sizeable
portion ofthe budget. The revenue
targets continue to
be more ambitious
than realistic. For
second straight year,
a huge amount has
been set aside for
elections.
But he seemed to have tried bravely
to buttress the much neglected health
and education sectors. We take heart in
that. A 25 percent increase in education
spending and 50 percent in health are silver linings of an otherwise routine budget, notwithstanding its focus on rural
development. Development expenditure, which betters the living conditions
ofthe people, has been on a steady decline since the "people's war" started in
1996. When the country is riddled in a
violent conflict, security bills find easy
passage and few dare to question them.
We do, and that at the risk of looking
foolish. As long as the country contin
ues to invest poorly on development, the
poverty cycle will continue and that in
turn will continue to fuel the insurgency.
But it is still the spiraling security
expenditure that continues to haunt us.
There has been as much as 10 percent
increase in security expenditure over last
year and there is every possibility that an
additional Rs. 9 billion allocation for
miscellaneous items could be diverted
to this sector, as much as last year when
the Army spent 17 per cent more than
what was allocated to it. When the
"people's war" started in 1996, the security expenditure stood at a mere Rs. 4.1
billion; it has now reached Rs. 15 billion. We fear that high security spending
will continue to crowd out other sectors.
Another area of concern is high allocations for the Royal Palace. Rs. 330 million set aside in the current budget for
the Palace is three times the 2002 level.
This comes despite the UML's recent
pledge to rein in the Palace expenditure.
We understand the juggling act must have
been difficult for the largest coalition
partner while working alongside parties
which seem to be
happy maintaining
the status quo. But
why promise if you
can't deliver? A
number of leaders
(outside UML) have
been rather vocal in
asserting that the
communist party
has the habit of changing its tunes to suit
the audience. We fear that the label
doesn't bode well for the party that insists it is determined to change its ways
by doggedly pursuing its documented
goals. We hope this budget will mark a
new beginning. The party has set some
ambitious targets—in education and
health sectors, for example. The Nepali
people would now like to see their government make genuine efforts towards
that end.
Akhilesh Upadhyay, Editor
JULY 25, 2004   |  nation weekly

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