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Nation Weekly May 16, 2004, Volume 1, Number 4 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-05-16

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MAY 16, 2004 VOL. 1, NO. 4
What Next?
After 11 Tumultuous Months In Singha Durbar
Surya Bahadur Thapa Steps Down
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''J-irkated in J JspaJ by: K.Y, CJvansiij Plsirliacin^ P'vc. Led,
18 After The Fall
By Akhilesh Upadhyay
Surya Bahadur Thapa has resigned as Prime Minister but
the parties are saying their protests will continue until
sovereignty returns to the people. But that's just one of
many problems ahead.
11  Cry For Help
By Suman Pradhan
Bara is a relatively developed district.
There's a thriving agriculture-based
industry. The road and communication networks are better than in many
parts of Nepal. Why then has it
emerged as such a hotbed of violent
extreme left-wing politics?
28 Three Fall Guys
By Samuel Thomas
There is still confusion in conservation circles about what should take
primacy: livelihood or conservation.
The balance sometimes swings too
much towards the conservation end at
the expense ofthe voiceless.
34 Double Standards
By Deepak Thapa
As long as dalits continue to remain at
the receiving end from janajatis, it
somewhat dilutes the latter's case of state
discrimination since they too are guilty
of being party to state-sanctioned social
36 And Justice For All
Byjogendra Ghimire
For citizens sick of stories of
corruption in high places, the quick
fall of Sharbendra Nath Shukla from
a cabinet perch marked a happy
ending to a dirty story. But was it a
case of over-reaction on the part of
CIAA, the watchdog agency, that led
to his ouster?
16 A House For
Mr. Pathak
By Satishjung Shahi and Tiku Gauchan
Much has been said about the remittances keeping Nepal's cash-strapped
economy afloat but experts now
question whether the money has
helped boost the country's overall
economic outlook.
24 Strings Attached
By Satishjung Shahi
At the NDF, European donors emphasized that the demands ofthe parties
needed to be addressed. And even
United States made no attempt to hide
its displeasure over the security forces'
poor human rights record.
26 Soldiers With
By Sushmajoshi
Many ofthe widely reported "abductions" are more a coercion to attend
cultural programs. But there are also
unfounded claims that the Maoist are
trying to raise a 50,000-strong child
30   More Matter
With Less Art
From April 23 to 28, theatre groups
from Nepal, India and Bangladesh had
the Gurukul theatre's premises abuzz.
32   Buddhist Behind
The Camera
By Sushma Joshi
Unlike the Beat poets who came, saw,
conquered the turmoils of their soul,
and then left Shangri-La for greener
pastures, Wayne Amtzis has stuck
around for more painful times.
Nation Weekly, The Media House, Tripureshor,
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Everest as lab
read the article in Nation on my research
project on Everest ("A laboratory known
as Everest," Everest, May 2). Without
qualification, it is the best non-technical account of this project that I have ever
read. Joshi succeeded in writing an engaging and accurate account that "ordinary" readers can follow I have sent her
article to my colleagues in the United
States and elsewhere, as well as to the
funding agency—the National Space
Biomedical Research Institute, which
reports to NASA Headquarters.
Donors fall out
THIS     IS     IN     RESPONSE     TO
Akhilesh Upadhyay's article on the donor
fallout ("Nepal's Donor Fall Out," Cover
Story, May 9). The donors have had their
differences over the years but the issue
came to a head in recent months, particularly after King Gyanendra dismissed
Deuba government. In recent weeks, interestingly, some donors have abandoned
their traditional facade of silence and come
out strongly to state displeasure over how
the country is being run; others have criticized the parties. As a Nepali, I am not
quite sure whether I am happy about this
activism. But then again, in an ideal world,
the donors would be sitting comfortably
inside their embassies instead of getting
their hands dirty. And we will be running
Nepal To Improve lis Human Rights Record
our country. The fact is today's Nepal is
not an ideal world—and can we really
blame the donors for asking us to spend
their money judiciously?
Development Forum, is now over. I wonder what their funding criteria are? Foreign loans and aid in the past have especially benefited government officials and
those who have ties with the establishment, rather than the common Nepali.
Indeed, the poor in poor countries are
betrayed twice: by the rich nations and
by their own government.
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Congratulations, details please
fine magazine. It is amazing to see such
the three volumes published to date, I
can say Nation is in for a long haul. You
are, it seems, catering to diverse groups
of readers. Here I want to draw your
attention to a mistaker in the City
Page (May 9). As a movie buff, I must
appreciate your inclusion of the
schedules of films being screened in
the city. Sadly, it does not help me
get the whole information. You only
mention the titles and venues but do
not give the time and date of the
online presence without regular updates is not acceptable (especially for a
great startup magazine like yours). So
please do that. And can you please thank
Sam Thomas ("As Long As You Film
It," Viewpoint, May 2) for the wonderfully argued article on the documentary Bhedako Oon Justo? That is how
articles should be presented. Wonderful stuff.
Chinese "design"
interest Swarnim Wagle's "Five Ironies" (May 9). I wish to add two
points for emphasis: First, the Chinese themselves do not believe that
the United States wants to use Nepal
in its "design" to encircle China.
Chinese ambassador in Nepal recently brushed aside diplomatic caution to laugh the question away—literally—when I put it before him.
Second, the official Chinese reference to Nepali Maoists is "anti-government forces." The Nepali comrades are not even considered
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nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
the story
the news
 THE      WORLD'S      BEST      CLOTHS
Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel. 4412017, Fax. 977-1-5539787
 LITTLE PRINCESS: Yuvaraj Kumari Purnika Shah
performing along with her classmates on Friday,
during the Parents Day celebration at Rupy's
International School in Bafal, Kathmandu
Cry For Help
ince the collapse of the cease-fire last August, the southern
border district of Bara has emerged as a hotbed of Maoist
activity. Kalaiya, the district headquarters, has been bombed
several times by the rebels. They have also killed scores of local "informants" and class enemies in the surrounding countryside. The government has, in turn, launched concerted security operations, killing many
rebels as well as innocents.
To a casual observer, the violence may seem strange because Bara
after all isa relatively developed district. There'sa thriving agriculture-based
industry. The road and communication networks are better than in many
parts of Nepal. And the people, comprising mostly of Terai Rajputs, Brahmins, Telis, Tharus, Muslims and dalits with a sprinkling of hill migrants, are
mostly engaged in some sort of
economic activity—be it farming,
industry or legal or illegal trade from
across the nearby border.
Why then has Bara emerged
as such a hotbed of violent extreme left-wing politics? Why
have the rebels found willing recruits and support in a district
that is better off than most others? Let us listen to what the
locals themselves have to say.
Krishna Jaiswal isa self-employed businessman who runs
a small workshop in Kalaiya,
manufacturing small tools and
pipes for irrigation. His customers are the rural farmers who
come to the market once in a
while to buy his tools and fertilizers.
I asked Mr. Jaiswal how business was. He replied: "It's bad.
The insurgency has eaten up most of my business. The number of
villagers coming to Kalaiya to buy my stuff has decreased considerably.
Everyone is afraid to come here now, lest they be caught in the conflict
between the rebels and the security forces."
Mr. Jaiswal then talks about another interesting reason for declining
business. Most of his customers are small subsistence farmers from the
villages surrounding Kalaiya. These farmers used to get good fertilizers,
irrigation facilities and other inputs, thanks to agriculture subsidies provided
by the government in the past. Taking out a loan from an agriculture bank to
buy the needed stuff was relatively easy. But in the past few years, the
subsidies have been cut, thanks to donor pressure. Farmers who rel ied on
government aid have to find money at market rates and buy fertilizers and
equipment at market prices. Clearly, the incentives have decreased but the
frustrations have correspondingly increased. Enter the Maoists.
"It is very easy to recruit people who have empty stomachs," explains Mr. Jaiswal. "The Maoists have been doingjustthat in the villages.
And many small farmers who see no hope in farming are supporting the
rebels because the Maoists give them some hope, however impossible
that hope may be."
As Mr. Jaiswal explains his reasons, his 26-year-old son—let's call
him Udhhab—sits nearby listening intently to this conversation. Udhhab
is a trained electrical engineer from one ofthe ex-
Soviet republics. He returned to Nepal two years
ago, but hasn't been able to find a job despite
appearing in countless recruiting exams.
"I was selected as one ofthe finalists to a position in a government utility company, but was rejected because my father couldn't pay the Rs.
300,000 bribe the selecting officer was asking," he
sighs. Udhhab then says that one of his friends, who
studied in the same institute in the ex-Soviet republic, gotthejob. "He admitted to me that he paid the
bribe, and advised that I too do the same next time."
Udhhab today spends time helping his father
in the workshop. He dreams of migrating abroad
for better opportunities, but doesn't have the
money nor the connections to make that happen.
He admits his prospects are bleak, and that makes
him a prospective recruit for the Maoists. "If the
Maoists were to come and recruit me, I would join
them. What is the use of all this education if I can't
make a living?" he asks.
You can take this as the idle rumblings of a
bored Terai family, or as the cries for help from the
poor and powerless masses. But in essence, in telling their different stories, both father and son have laid bare the truth about the ground realities
ofthe Maoist conflict. Countless such stories are found across the length
and breadth of Nepal, but their message is always the same: as long as
the country's small farmers, small business owners and youth see no
hope either in the present or in the future, the insurgency will only grow.
I wonder if the Nepal Development Forum meetings, which concluded last week, got to hear any of these stories. Foriftheyhad, they
would see how well-intentioned efforts to restructure a poor economy
along unbridled free-market lines, creates the conditions for conflict.
(The names in the article have all been changed at the persons'
request)    □
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The Maoist heartland
The Royal Nepal Army has
intensified its operation
against the Maoists in the
Mid-western hills, including
Rolpa and Rukum, the epicenter of Maoist heartland.
The newly appointed Army
Spokesman, Rajendra Thapa,
said the objective ofthe operation is to give people in the
region a sense of security as
well as reach those Maoists
who could possibly surrender. "Isn't it time we changed
our psychology over how
many steps were taken in resolving the crisis rather than
over the number of dead bodies?" Thapa said when asked
about casualties during the
10+2 curriculum
Starting next session,
Tribhuvan University will
phase out its Proficiency
Certificate Level (PCL) curriculum and replace it with
the one being used by 10+2
Higher Secondary Education
Board. The issue of phasing
out the PCL has remained a
political hot potato ever since
the Board was introduced to
improve the quality of education in the higher secondary level 10 years ago. Student
unions, who have been demanding that private schools
and colleges lower their fees,
say this decision will hike up
tuition fees. Some 436 government schools (among a
total 856 schools) fall under
the Board. The 10+2 education system currently has
250,000 students whereas the
Proficiency Certificate level
has 100,000.
Journalist memorial
Rastyriya Samachar Samiti
reporter Gyanendra Khadka,
who was killed by Maoists in
Sindhupalchowk last September, had his name featured
among the 53 new journalists
added in this year's Freedom
Forum Journalists Memorial.
The memorial now pays tribute to 1,528 reporters, editors, photographers and
broadcasters who died or
were killed while on assignment.
Remittances flow
Laxmi Bank has signed up
with "western Union to facilitate flow of remittances from
abroad. A global leader in
money transfer, Western
Union has 170,000 locations
in over 190 countries. It is
believed to handle more than
6,000 remittances into Nepal
from various parts of the
country. Annapurna Travels &
Tours, "western Union's primary agent in Nepal, will coordinate the bank's association with "western Union. Recipients of the money in
Nepal pay no charges. The
service will initially be on
offer in the bank's branches
in Banepa, Birgunj and
Pokhara (opening soon).
Maoist rampage
Maoists abducted 1,500
teachers and students and
took them to an undisclosed
location in Rukum. They
were taken hostage from
schools in the villages of
Chaurjahari, Basikot,
Ratimati, Jhula, Manma,
Rukumkot and
Phatimkandar. Dozens of
schools in the Maoist hotbed
have been closed for an in
definite period due to fears
of added abductions. Locals
assume that the villagers were
taken hostage to attend the
anniversary ceremonies of
the pro-Maoist student
union, ANNISU and would
be released once the ceremonies were over. Maoists are
said to have ordered all the
teachers and students in the
villages to attend the anniversary functions and anyone defying the order would be give
a three-month term in a labor camp, according to
Nepal Samacharpatra. There
are similar reports of mass
abductions from Dadeldhura,
Kalikot and Bajhang. There
are two explanations to these
aductions: either the Maoists
are preparing for a massive
attack somewhere in the Mid
West or Far West, or the captives will be set free after a
routine indoctrination
through Janabadi sessions.
Letter to Bhutan
The Foreign Ministry has
sent a letter to Bhutan asking
it to resume the repatriation
process, which stalled last
year when refugees in
Khudunabari camps attacked
Bhutanese in the joint
Nepal-Bhutan verification
team. The refugees, who have
been languishing in the UN
camps for more than 10 years,
became agitated when the JVT
members said that many of
the refugees had fallen in the
"non-Bhutanese" category.
The repatriation was slated
for early this year but
Bhutanese officials have refused to visit Nepal. "We
have sent the letter to resume
the stalled process immediately," says Foreign Secretary
Madhu Raman Acharya. 'We
will make sure fears of inadequate security are addressed."
Fire in the train
Nepal's only public train,
Janakpur Railways, closed its
service last Monday after
Maoist torched the
Mahinapur Railway station
in the border town. The fire
damaged the ticket counter
and the office building in the
station. The 52-kmJanakpur-
Jayanagar service had not resumed its service when we
went to press.
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Thapa resigns
Prime Minister Surya
Bahadur Thapa resigned on
Friday after facing much pressure from the protesting political parties. The government had earlier in the week
arrested Nepali Congress
President Girija Prasad
Koirala and CPN(UML)
General Secretary Madhav
Nepal from their residences
and set them free later in the
day. The next day, the government removed its tag of riot
prone zone in major areas of
the capital. The party protests, however, did not simmer down. After Thapa's resignation, the government released students arrested during the protests. But by the
time we went to press, the
parties were still sticking to
their stance of continuing
their protests.
Bus accident
A bus accident in Sano
Daireni of Palpa killed 33
people and injured more than
two dozens on the morning
of May 1. The bus that was
heading for Pokhara from
Butwal rammed past road
barriers, skidded off the
Siddhartha Highway, and fell
more than a hundred meters
Visa problems
The government on May 5
released all ofthe 54 Nepalis
who were kept in custody after they were deported from
Malaysia on charges of holding fake visas. The arrests had
come under sharp criticism
from companies supplying
laborers to foreign countries.
Police on April 27 confiscated fake visa stamping machines from the Chundevi
residence of two front desk
staff of the Malaysian Embassy. Malays-ia's New
Straits Times said no Malaysians were involved in the
scam. Another report quoted
Malaysian Home Affairs
Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid
as saying a total of 56 Nepalis
were refused entry at the
Kuala Lumpur airport on
April 24 and that another 610
in Nepal were also found to
have fake visas. The arrested
Nepalis claim they are innocent and that they didn't
know the visas were fake.
Farewell maestro
Sangeet Praveen Nararaj
Dhakal passed away last
Wednesday at the age of 84
after battling a long time
chest ailment. He was a renowned classical musician
and was teaching in many
campuses. A newspaper
quoted his son Prabhuraj
Dhakal as saying his father's
last wish was to open a classical music school in all 75
Respect rules
The International Committee ofthe Red Cross marked
this year's International Red
Cross Day by asking parties
to the civil conflict to respect
the basic rules of international humanitarian law and
to stop targeting civilians. The
international Red Cross and
Red Crescent movement is
the largest humanitarian aid
organization in the world
with more than 100 million
members and volunteers and
300,000 employees. The
ICRC's work in Nepal was
recently highlighted through
mediation in the release of
security personnel abducted
by the Maoists in Ham last
month and in Beni two
months ago. The international Red Cross and Red
Crescent day has been celebrated annually since 1948
on the birthday of Henry
Durant, the founder of Red
No U.S. visa
The U.S. government has
urged the Congress to make
the necessary changes in the
law to close the door for Diversity Visa applications from
countries that are perceived
as hostile to the United States.
Those fleeing oppression in
countries such as Cuba,
Libya, Syria, and Iran will be
ineligible to apply for the
Diversity Visa if the Congress upholds the recommendation. Nepal is apparently not going to be affected. The Congress has
also been asked to bar future
entries from applicants who
attempt multiple entries.
The U.S. Congress established the Diversity Visa
Program in 1995 to authorize
up to 50,000 immigrant visas
annually for countries that
were under-represented
among the 400,000 to 500,000
immigrants coming to the
United States each year.
Most immigration to the
United States is based upon
family relationships or employment but the Diversity
Visa doesn't require either.
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
PETITION TIME: Members of the Women's
Solidarity Group for Peace and Dialogue
await a Royal audience
Much has been said about the remittances keeping Nepal's
cash-strapped economy afloat but experts now question
whether the money has helped boost the country's overall economic outlook
Surendra Pathak lives in Queens,
New York City. He saves Rs.
70,000 and upwards each month
from his work as a waiter in a Manhattan restaurant. "Sometimes more, if I am
lucky and the tipping is good," he says
over the phone from New York. Pathak
works hard and lives frugally—he seldom eats out and does not splurge on
bars and the good things of a life in the
west. He sends most of his savings home
to Kathmandu, where his wife and
brother-in-law have been investing on
real estate.
Like Pathak, thousands of Nepalis
who have gone abroad to places as far as
Japan, South Korea, Europe and the Gulf
regularly send money home. Much has
been said about the remittances keeping
Nepal's cash-strapped economy afloat
but experts now question whether the
money has helped boost the country's
overall economic outlook.
"Most ofthe spending is not taking
place in areas such as manufacturing but
in less productive sectors," says Pradip
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
Upadhyay an economist and director of
National Development Volunteers Service under the National Planning Commission. Upadhyay believes the impact
of investments on economy would have
been far greater if the investments were
directed into ventures that would boost
industrial productivity and stable businesses. Unfortunately, with the poor security situation in the country, prospective investors are shying away from businesses and manufacturing industries.
What is happening instead is that the
remittance money is helping the con
struction, banking and finance sectors
flourish. Mansions sprouting in new
residential colonies like Gongabu,
Bhaisepati and Tikhe Dewal clearly show
where the remittance money pouring
into the country finally ends up. The
logic for investing in real estate is clear:
in such bearish times, investing in houses
is investing in safe capital. And together
with the houses being built by people
fleeing the insurgency in the villages, the
real estate industry is thriving.
The latest Economic Survey revealed
an increase in real estate and land revenues to over Rs. 715 million, up from
Rs. 570 million in 2002. By rough estimates, real estate prices have more than
doubled: a ropani of land in Tikhe Dewal,
more than a kilometer outside Ring
Road, which was going for Rs. 500,000
three years ago, today commands a price
tagofRs. 1.6 million.
Remittance money is also the major
reason for the upsurge in Nepal's banking sector. Nepal Rastra Bank's figures
for the last fiscal year show an increase
in convertible reserves by 22.9 percent
(to Rs. 98 billion) over last year. "Remittance has been a huge help to banks," says
Suman Joshi, Laxmi Bank's Chief Executive Officer.
Joshi estimates the current legal remittance market to be over a million
rupees monthly in cities such as Dharan
alone. The figure could be much higher
in places like Pokhara where more
people have gone abroad for work.
Since the government opened up its
policy to allow the operation of private
commercial banks, most of them are focusing on making it easier for money to
be transferred from abroad. Apart from
17 banks, there are 19 independent firms
operating as money agents. Just last
week, Laxmi Bank signed up with Western Union, a global leader in the money
transfer business, to facilitate flow of remittance.
"The global trend, including in
Nepal, is that while risks in business
lending have gone up, remittance money
has made it easier for banks to focus on
individual financing," says Joshi.
With houses and shopping complexes
coming up in the Valley like never before and with people zipping around in
new bikes bought on loan schemes, it
may seem that despite the financial mess,
the country will tide through the times.
A boom in real estate is a good indicator
for the health ofthe economy in places
where business is thriving. In conflict-
torn Nepal, mired in economic stasis,
the boom in real estate is only an indicator of investors playing it safe.
For the country's health to improve,
there can be no two ways about it: only
political stability can bail out the ailing
economy And until that happens migrant
workers like Surendra Pathak will have
to live marginalized lives in other countries, working tough jobs, and hope that
someday they will be able to invest in
better businesses and come home to
oversee their ventures. That will not only
be better for their livelihood, it will be
better for the country too.
But such times may not come around
soon. "It is difficult to predict if the
present economy is heading for a burst
ofthe economic bubble," says Joshi. "As
it is, long term visions are difficult to
implement in the current context of war
economy in Nepal."    □
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
 Surya Bahadur Thapa has resigned
as Prime Minister but the parties
are saying their protests will
continue until sovereignty returns
to the people. But that's just one
of many problems ahead
, fter 11 tumultuous months
in office, Surya Bahadur
Thapa left Singh Durbar
Friday, a rather lonely man.
Even his party RPP had
pulled out its support for the beleaguered
Prime Minister. While he was deliver-
sion and Radio Nepal, his colleagues
were having a hearty laugh over it all at
the party office in Naxal.
Thapa's legacy: a deep rift between
the political parties and the Palace;
breakdown of a fra^
tremely poor security situation that
threatens to stall development activities;
and failure to make security forces adhere to accepted human rights standards.
It is important to note here that Nepal's
donors, during the Nepal Development
Forum last week and weeks preceding the
biennial meet, made it amply clear that
adherence to internationally accepted human rights norms and return to representative governance were key conditions to
While Thapa, as prime minister, will
be blamed by historians for the rotten
state of affairs that the country now finds
itself in (after his appointment last June
Thapa insisted that the Eng had restored
executive powers to his cabinet), it will
be unfair to put the blame squarely on
him. Nepal's present-day politics is far
too complex for one single person to
unravel, even if that person is a battle-
hardened political veteran like Thapa.
The rift between the political parties and
the Palace had started well before he
came into office and the "people's war,"
started by the Maoists in 1996, had already fanned to dangerous levels while
the parties were still in power.
Nevertheless, with Thapa now out
ofthe way, King Gyanendra has a historic opportunity to begin mending
fences with the mainstream political parties who have been in the wilderness due
to his October 4,2002 action. In that time,
republican slogans have gathered currency. The King therefore has the
Herculean task of righting the political
process and, at the same time, turning
the parties around to defend the monarchy against the Maoists.
For this, many analysts agree that
since the problem lies far beyond Thapa,
the solution should extend well beyond
his ouster. "The issue here isn't about
the removal of Lokendra Bahadur Chand
or Surya Bahadur Thapa," says Lok Raj
Baral, a political science professor, "but
the restoration of the derailed political
What exactly does this mean? Since
most now agree that the King's rule by
hand-picked governments overstretched
the letter and spirit ofthe Constitution—
therefore the derailed political process—it can only be righted if a representative government with full executive powers is formed.
The best way to put a representative
government in place is to hold elections.
The King himself promised to hold one
within 2061 B.S. But elections are already
a major bone of contention between the
parties and the Palace. The parties are
not so anxious about holding elections
so much as they are about resolving the
Maoist issue. 'We are in the line of fire,"
says Amrit Bohara, a CPN(UML) central committee member. "The parties
realize that going to elections without
June 1 King Birendra and family members are assassinated by Crown Prince Dipendra, in the Royal Palace on Friday. The prince goes into a coma from
apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound
June 2 Crown Prince Dipendra declared king while
still in coma. Prince Gyanendra declared regent
June 4 King Dipendra dies, Prince Gyanendra declared king. Anti-Gyanendra protests are held in the
capital where a curfew is imposed
July 19 Maoists step up violence, Prime Minister
Girija Prasad Koirala resigns
July 22 Sher Bahadur Deuba named new Prime Minister, announces truce with rebels
Aug 30 Government, Maoists begin peace talks in
Godavari. Maoists demand new constitution
Nov 21 Maoists end four-month ceasefire
Nov 23 Maoists for the first time launch attack on
the Army by mowing down a barrack in Dang. Attacks
inSurkhetand Syangja, killing24 policemen
Nov 25 Another attempted attack on the Army base
in Salleri
Nov 26 King Gyanendra declares state of emergency.
Royal Nepal Army deployed against the Maoists
Jan 18 U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell visits
Feb 17 Maoists mow down another Army barrack in
Mangelsen, Achham Authorities say hundreds of
Maoist rebels killed since Army operations began
March 17 Army claims Maoist training center busted
in Rolpa, 68 Maoists killed
May 7 Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba meets
with U.S. President George W. Bush to seek support
King Gyanendra
(R) with Crown
Prince Paras
for his campaign against the Maoists. Bush
pledges US$20 million. Maoists offer truce, which
is rejected by the government
May 22 King Gyanendra dissolves Parliament,
orders fresh elections. Deuba expelled by the
Nepali Congress, but remains interim prime minister
Aug 28 Government lifts state of emergency
Oct 4 King Gyanendra fires Deuba calling him
"incompetent" and "incapable" of holding parliamentary elections on schedule. Deuba had
asked for the postponement of elections due to
fears of Maoist violence
Oct 11 King Gyanendra names Lokendra Bahadur
Chand of Rastriya Prajatantra Party the new
prime minister
Jan 29 Maoists declare cease-fire, begin peace
talks with government
May 30 Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand
June 4 King Gyanendra appoints Surya Bahadur
Thapa, 75, as new Prime Minister
July 31 Maoists agree to government requests
for a resumption of peace talks
Aug 17 Peace talks resume in Nepalgunj for the
first time since May
Aug 27 Maoists call off seven-month cease-fire
and withdraw from peace talks. Shoot dead an
Army colonel, fighting resumes. Clashes between
soldiers and rebels escalate through late 2003,
leaving heavy casualties on both sides
May 7 Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa announces his resignation (Friday) after 11 months
in office and months of protests by political
parties demanding a restoration of democracy
and new elections
Leaders sitting out their
time behind the barricades
The masses congregate a
day after Koirala's and
Nepal's arrest and release
Singha Durbar awaits one
with a "clean image"
resolving the Maoist problem will be
suicidal. Literally. And there we need
to listen carefully to the Maoists."
If that calls for the delaying of elections, or even going for a constituent
assembly, so be it, says Prof Baral. "The
country's problems will not be solved
without resolving the Maoist problem.
Any election held without the resolution ofthe Maoist issue is unlikely to
be successful." It was this that led to
fall ofthe last elected government of
Sher Bahadur Deuba.
But however pressing the need to
resolve the Maoist problem, it can only
come later. For now, the immediate
problem is to get the parties and the
Palace to agree on the shape ofthe next
government. This is not an easy task, as
has been borne out by recent history.
The issue is not just who forms the
next government and how much leverage such a government will have, but
rather what should be the role ofthe
monarch, who controls the Royal
Nepal Army and where does sovereignty lie in practice? Many analysts
say, it was failure to deal with these crucial issues during the democratic years
that invited the King's intervention.
The five-party alliance which
spearheaded an anti-King movement
(euphemistically called anti-regression) from April 1 is clear about where
it stands: it wants to minimize the
King's role by reducing his executive
powers, and have control over the
Royal purse and Royal Nepal Army,
which according to its 18-point agenda,
should be put under parliamentary
control. The Nepali Congress (Democratic) , though not a signatory to the
18-point agenda, too is supportive of
most ofthe points in the list.
But it will be difficult to get the
Palace to agree to such wholesale
change. The King's announcement on
Friday evening calling on the parties
to put forth a person with a "clean image" as the new Prime Minister is signal enough that the monarch wants to
retain his rights over the appointment
ofthe executive. In essence, what this
means is, even if sovereignty is vested
in the people and their elected representatives, the King makes the final decision over who heads the government.
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 Not surprisingly, the parties find this unacceptable, and therefore the consternation caused by the King's Friday announcement.
Outgoing Prime Minister Thapa,
sensing the parties' mood tried one last
time to bridge the divide between the
Palace and the parties. In his resignation
speech, he took great pains to stress that
the King was committed to constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy and it would be unfair to question
the King's commitment to democracy.
But parties aren't quite sure about
that, especially after the "clean image"
announcement. The Palace, party leaders say, is positioning for another hand-
picked government, instead of restoring
a government with executive powers.
They recall how the early rift between
the King and parties started in the days
after the dismissal of Sher Bahadur
Deuba's government on 4 October 2002
and later after Chand's removal on May
30 last year.
"We may have given the Palace the
benefit of doubt in the past," says Bharat
Mohan Adhikari, a central committee
member of CPN(UML). "The parties
have always had their consensus prime
Ram Sharan Mahat
minister," Adhikari says, recalling how
the King snubbed political parties last
year when he appointed Thapa instead
of UML General Secretary Madhav
Kumar Nepal. This time round, the
mood in the parties is different. "Unless
we get a clear commitment from the
Palace about the transfer of sovereign
rights to the people," says the former finance minister, "our protest against regression will continue."
Says Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, a Nepali
Congress central committee member,
"We are not encouraged by what we have
heard from the Palace so far," in reference to the controversial statement from
Bahadur Thapa (in his car)
o tender his resignation
the Palace Friday.
The statement says
that the new prime
minister should
have a "clean image
and an ability to
take along all parties" and "start
elections to
Pratinidhi Sabha
within 2061 B.S. as
per the people's
By the time we
went to press, there was still no clear
indication ofthe shape ofthe next government, or indeed of an agreement between the Palace and the parties. But all
sides know, a new government is just the
The end can only come when an enlightened representative government
which has the confidence ofthe people
negotiates a lasting peace with the Maoists.
The keyword here is enlightened. For it
needs an enlightened government not
only to forge peace with the Maoists but
also to see that the root causes that have
fanned the rebellion, exclusion and poverty is dealt with effectively.
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
 The donors at the NDF have
come up with a consensus.
Europeans emphasized that
the demands of the parties
needed to be addressed as
soon as possible. And even the
United States, seen widely as
siding with the government
on human rights issues, made
no attempt to hide its displeasure over the security forces'
poor human rights record
T'he Nepal Development Forum
turned out to be the last official as
signment for the Surya Bahadur
Thapa government. And if claims made
by government officials are any indication, it also turned out to be perhaps the
most grueling one for the government,
whose human rights record has routinely
come under fire from the international
Apart from the regular opposition
from the political parties on the streets,
the two-day forum required continuous
face-to-face clarifications and commitments to dissatisfied donors on a number of issues, including human rights and
constitutional monarchy.
"It was going to be rough and we
were prepared," said a senior government
official. "But we were not quite prepared
for this level of resistance."
During the meeting, donors issued
separate statements. Europeans emphasized that the demands of the parties
needed to be addressed as soon as possible. And even the United States, seen
widely as siding with the government
on human rights issues, made no attempt to hide its displeasure over the
security forces' poor human rights
The United States said that it wanted
to see Nepal make progress on human
rights and good governance. "Both the
Maoists and the security forces abuse
human rights," said a statement presented
by Donald A. Camp, U.S. Principal
Deputy Assistant Secretary for South
Asian Affairs.
The end result: Delegates from 20
countries, six international financial institutions and UN agencies gave a nod
to the government's estimated annual
funding of US$ 560 million for the Poverty Reduction Strategy. But that didn't
come easy.
It required the government to listen
patiently to harsh criticism from the
donors, many of whom were raising issues that protestors were chanting on the
The tone was set right from the word
go. "Giving development another chance
is not a blank check for more ofthe same
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
chaotic governance," said Praful Patel,
World Bank's vice-president ofthe South
Asia Region in his inaugural address.
His concerns were shared by the
Europeans: 'We wish to reiterate that
failure to address these issues (restoration of democracy, peace process and
improving the human rights situation)
will severely undermine the prospects
for our development partnership to further develop and fully materialize."
Finance Minister Prakash Chandra
Lohani seemed pleased with the outcome, though. 'We have to take these
(concerns) seriously," Lohani told reporters from the dais that he shared with
the World Bank's Patel, heads of other
government agencies and the UN's Matthew Kahane, who represented the donors. "It is only natural for our friends to
voice their concern over the present conflict and political stalemate."
(FAR LEFT) World Bank Vice
President Praful Patel and UN
Special Representative Matthew
(LEFT TOP) Though not a donor, India
attended NDF as an invitee
The political parties, who had already
announced their boycott ofthe two-day
meeting, had met with donors for two
and a half hours before the forum got
underway on Wednesday. The parties'
had demanded that the forum be postponed but the donors turned down their
request, stressing that Nepal's development needs could not be compromised.
Although the political parties had attended pre-consultation meetings earlier
that lasted for 17 days, they refused to attend
the grand finale, saying they would not like
to attend an event hosted by an illegitimate
government. Civil society participants too
joined forces with the political parties.
"This is not a meeting with the political parties," Minister Lohani said,
when he was asked if the boycott ofthe
parties had affected the meeting. "They
gave their input during the pre-consul-
tations. The meeting is now between
Donors demanded c
(LEFT MIDDLE) Civil society groups
protest outside the NDF venue
(LEFT BOTTOM) Finance Minister Lohani
at the NDF
(ABOVE) Delegates at the inaugural
session at the BICC
His Majesty's Government and the donors."
Lohani didn't have an easy ride
though. Ajoint statement issued by the
donors repeatedly highlighted the need
to restore democracy, both at the national
and local levels, respect human rights
and urge the government to forge partnership with local stakeholders.
In March the outgoing Prime Minister Thapa had released a 25-point
Commitment Paper on human rights
in Kathmandu while the 56th UN Human Rights Session was going on in
Geneva, where human rights abuses in
Nepal was a major issue.
But a month on, the donor community still maintains that the government
needs to work on many fronts. While
donor support is crucial for Nepal's long
term progress, development goals will
only be attained if the government first
commits itself to achieving peace, good
governance and human rights, says Camp,
who led the U. S. team at the NDF.    n
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
Many of the widely reported "abductions" are more a coercion to attend cultural programs. But there are also unfounded claims that the Maoist are trying to raise a 50,000-
strong child militia
On April 21, newspapers re-ported
that the Maoists had abducted
162 people, including 120 students, from the villages of Subhang and
Bharapa in Panchthar. The papers weren't
clear when they had been abducted and
the local residents were at a loss to explain why. Next day, 1,000 more were
taken hostage from the villages in
Panchthar and Taplejung—neither of
them a Maoist stronghold.
Earlier, on February 27, 65 students
from sixth to tenth grades, were abducted
along with their teacher while returning
from Musikot, Rukum (this one a
Maoist stronghold) after taking part in
the Birendra Shield Competition . The
security forces who were deployed to
free the students failed in their mission.
When the gun battle between the Army
and the rebels raged on for days, the locals fled their villages.
According to subsequent news reports, though vague, the abductees were
set free after Janabadi education sessions.
INSEC, a human rights group, says that
many of the widely reported "abductions" are more a coercion to attend cultural programs than people being held
against their will for any length of time.
But there are also unfounded claims that
the Maoist are trying to raise a 50,000-
strong child militia.
"Children from eighth and ninth
grades are taken for a few days, and are
indoctrinated," says Child Workers in
Nepal (CWIN), which runs its own social service program in Rolpa, Rukum
and Salyan, the districts hit hardest by
the insurgency. "They are made to do exercises; they are made to carry heavy loads
and run. The Maoists give them their
books to read. So they are not 'abducted'
by force or made captive in a conventional sense. They are taken en masse to
attend Maoist programs, and then they
are returned."
Incidents of Maoists taking students
from schools have become increasingly
common since early 2004. In mid-February the Maoists celebrated the eighth
anniversary ofthe "people's war," forcing 700 students in Accham to join their
anti-establishment protest. On February
20, a teacher reported seeing 300 students
taken from a school in Rolpa. Khem
Bahadur Budha told AFP news agency
that the students were taken from
Saiwang Secondary School at Holeri village.
Unconfirmed reports say the
Maoists are planning to raise a huge
child militia. While the claim is as difficult to establish as many other stories
about the Maoists, there are some pointers that give credence to the claim.
Kamal Shahi, ANNISU-R central secretariat member and convenor of the
Maoist Bheri-Karnali Regional Coordination Committee, has been quoted as
saying that the decision to raise the child
militia was taken on January 10-11. And
that the Maoists planned to 'induct'
375,000 students by the end of Baisakh
(May 13). One militia would be levied
from each school. The students would
not be coerced, Shahi said.
The security forces' response to the
recruitment of children, in both mili
tias and active combat, has not been exactly friendly. They have been known to
open fire in schoolyards, and take children being taught by teachers at gunpoint.
"Four years ago, the security forces were
interrogating children who had become
involved in conflict," reports CWIN.
"They had surrender camps. There is no
concept of verbal sexual assault in the
military. They would use abusive words
to the children, and even threaten to rape
them in order to get information."
Nepal is one ofthe 13 countries in
Asia actively using children as soldiers,
says the London-based Coalition to Stop
the Use of Child Soldiers. The Maoists,
not the Army, uses them. The UN Convention on the Rights ofthe Child says
children below 15 cannot be used in
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a Maoist
leader, told CNN in November 2002
that reports of child recruitment by
Maoist groups are "baseless allegations
made by the Nepali government. We have
no children in our fighting force. We do
not admit anyone below 18 in our
army... As far as our movement is concerned, we have the support ofthe children as well as the elderly. But they are
not part of our army..."
According to Nepali laws, a person
is only considered a child up to the age
of 16, unlike in other countries where
the responsibilities of adulthood start at
'  JL.,   M, '   '
 18. Maoists claim only people over 18
become combatants. Underage children
are put in militias, which are not involved
in active warfare.
SSP Ramesh Chand of Nepal Police
says there are no laws specific to children. The law ofthe land treats children
caught with arms and wearing guerrilla
outfits just as it would the adults. "We
don't automatically think a child carrying a gun is a culprit. They are given the
chance to surrender. We believe we can't
attack children, but if they attack first,
then of course the security personnel
have to respond."
Children are helpless pawns in the
Rights workers say that children are
used as human shields by the Maoists, who
also train them to carry light arms and
ammunition. Since the "people's war"
began in 1996, 214 children have been
documented killed: 140 by the state, and
74 by the Maoists, according to INSEC
Juvenile courts, which deal with children separately, don't exist in Nepal.
Nepal is one of the 13 countries in Asia actively
using children as soldiers, says the London-
based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.
There are "juvenile benches" where
judges sit separately to try the cases of
children in all 75 districts, but only a few
cases have been tried through these
benches. The individuals administrating
these benches don't know much about
them, say rights workers. Nepal's
Children's Act of 1992 has specifically
mentioned the need for juvenile courts,
but it hasn't been implemented.
"There are no separate prisons for children," says SSP Chand. "Juvenile custody
doesn't exist in Nepal. The government
doesn't have the resources." The anti-terrorism law is administered by the civil police, not the security forces or the military.
The Maoist policy to take students
has severely affected the schools and
hundreds have closed down in different
parts ofthe country as parents and teach
ers, afraid of having their children abducted, either stop sending children to
school or move them to urban centers
where they are comparatively safer.
Girls' education has especially suffered: news reports say that girls below
puberty are being made to wear bridal
wear while going to school, since the
Maoists are thought to target married
women less.
Children as Zone of Peace National
Coalition, a forum of 30 organizations,
has condemned the Maoist plans to use
children in militias, and have urged both
the Maoists and security forces to declare schools as battle-free zones. Until
that happens, the civil conflict will continue to rob an entire generation of children of their right to education and a better future.    □
There is still confusion in conservation circles about what
should take primacy: livelihood or conservation. The balance sometimes swings too much towards the conservation end at the expense of the voiceless
Organised poaching and trade in
wildlife are threatening conservation gains and putting
several species at risk, but token convictions will not help the cause.
Last month leading conservationists
and experts from South Asia and elsewhere in the world gathered in
Kathmandu for two back-to-back workshops on trafficking in wild flora and
fauna. The urgency was clear: in recent
months there have been huge hauls of
wildlife parts in Nepal, most bound for
Tibet. The hauls have sent shivers down
the spines of leading conservationists.
If this is the scale of the killing, they
fear, there won't be anything left in a
few years.
There are clear and ominous signs.
Experts agree that Nepal is not a consumer market, but is a source and transit
for huge quantities of wildlife parts in
the region. There are organized groups
involved in the trade, catering to huge
markets elsewhere. The amounts involved are staggering. Now, for the enforcement side: how have agencies here
dealt with the threat and with people, in
the rare cases where they have been
caught? This, after all, was the focus of
the second workshop.
On 1 September 2003, newspapers
reported that three Chepangmen—Ram
Bahadur Praja, 27, Sukra Bahadur Praja,
19 and Prem Bahadur Praja, 19—were
convicted for poaching rhinos, sentenced to 15 years in prison and asked to
pay fines of Rs. 100,000 each. There has
been little or no reaction to the case in
the media. It is business as usual for civil
society in Kathmandu. Tellingly, the verdict was delivered on the same day that a
customs official posted a bail amount of
Rs. 4.3 million in a corruption case and
was freed on bail.
In the case of these three men, the
'justice' came quickly—the main accused was arrested in Chitwan in June
2003. The sentence was delivered in
three months. Clearly the customs official and the Chepang are equal before
the law ofthe land, but it is 'equity before the law' that is more important here.
To understand this one needs to turn first
bing and punishing three fall guys so
This is a story we have heard all too
often. Some months ago a man was caught
attempting to smuggle 109 leopard skins.
He said he was doing this at the behest
of a trader. Where is the trader? In this
case too, the larger fish have gotten away.
And so while the fall guy spends years in
prison for being a courier, the trader is
sourcing leopard skins elsewhere. An
Army colonel was caught hunting in
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. The issue was widely publicised in the media.
But no one suggested 15 years and a
Rs. 100,000 fine.
This is a problem of not "putting the
last first." Although conservation
organisations after the Millennium
While the fall guy spends years in prison for
being a courier, the trader is sourcing leopard
skins elsewhere. The larger fish get away
to the socio-economic and political status ofthe Chepang, easily one ofthe most
disadvantaged indigenous groups in the
This justice was too speedy, too severe and somehow too convenient.
Clearly, the three convicted men are not
in league with merchants from Yemen
who trade in rhino horn. Clearly, they
are not in league with Chinese triads
who control the illegal trade in wildlife parts for traditional medicine.
Clearly, they do not control the trade
from or through Nepal and benefit a
great deal from it. Clearly, they cannot
pay fines of Rs. 100,000 or even hire a
The authorities were quick to act in
this case, although they remain 'clueless'
about the big national and international
players in this racket, the ones who always get away. It was rather sad to see
people applaud the authorities for nab-
MAY 16,
nation weekly
 Summit ("conservation must be part of
the development agenda or risk 'irrelevance'") admit to having made the shift,
there is still confusion as to which approach should take primacy. There can
be no two ways about it. This is really
the livelihood versus conservation issue with the balance sometimes swinging too much towards the conservation
end at the expense ofthe voiceless.
The creation of protected areas has
often meant that access to traditional
common property resources is denied,
sometimes to the benefit of more
advantaged groups. Also, after all these
years, compensation mechanisms for
crop depredation and loss of life and
limb due to wildlife are still not fully
in place.
This case is a test for the mainstream
conservation sector's commitment to
people-centred conservation. While we
all recognize that poaching of an endangered animal is a crime worthy of
punishment, conservation cannot succeed by locking up the pawns in the
If the rhino or any other threatened
animal is to survive, it is the big fish in
the business that must be put away. The
landless and extremely poor dalits and
janjatis must have a substantial part in
the conservation effort and their livelihood issues must be addressed.
Their expertise, in tracking and
spotting, and the lay of the land, will
help conservation units function better. Many efforts worldwide have succeeded by using ex-poachers in forest
This case is also an opportunity for
human rights watchdogs to take off their
conflict blinkers and see other victims
who have no advocates, no livelihood
security, and are being exploited by international smugglers for their traditional hunting skills.
For conservation actors and donors,
it is an opportunity to push for more
meaningful inclusion of the poorest
in conservation efforts.
For the media, it is a great opportunity to take up this case and demand
that real justice be done. This huge
problem cannot be solved by locking
up little men.
(Thomas works with IUCN. The views
expressed are his.)    □
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
Probir Guha's Alternative Living
Theatre focuses on "the experience
of hunger, unemployment and social inequality and portrays the pain, humiliation, disillusionment and alienation of
the downtrodden."
How long have you been in theatre?
From 1965.
What sort of plays were done then?
All traditional stuff. Now Indian theatre
has become very modern.
Are you happy -with the issues that
Indian theatre artists are raising?
Not really. Most ofthe directors today
are doing the kind of plays that come
under the rubric of art for art's sake. This
kind of play doesn't do anything to address the suffering ofthe multitude and
The plight of people without a job and
shelter, women sold for flesh, the hungry pains me deeply and I want to react
to it. I strongly feel that theatre should
react to the wounds.
Can you tell us a little about the form
you are working on?
I keep researching ways to connect to
the people. The form I am working on
is one way of connecting to the people.
We need to shock the people.
Your take on Nepali theatre?
When I first came here, there was no
good theatre to speak of. Now Nepali
theatre seems to have improved a bit.
Nepali theatre is still pretty much an
imitation of Anglo-American theatre,
transported through India. Now it has
to find its own language,    d
More Matter
With Less Art
Last month the Nepal chapter of
the International Theatre Insti
tute hosted a series of plays at
Gurukul drama school in Baneswore.
From April 23 to April 28 theatre groups
from Nepal, India and Bangladesh had
Gurukul's premises abuzz, staging three
plays a day.
The Nepali contingent was made up
of troupes from Kathmandu, Dharan and
Bhojpur. While some ofthe Nepali plays
seemed amateurish with actors displaying stage fright and some of them hamming it up, there were some notable performances: "Agniko Katha," directed by
Sunil Pokharel of Aarohan, "Thamelko
Yatra," directed by Puskar Gurung ofthe
Dabali Theatre and "The Fire Raisers,"
directed by Sabina Lehmann. "Agniko
Katha" has been staged many times both
at home and abroad. Last March, the play
had been selected as one ofthe 10 best
plays staged at the Rangamahotsav, organized by the National School of Drama.
Among the visitors, the Alternative
Living Theatre, Kolkota, came up with
sterling performances. Probir Guha of
the Alternative Living Theatre was the
man ofthe festival. He brought a dash of
freshness to the festival with his novel
style of presentation. Guha is preoccupied with breaking the spatial constraints
of conventional theatre and creates a stage
where there is none. During the performance of his plays, Guha would lead the
audience inside the theatre hall or out at
will, bringing them face to face with complexities of daily life, forcing them internalize the pathos. In one of his plays he
blindfolded the audience, made them tour
the Gurukul premises—climbing up and
down the slopes, crossing over corpses
and passing through ringing cries—only
to uncover their eyes inside a toilet where
people eating food greeted them—all in
an effort to shock the audience.
His plays were unabashedly political. In "Tritiyayuddha" he lashed out at
the third war—globalization, Coca-
Colanization, McDonaldization and the
G-8 countries. In "Jatrapath" he tried to
demystify the myth of Shining India.
The Dabali theatre troupe from
Kathmandu have decided to extend their
shows beyond the festival and their play,
"Thamelko Yatra," which is being staged ev-
erydayatGurukulwillrununtilMayl2.    n
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
Putali Sadak, Kathmandu, Tel: 4244521
Kumaripati, Lalitpur, Tel: 5537519
New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Tel: 4780395
Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Tel: 4421574
 Arts   Societ
The Buddhist
Behind The Camera
Wayne's photos are moved and angered by the same
existence that troubled Prince Siddhartha
The oft-repeated complaint about
Buddhists, especially Western
ones living in Nepal, is that they
are so engrossed in their meditation
practice that they have a difficult time
naming the prime minister. The outside
world is perceived through a transcendental blur. Wayne Amtzis is a welcome
exception to this stereotype.
"That's an interesting shape over
there," says Wayne, pointing to a crack in
the concrete with a twinkle in his eye.
"It looks like a Buddha. No, more like
a rabbit." The first impression of irrepressible Wayne is that he does not have
any holy cows tied up in his backyard.
In the garden, Wayne has sheets and
sheets of his old poems which have
been eaten by insects. When the poet,
who keeps no backups, recently found
his old poetry in such shape, he did not
get into a fit of depression. He took photographs of them instead. Those pages
were placed with other objects: garden
cans, prayer beads and bowls, leaves,
street signs, a torn vest, a rubber doll
and other random street treasures
found by the artist, and digitally remixed
in the computer. This series, featuring
the reincarnated poems, was exhibited
at the Siddhartha Art Gallery this April.
Wayne looks at the darkness and
light that makes up Nepal with the
same clear-eyed and unflinching gaze,
the same steady equilibrium. Unlike
the aid workers purring by in their
air-conditioned Pajeros, Wayne
Amtzis moves down the crowded
lanes and streets, slowly on foot, pausing to catch snatches of dialogue, facial gestures, the sound of street static.
He has time to listen to a tired coolie
over here, watch the spit come out of
the mouth of a supposed madwoman
over there.
His poems start gently enough, leading
you down a modern space full of cars and
corpses, technology and organic decay The
denouement, when it comes, comes
abruptly, shocking the reader out of com-
placency-the suicide of a sixteen year old
girl, or a 'Welcome to Nepal" sign sponsored by Coca-Cola. The almost unbelievable story, reported in the Kathmandu Post,
of a child suckled by a bitch.
His photos, taken in black and white,
are moved and angered by the same existence that troubled Prince Siddhartha-
stark portraits of a little girl struggling
with a heavy steel bucket; a man slumped
tiredly over himself holding the stub of
a dying beedi; a body sleeping beneath
wall graffiti which proclaims a national
Wayne    has
been writing poetry and creating
photographs of
Nepal for many
years. His deep
commitment to
social justice is
palpable. Unlike
the Beat poets who
came,   saw,   conquered the turmoils
of their soul, and
then left Shangri-La
for greener pastures,
Wayne Amtzis has
stuck around  for
more painful times.
Wayne's contributions to the Nepali
art field cannot be
counted by the number of his publications or exhibits
alone. He has translated poems of
Nepali poets, and is
currently at work on
a book of poems about water written by
a Newari poet Purna Vaidya. He, along
with his wife Judith, who works for the
Cornell Nepal Study Program, are also
behind-the-scene mentors to young
Nepali artists and writers, providing vital and generous support to the burgeoning arts movement in Kathmandu. More
importantly, he has allowed a sense of
playful experimentation to seep into a
world otherwise tightly regimented by
gallery requirements and canonical dictates. After all, who but Wayne could dare
put a torn vest found on the street up as
an art object at a Nepali art gallery?
At the opening of his photography
series, Wayne read aloud his poems. "Listen to the sounds," he urged, "don't try
to assign meaning." Like his photographs, which have softened with the
passing of time, his words are full of
compassion. Outside in the streets, protests are raging. Blood flows and fear
moves beneath the surface ofthe country. Listening to the impassioned voice
of Wayne Amtzis, it is not difficult to
understand that dukkha still stalks the
people and land of Nepal.     □
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
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<C S
Double Standards
As long as dalits continue to remain at the receiving end from janajatis,
it somewhat dilutes the latter's case of state discrimination since they
too are guilty of being party to state-sanctioned social discrimination
On a recenttriptoa predominantlyGurungvillage in northern Kaski, the
group I was traveling in was feted by the local Aama Samuha in recognition ofthe support provided by one of us in their efforts to run a day-care
center for pre-school children. It was rather late in the evening when we
arrived, but the village mothers were out in force. They felicitated us all
and sang and danced to show their appreciation. This was all fine except
for the discomfort we felt when we noticed a number of women assembled outside the house jostling for space at the barred windows to
peer at the festivities within. The community building was off-limits to the
village dalits.
The Gurungs from the village must be aware that their community
leaders in Kathmandu have been campaigning for a secular state and
that their activism extends to a call to renounce Hinduism and revert to
their indigenous religious practices. That, by definition, would also mean
rejecting one ofthe fundamental tenets of Hinduism—the caste system.
That message, however,
seems not to have gone
down strongly in this village
or with the many other
janajati communities, for
janajatis across the country
still adhere strongly to the
'water line' embodied in the
long-defunct Muluki Ain of
This is obvious from the
reports of atrocities against
dalits covered by newspapers. Janajatis form a high
percentage of those committing outrages against dalits,
whether it be over marriage
relations or simply a question ofthe age-old problem
of access to water sources.
Given their proclaimed disavowal of Hinduism, one
would expect the janajati
leadership to be quick to
condemn such practices by
those they claim to represent. One would assume that since janajati
leaders attribute almost everything that has gone wrong in the country to
the Hindu domination ofthe state, they would seek common ground with
groups that have been historically discriminated against bythe 'Manubadi'
Hindu state in dismantling it. Dalits would be the most obvious fellow
travelers in this fight. Yet, not a word of protest is uttered by janajati
leaders either individually or through the various organizations against
the inhuman treatment of dalits byjanajatis.
This begs the question: are janajatis involved in a straightforward
power struggle against a state that manifests itself through 'bahunbad'
or are they advocating a more egalitarian society? It probably is a combination of both but it seems to have slipped their mind that a just society
also means justice for all. As long as dalits continue to remain at the
receiving end from janajatis, it somewhat dilutes the latter's case of state
discrimination since they too are guilty of being party to state-sanctioned
social discrimination against an even more hapless group.
All the literature from janajati groups contain a laundry list of demands and no attention is paid to the issue of social reform within their
own ranks. While their own place in the caste hierarchy enjoined upon by
the Muluki Ain has been shrugged off by the janajatis as an imposition by
the Hindu state, they seem quite comfortable consigning dalits to the
lowly status accorded them
bythe same document. The
notion of'untouchability' is as
strongly ingrained among the
country'sjanajatis as among
its caste groups. And even
though one can argue that,
in the first place, caste rules
were foisted upon the janajatis
by a religion that the state
identified with, the quest for
justice should be able to embrace everyone, including
That is why it behooves
upon janajati activists to take
the message of equality
down to the village and community level. While such a
campaign would certainly be
more desirable if it were undertaken at the national level
by all social groups, and that
is indeed happening gradually, it is all the more imperative for janajatis to take the lead in their own communities. If nothing
else, that would allow them to retain the moral high ground in their
struggle against the monolithic structure ofthe Nepali state. Abnegation
of Hinduism has to go hand in hand with a total rejection ofthe 'pure-
impure' divide. These are, after all, two sides ofthe same coin,    n
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
"Utopian Expression": A multi-media
Exhibition by SujanChitrakar. Till May 28.
Twenty-nine-year-old Sujan Chitrakar
believes that his art is a medium for opening up newer dimensions to what he sees
AWON is organizing its 2004 major
fundraising event. "From the Austrian Alps
to the Himalayan Foothills." On the list of
performers are Karin Leitner on the Flute
and Duccio Lombardi on the Harp. The
Duo Medici is sponsored by the Embassy
of Austria and proceeds from the event will
go to the many charitable projects that are
carried out by AWON in Nepal.
May 14 Matinee for Children at Babar
Mahal Revisited. Time: 4 p.m. Tickets:
Rs. 500 per child.
May 15 Gala Opening Night. A Formal
Dinner will accompany this concert performance at the Regal Ballroom, Hotel
Yak&Yeti at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: Rs. 1999
per person.
May 16 Final performance. Cocktails
and concert at the Regal Ball Room,
Hotel Yak&Yeti at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: Rs. 1000.
2nd Direction Educational and Career Fair
with Symposium topic "Education: Opportunities, Challenges and Realities"
Inter-college musical contest, fashion
show/ design contest, on the spot quiz,
e-mail, Internet access and more. May
14-17. (10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) atBhrikuti
Mandap. For information: 4258977.
as holistic growth through arts. "I feel my
art will come alive only when the viewers can relate their own inner self with
the presentation" says Sujan who diffuses
his existence while fusing with the
viewer's perception and playing with
their senses to convey his own meanings
ofthe "inner self of each human being.
At times Sujan feels that his art tends
to preach a message with a positive tone.
"I know I cannot impose my beliefs
upon the audience. But if I myself am
going through a positive transformation,
a change within me, it is likely that the
audience will equally see their own self
within the artwork, which could perhaps lead to transformations."
House, Hard, Progressive and Psychedelic Trance at the Funky Buddha Bar
Date: Every Friday Night.
Time: 7:30 p.m. - 6 a.m.
Venue: Funky Buddha Bar & Cafe.
Free Entrance
For information: 4411991.
Dance performance of Hindu and Buddhist Gods at the Great Pagoda Hall. Every Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. onwards. Tea and
tickets: Rs. 400.
Folk tunes of Nepal-Drums and Flute.
Every Wednesday and Saturday at 6:30
p.m. at The Explorer's Restaurant of Hotel Vajra. For information: 4271545.
Open mike night at the Juneli Bar in
Hotel Annapurna. Come as you are, grab
the mike onstage (there's a guitar provided if you need to use it), and step into
the limelight. Time: 8 p.m,May 14.
For information: 4221711 (Extn4204).
Diary of Portraits III by Carolyn Boch
More than 40 portraits of people met in
Nepal from 1996 to 2000.Till May 15.
For information: 5551455.
Photo exhibition on gender and sexuality. Starts on May 10.
For information: 4428694
Cho Go Dam's photographs ofthe exquisite stone statues and carvings at
Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad.
For information: 4422915.
Paintings and Sculptures by prominent
contemporary artists. Till May 13.
For information: 427889.
Healing elements: Acrylic paintings by
Chungpo Tsering and Reiki carpets by
Rupert Smith. Till May 16.
For information: 4413580.
"Faces and Aspects of Nepal": Mani
Lama. Till June.
For information: 2073157.
T**L Wilt: r--rrf,itr . (
J   CONCERT  *^^
Promotional concert tour organized by Taal
Music. A great opportunity to check out
Sab in Rai the husky voiced new entry into
the Nepali pop scene. Sabin's album Sataha
has already received rave reviews for its great
hooks and his Bryan Adam's style vocal delivery. Accompanying Sabin will be stars
Deepesh Kishore Bhattarai and Jems
May 15: Biratnagar; May 17: Dharan: May
22: Kathmandu (BICC).
Tickets: Rs. 100.
nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
 Legal Ey
And Justice For All
For citizens sick of stories of corruption in high places, the quick fall of
Sharbendra Nath Shukla from a cabinet perch marked a happy ending
to a dirty story. But was it a case of over-reaction on the part of CIAA,
the watchdog agency, that led to his ouster?
lam no great fan of former minister Sharbendra Nath Shukla. Nor do I
have any sympathy for Rastriya Prajatantra Party leader Rabindra Nath
Sharma, who isfacing corruption charges at the Special Court for acts
committed during his days as finance minister. But the circumstances
under which Shukla was forced to resign as minister makes one wonder
if Shukla was hauled for an act of alleged malfeasance or merely to
satisfy the ego ofthe powerful Commission for the Investigation of Abuse
of Authority (CIAA).
Asa big fan ofthe CIAA and its current Chief Commissioner, I can't
help but find it troublesome that all indications point to the latter.
For starters, Shukla was named as a witness in the defense filed by
RPP leader Sharma, in response to the CIAA charge-sheet, with the
Special Court. One can question the wisdom behind naming a minister
as a witness but Sharma, the defendant in a criminal proceeding, presumably felt comfortable about havingShukla, a close political associate, as one of his witnesses who would vouch for his integrity. And that is
what Shukla did. Upon receiving summons, he presented himself before
the Special Court and questioned the intention ofthe CIAA, accusing the
constitutional body of conspiring against his mentor Sharma. The very
next day, the CIAA made a written representation to the Prime Minister.
It raised objection over his claims, insisted that he had cast aspersion on
the constitutional body, and demanded action against him. The hint was
more than clear. Shukla tendered his resignation the next day.
For citizens sick
of stories of corruption in high places,
the departure of
Shukla marked a
happy ending to a
corruption story. After all, an audacious minister had
fallen from the
cabinet perch for
showing solidarity
with an accused in
a corruption case.
But the story
does not quite end
there. In fact, the
manner in which Shukla was shown the door raises a few questions
about the due process of law that every accused in a ClAA-initiated
prosecution—no matter how unpopular—is entitled to. And for that reason, this episode deserves a closer scrutiny..
Granted, that Shukla was a sitting minister and granted too, that after
the CIAA files its charge-sheet with the Special Court, the government
prosecutors take up the case. That makes the government a party to the
case, and it was probably unethical for Shukla to present himself as a
witness against the government's case. However, the question that the
CIAA raised was not about this apparent conflict of interest between
Shukla the minister and Shukla the witness. By all indications, the CIAA
was okay with the idea of having a sitting minister as a witness for one of
its accused. Shukla got into trouble when he spoke against the CIAA. It
would then mean that the CIAA would only tolerate defense witnesses
who would at best help it gather supporting evidences, and at worst do
minimum damage. Anybody who didn't fit into either ofthe categories
could be a potential target for persecution.
Considering that most of those investigated bythe CIAA are public
servants, and the likelihood that most of their witnesses could be subject
to the government's disciplinary rules, the ClAA's reaction to Shukla's
criticisms will have far-reaching implications. Itwasacaseofoverreaction.
After al I, the system of justice demands that two parties in a court of
law are adversarial with each other. The wisdom behind this common law
rule, which we fol low to a great extent, is that zealous representation of
their respective positions by the opposing parties helps the judge in
pursuit of truth. If we take that adversarial dimension away, there is a real
danger that the system could tilt in favor ofthe party that has more
support outside of court. It is to ensure that parties put forth their case
without fear of persecution that the
arguments and assertions made by
a party in a court proceeding are
not accepted as evidences of defamation. In any case, it is unlikely
that Shukla's rhetorical outburst
helped his defendant's case, all the
more reason for the CIAA not to be
disturbed by his testimony.
As an institution that has acquired considerable powers—and
teeth—for investigation and as
one ofthe very few constitutional
bodies which commands a great
deal of public respect, are we expecting too much when we ask the
CIAA not take short-cuts to investigations? In fact, the lofty—and difficult—objective of taking on the
rich and powerful will have few short-cuts. And short-cuts like the Shukla
episode are more likely to harm the image ofthe Commission in the
long run.    n
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
Vacancy Announcement
The International Committee ofthe Red Cross (ICRC), an
independent humanitarian organization whose mandate is to
provide protection and assistance for victims of armed
conflict and internal disturbances has regularly vacancies for:
Your tasks
■ Oral interpretation: from Nepali to English, and English to
Nepali during confidential interviews with persons detained in
prisons, ICRC institutional dissemination and visits to families
of detainees
■ Written translation: translation of written Nepali (newspaper articles, correspondence, etc.) into written English
■ Analysis and reporting: analysis of conditions of detention, general situation and other matters relating to the ICRC's
Selection requirements
■ Ideal age: 25 to 35
■ Either single or prepared to accept an unaccompanied
posting of at least one year
■ University education or 5 years of professional experience
■ Excellent command of English, French an asset
■ Familiarity with word processing and spreadsheet
■ Driving license (a license for automatic-transmission
vehicles only is not sufficient)
Your Profile
■ Strongly motivated by humanitarian work
■ Open-minded and adaptable, able to work in a team
■ Neat appearance, good speaker, well-developed writing
and summarizing skills
■ Able to work under pressure in a potentially dangerous
■ Ready to travel to remote areas all over Nepal on a regular
What we offer
■ An opportunity to help the victims of conflict
■ Engrossing, rewarding work in unusual situations
■ Ample support in integrating into the new working environment
How to apply
Interested candidates are invited to send their CV with a
cover letter, a recent photograph, copy of certificates, a
contact telephone number and the ICRC application form
(available on the website ) to the following
Laurent GISEL
Deputy Head of Delegation
International Committee of the Red Cross
Meen Bhawan, Naya Baneshwor
G.RO Box21225, Kathmandu
Phone: 4482 285/4492 679
Design various print publications
published by the organization.
Efficiently market the various publication and
services offered by the organization.
Manage outreach and subscription
ofin-house publications
Broaden subscription to the publications
Proactive and energetic candidates
with experience in similar field are preferred.
Interested candidates call 2111102 or
(Enclose CV and covering letter)
career opportunity
ln advertising
Water Communication, a fast
growing advertising and design
company is seeking to hire
Marketing Associate to be
part of our Marketing Team.
This Marketing Associate will
work directly with the Business
Development Department
Researching new accounts,
while generating new leads to
drive sales for
business will be the primary
function of this role. The
duties also includes assisting
the relationship development
with existing clients.
Excellent communication and
writing skills, general marketing
insight, combined with good
client servicing skill is
required to work with
Water Communication.
Young energetic, imaginative,
goal oriented people with
career in advertising are
encourage to apply. Please
send your resume to
for perusal and all
appropriate application
will be responded.
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MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
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Tel: 2111102, 4229825, Email:      (rlclSSITICCI
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nation weekly |   MAY 16, 2004
 Wanna Go
For Coffee?
Four years ago, when four young entrepreneurs—
two of them 26 and two others 27—took over the
distribution of Nescafe's coffee vending machines,
things didn't look so rosy. They had to convince
Nepalis, through exhibitions and on-site demos,
that machine-made beverages were safe to drink—
and easy to access. Then, last February, the four
friends—their company is named RAYS,
after the first letters in their names—started
making their own vending machines in
Nepal. To date, they have sold 12 ofthe
Nepal-made machines and half a dozen are
on the production line. Not exactly a success story, one may say. When you consider
that it's not just the machines that they are
selling but a concept of new eating habits,
their modest success takes on an entirely
new dimension.
Subodh Das Shrestha, executive director of RAYS International, talked to
Satishjung Shahi of Nation Weekly about
Nepalis' coffee (or tea) habits, the vending machine and his young team.
How is business?
Business is okay so far, though things
don't look very rosy in the long term
due to the current conflict. Our market
may be small but it's a virgin market and
a lot more can be done. People have
slowly started accepting the concept of
vending machine. We sold 12 new locally made machines in the last four
months. That brought our total to 65
machines (including those made in India), which have been installed in different locations in the Valley.
How does the vending machine work?
Itjust requires mineral water and ingredients (for tea and coffee), which are
placed manually The system is then controlled by a motherboard (to control the
machine) that our engineers have designed. Everything from then on is automated. You just place a cup on the dispenser below and wait for the machine
to fill it up with tea, coffee or anything
the machine has been designed to deliver. The machine can cost anywhere
between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 45,000 depending upon its specifications.
How is the machine made in Nepal?
All ofthe outer casings come from India. Our engineers build the metal cast,
and the motherboard is assembled here.
The engineers—four of them—are all
young entrepreneurs like us who have
their own ideas. Even Nescafe appreciated our efforts, as our machine turned
out to be much cheaper (Rs. 10,000 saved
on every single machine) compared to
the machines that had to be imported all
the way from Delhi.
How is the coffee trend in Nepal?
Nepalis still don't think anything other
than chiya when it comes to work breaks
or casual get-togethers. They think coffee is a luxury and expensive. It is this
concept that has made coffee cost much
more than tea. (People think tea is
cheaper, buy more tea; and obviously
because of economy of scale, tea ends
up costing less.) Coffee has been selling
for Rs. 10-12 whereas a cup of tea costs
Rs. 5-8 on the machine. The coffee vending machines are mostly used by corporate houses. We would like to see it being used even at public places.
Why should we use vending machines
when getting served is fun?
Machines are efficient, hygienic and cost
effective. It prepares coffee within six seconds and has a brand name—Nescafe—
attached to it. Why hire a peon j ust to make
chiya for you in office? It is waste of human
resources. The fun part is that there will
be people right from the boss down to the
ground employees drinking from the same
vending machine. This sense of camaraderie is very motivating.
How did you get into the business?
The four of us are school friends. Rohit
Maskey Antu Charan Shrestha, and
Yalamer Khairgoli and I came up with
the idea for RAYS four years ago, while
we were doing B. Com. Earlier, we had
plans to run a fun world with video
games and go-carts but we thought that
wouldn't work out, as Kathmandu was
still a small market. It's a lot more fun to
do business together since we have
known each other from the first grade
(St. Xavier's, Godavari).
Is the business tough for
young entrepreneurs?
The problem in Nepal is that while the
young are not actually discouraged, they
are not encouraged either. Luckily our
families were very supportive ofthe new
venture. Many people who have studied
abroad come back with great ideas.
Do you want to keep
selling tea and coffee?
Definitely not. We are all young and that
is our biggest advantage. We would like
to keep growing. There is still much to
do to attract the mass to the coffee machine. We are also thinking about vending machines for newspapers,
confectionariesand even condoms,    n
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Basic Geography
The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest
marine problem of his time
Dava Sobel's engaging venture
"Longitude" is the story ofthe
man who gave us the magic box
known today as the marine chronometer.
Today an ordinary phenomenon, and for
most only a time-keeping machine, it was
before 1737 a mere fantasy, the necessity
for which then transcends our need for it
now. Before Harrison's marine time-telling machine was invented, navigation was
a dangerous undertaking.
Without an accurate knowledge of
time sailors could not know their longitude, which meant they could not know
their location. As a result they drifted off
course and many a time floundered in
the endless expanse of water, often without hope of finding port. Ships ran
aground on unexpected islands and
There was no alternative to creating
an accurate marine chronometer: commerce needed the sea; and seafarers
needed to know their longitudes. To encourage inventors, the British Parliament
put up an award of £20,000 for anyone
who could design a chronometer that
would overcome the longitude problem.
In 1737 John 'Longitude' Harrison presented to the world the first virtually
u m -
deftly out-
ines  the
history of
the two methods that worked towards
creating the first marine chronometer.
One was the popular, revered, complicated astronomical method. The astronomers (including Isaac Newton) charted
the stars, the moon, and the planets. They
studied their paths and eclipses, indulged
in heavy mathematics and diverse calculations. The other method, adopted by
Harrison, focused not on working with
the heavens but with creating a virtually
inelastic pendulum. The astronomers
were not only more popular, they were
also immensely powerful and looked
down on horologists (clock-makers).
Against this background Sobel paints
Harrison's pursuit. A self taught Yorkshire man, Harrison is a miracle because
he was actually a carpenter and received
no horological education. The marvel of
his accomplishment is further
foregrounded when Sobel reveals that
his earlier clocks were "constructed almost entirely of wood....The wooden
teeth of the wheels never snapped off
with normal wear but defied destruction by their design." Plus, they were almost friction resistant—an amazing feat
since no clockmaker ofthe time had accomplished this. The clock pendulums
of Harrison's day contracted or expanded
with changes in temperature, thereby
ticking off inaccurate time. Harrison also
defied the powerful astronomers by proposing a solution that needed no celestial mathematics at all. A country bum
could use his instrument!
Although "Longitude" is a book about
scientific concepts, readers need not possess preliminary knowledge of clocks and
naval-navigation to enjoy the work. Sobel is
a master at simplifying the most complicated of ideas and her lucidity makes the
writing both engaging and easy to follow.
A story about accolades, wars, political
intrigues, personal envies, establishment
dogmas and high moral standards, "Longitude" is a tribute to determination and
intelligence. And like Harrison's
watches—a wonderful blend of science
and art.    □
When Jiddu Krishnamurti
(1895-1986) was 14, early
Theosophists proclaimed
him the next messianic world leader and
introduced him to ancient perennial wisdom. He was educated in Great Britain
and spent his life sharing insights around
the world. He became one of the
greatest spiritual
teachers ofthe 20th
century. Among the
millions he has influenced are the
Dalai Lama, Deepak
Chopra, Joseph
Campbell, Dr Jonas
Salk, Henry Miller
and Aldous Huxley.
was a revolutionary
in the truest sense.
For over 60 years he publicly eschewed
belief systems and presuppositions of any
sort, including the esoteric systems of
the Thoesophists.
In "The Inner Life of Krishnamurti,"
Aryel Sanat explodes the myths at the
heart ofthe controversies surrounding
this much loved and complex man. Sant's
meticulous research reveals that, contrary to appearances, Krishnamurti's inner life was rich in esoteric happenings.
Privately, he never denied the existence
of his perennial "Masters," nor did he
deny being a vehicle for the manifestation ofthe Lord Maitreya or the Christ.
In fact, according to Krishnamurti, these
inner realities were present every day of
his mature life and intimately related to
his work.
The admittedly strange story that un-
folds is critical for understanding
Krishnamurti's life and views. It is also
essential to Buddhism, the teachings of
Gurdjieff, the perennial renaissance—in
fact, most of contemporary spirituality
(Reviewed by Aryel Sanatfor Piligrims Books)
Pilgrims Bookhouse: 4700942
gpo box: 12421, kathmandu, nepal,
showroom: tel 2121200
factory telflax + 9771 6611427.
House on Rent
An ideal and new family house for rent at Shankhamul, New
Baneshwor with all modern facilities including:
■ West faced 2.5 storied fully furnished (optional) building in
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■ Ground floor with living (16x18), kitchen (10x10), dining (10x8),
guest room (12x10), study room (12x12) and bathroom.
■ 1 st floor with 1 master bedroom (14x14) with attached bathroom and dressing room (10x10), 2 bedrooms (12x12 each),
bathroom and terrace.
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■ Sufficient water supply (underground), hot water facilities
(Solar), and a toilet outside the building.
Rent negotiable, contact Shambu or Meena
Tel.: 4782543, Email:
Last Word
Ray Of Hope
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur
Thapa resigned on Friday admitting that he had failed in his mandate to put together a political consensus and resolve the Maoist issue. By that
reckoning, he should have quit the day
the Maoists called off the ceasefire in
August. Thapa's efforts to get the political parties to work together had proved
ineffective for more than two months
while his government's offer of talks to
the Maoists had come far too late. Despite these setbacks, the Prime Minister
clung tenaciously to his chair—with
grave implications for the country.
Even though it came late, Thapa's resignation has offered the country yet another opportunity for a fresh start. But
we feel compelled to advise cautious optimism; there are too many uncertainties
about the future. For any government that
comes to power will not only have to signify the end to "regression" but it will
also have to assume the more difficult task
of bringing lasting peace to the country.
Obviously, the major question for the
moment is who is going to lead the future government. King Gyanendra's insistence on someone with a "clean image" may not go down well with the agitating parties. It was a similar qualification that saw the formation of the
Lokendra Bahadur Chand government in
October 2002, and the beginning ofthe
political protests that have reached this
stage today. The logical step would be to
give the parties in the last parliament the
right to decide who should become
Prime Minister for the simple reason that
they represent the sovereign people's will
the last time it was exercised.
With the golden apple so close in
sight, the tenuous unity the five political
parties have so far managed will be
stretched to the utmost. Past experience
should have taught the leaders that striking out on their own can only lead to
disaster and they have to do everything
they can to preserve their united front.
But the five parties should also remember that their claim to being the people's
representatives also extends to the other
two parties in the last parliament, the
Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the Nepali
Congress (Democratic)—even though
the idea of conferring the claims to the
latter may seem loathsome to the Nepali
Congress, and despite the equivocal role
ofthe former since October 2002. Any
political consensus without the concurrence of these two parties cannot be construed as the voice ofthe people.
A very important point, whether one
likes it or not (parties most certainly
don't) is that the King is an important
player in present-day Nepal. He has a loyal
backing of the Army. And monarchy—
if not everything that Eng Gyanendra represents—still enjoys a degree of legitimacy. Maybe the country now needs
another KP Bhattarai, who as the head
ofthe 1990-91 interim government tactfully handled volatile issues related to the
transfer of power from the Panchayat Eng
to the constitutional head ofthe state. The
parties most definitely should give their
best in taking the King along. It's not about
settling personal scores, it's about putting the country back on track. Of course,
this applies to the King as well.
The political parties have indicated
that should they come to power, their
first priority will be a dialogue with the
Maoists. They would be well advised to
remember that two phases have yielded
nothing and that while driving a hard
bargain is an accepted strategy of negotiations, it has to be accompanied with
real concessions. Without a broad political understanding on this, any dialogue
will be akin to groping in the dark, which
could lead to disastrous consequences
for a country already hamstrung by nine
years of fighting.
Celebrating Thapa's ouster will
mean nothing if all these issues are not
addressed. It is up to the parties, the
monarchy, and the Maoists, to make the
most of this opportunity now. Failing
that, Nepalis will be condemned to yet
another gratuitous cycle of political uncertainty and wanton violence.
MAY 16, 2004   |  nation weekly
The Resort, Windy Hills,
Nagarkot, Bhaktapur, Nepal
Tel:6680045-47/80/83 I Fax:6680068
E-mail: cl np
Hotel Ambassador, Lazimpat,
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 4414432,4410432
Nagarkot   Resort       E-mail: np


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