MonitorsPublished on Apr 15, 2011
Has paralysis struck Nepal? Or, would the country be paralysed next month? What awaits the 29-million people of the Himalayan kingdom? These are some of the questions which are being debated among knowledgeable circles and friends of the country.
Nepal: What next?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Has paralysis struck Nepal? Or, would the country be paralysed next month? What awaits the 29-million people of the Himalayan kingdom? These are some of the questions which are being debated among knowledgeable circles and friends of the country. On 28 May 2011, the nation’s lawmakers were expected to deliver a Constitution which should become the foundation for the future polity of Nepal. But nothing seems to be in sight.

Nepal had elected a 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008. Twenty four major and minor parties are represented in the CA. Heterogeneity in the political system has made the task of Constitution-making more complex and complicated than was once expected to be. The CA was expected to draft a Constitution for the country within two years. The term was extended by a year by mutual consent among the political parties in May 2010. They were then hoping against hope that public opinion and compulsions of State-formation would force the political leaders to sink their differences and agree on the final draft of the Constitution.

Alas, the parties have continued to fight against one another and failed to reach a consensus on a draft which when adopted could have become the guiding star for the political system. There are major differences among the political parties over the contents of the Constitution. These differences are irreconcilable as political parties have different and sometimes contrary ideas of what future Nepal should be and under what governing principles it should be governed.

Political leaders disagree on the system of governance, the election system and whether the state should be unitary or federal in its character. Should the country be divided along ethnic lines or administrative efficiency for the formation of States? These questions continue to create serious hurdles.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, the largest single party in the CA with 239 members in the House, has proposed division of Nepal into 14 Provinces on the basis of ethnicity. The Nepali Congress and other smaller parties are opposed to this idea, arguing that such a division would create community problems and may result in ethnic strife which may threaten the unity. The Maoists are likewise pitching for a President who should be at the head of the nation’s Executive. The Nepali Congress, with 110 members in the CA, would prefer the President to be ceremonial with executive powers resting on a Prime Minister. There is even a demand for direct election of Prime Minister.

At the recently-held meeting of the CA, there was even violence when Maoist member Bisendra Paswan threw a chair at the windows and threatened to throw even people out if "our voices are not incorporated". His anger was aimed at the alleged non-inclusion of the rights of minority Madhesi-Dalit and Muslims in the draft Constitution.

The Maoist even went to the extent of threatening to write their own "people’s constitution" if cooperation from other parties was not forthcoming. According to party Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidhya, "It is clear that those who do not want changes are conspiring to foil Constitution-drafting?There will be another people’s protest if a Constitution that is not inclusive is promulgated under the current circumstances".

When Jhala Nath Khanal of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) was elected the Prime Minister two and half months ago with the support of the Maoists, it was hoped that the constitutional process would gather pace and it would be possible to get a draft Constitution ready by the May 28 deadline. However, soon differences between the CPN (UML) and the Maoists surfaced in the public domain. There was a fight between the two over portfolios and even the integration of Maoist militant cadres in the country’s armed or security forces became a stumbling block.

The root-cause for the delay in the drafting of the Constitution was the ideological differences and the failure to arrive at a healthy compromise which is possibly the only route for an ethnically and geographically divided Nepalese society. Various interests are working at cross-purposes at present which is preventing the lawmakers of four major parties from agreeing on a basic draft of the Constitution that can steer the poverty and strife stricken country on a path of socio-economic development.

Moreover, none of the political parties are without dissidence and internal struggle for power. Even the Maoists are no exception. Ego clashes camouflaged as ideological positioning are stalling progress in Constitution-making. Political leaders are using pro-India and anti-India arguments to score points over their rivals.

The big question today is what would happen after May 28 when the country would have no Constitution. Who would wield the power then? Would not a vacuum invite anti-democratic forces to create troubles?

There are speculations that President Ram Baran Yadav may come to head the country’s Executive. What role the Army would play? Would such a situation not result in the revival of pro-King sentiments? These are some questions which are confronting the Nepalese society and polity. No one has a clear answer. Cynics say that order emerges out of chaos. May be this turns out to a reality.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">World Bank funding for wildlife project

The World Bank has approved a $39 million financial assistance to Bangladesh and Nepal to strengthen regional cooperation for wildlife protection in Asia.

The project, under which $36 million will be granted to Bangladesh and $3 million to Nepal, will address conservation threats to habitats in border areas and clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade of species such as tiger, snow leopard, rhinoceros and elephant in increasingly fragmented habitats.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">EU Parliament urges Nepal to respect rights of Tibetans

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on the Nepalese government to respect the voting rights and freedom of speech of Tibetans living in the country .

A statement from the Parliament said more than 82,000 exiled Tibetans across the world were invited to vote on 20 March to elect the new Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) of the Tibetan government-in-exile, but several thousand Tibetans in Nepal were not given permission to vote by the Nepalese authorities in Kathmandu, under pressure from the Chinese government.

The resolution urged the Nepalese authorities "to resist the strong pressure exerted by the Chinese government to silence the Tibetan community in Nepal by using restrictions, which are illegal under domestic and international law".
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 8, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Energy crisis leaves nation in the dark

Nepal suffers from acute energy crisis. The impact can been seen -- or squinted at -- everywhere. Television stations broadcast evening news programmes from studios in semi-darkness, while schoolchildren face a daily race with the sunset to complete their homework.

The economic cost has also been enormous, with industries forced to reduce operations and small businessmen closing their shops before what used to be the profitable evening shopping rush.

Nepal generates a measly 643 megawatts of electricity a year -- most of it from antiquated hydroelectric plants.

That is barely half of the national requirement and imports from India fail miserably to make up the shortfall.
< class="text11verdana">Source: AFP, April 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Capital flight on the rise

Gripped by protracted political instability, insecurity, labour trouble and a crippling 14-hour daily power outage, wary Nepali investors have started clandestinely transferring capital outside the country.

India, Nepal’s southern neighbour and biggest trade partner that allows Nepalis the same investment facilities as Indians, is the biggest destination of the fleeing funds with ATMs in India being commonly used to transfer them from Nepal.

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the Republic’s banking regulatory authority, said in the current fiscal, Rs.19 billion had been withdrawn from bank accounts in Nepal through ATMs in India. In the last fiscal, the withdrawals were limited to Rs.3 billion.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for Bhutan to repatriate refugees

Nepal plans to hold new talks with the Bhutanese Government on the repatriation of tens of thousands of refugees, according to media reports.

Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal is to meet with his Bhutanese counterpart Jigme Y Thinley in mid-April, when he visits Kathmandu in his capacity as chairman of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, the local media reported.

The first influx of Bhutanese refugees into Nepal began in the 1990s when more than 100,000 ethnic Nepalese of Hindu background who had lived in Bhutan for centuries were expelled.

The refugees live in camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts, south-east of the capital Kathmandu.

’We are clear about asking them to resume the talks and start the repatriation process for the refugees as soon as possible,’ said Milan Raj Tuladhar, a foreign relations adviser to Khanal.

Some 40,000 Bhutanese refugees have emigrated from Nepal under an international third-country resettlement programme. The Nepalese government, assisted by the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration and a group of Western countries, began resettling Bhutanese refugees in early 2008.

Talks between the two nations have been stalled since the third-country resettlement began.

About 75,000 Bhutanese refugees remain in camps in south-eastern Nepal. Thousands were made homeless last month when a fire destroyed hundreds of huts in the refugee camps.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Another Hindi row now

Three years after Nepal erupted in violence following the rift between its hill and plains people deepen over Vice President Paramananda Jha taking his oath of office in Hindi, a fresh Hindi row has begun to grow as the Himalayan republic readies for a new census after a decade.

Nepal’s media called it the ’Hindi hangama’ (sic) and ’Hindinisation drive’ as the regional parties from the southern Terai plains began campaigning for a new category in the upcoming census, scheduled to start from June.

’Though Nepal’s hill and mountain people speak different languages, Nepali is regarded as the common tongue,’ said Rajendra Mahato, chief of the Sadbhavana Party that is campaigning to establish Hindi as the most-spoken language in the Terai - and a potential rival to Nepali.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Times, April 11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nepal Congress in disarray, leaders clash

After a bitter verbal duel that lasted for over four hours on Sunday, April 10, 2011 between fractured Nepali Congress leaders over the proposal of party president Sushil Koirala for the dissolution of all sister organizations, leaders from the opposing Sher Bahadur Deuba camp boycotted the central committee meeting.
< class="text11verdana">Source:

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">As politicians bicker, criminals prosper

Ecstasy turned into agony for Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) leader Gokarna Bista when he was attacked outside his Kathmandu residence on Monday soon after PM Jhalanath Khanal included him and 11 others in his cabinet. The irony was that Nepal’s new energy minister was attacked under cover of darkness provided by 14 hours of daily power cuts the country is facing. Bista was lucky. He escaped with injuries.

But Anjani Kumar Chachan, a Marwari businessman from Rajasthan who had been residing in Kathmandu for two decades, was not. He was shot dead inside his garment go-down on Sunday evening.

Both incidents are indicative of rising lawlessness in Nepal’s capital as well as in other parts where kidnappings for ransom and extortion have become commonplace
< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, April 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">WHO study finds Nepal exposed to high ultraviolet radiation

Researchers have found that people living in Nepal are exposed to very high and extreme ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin cancer, photokeratitis and cataracts.

The finding revealed by the World Health Organization was based on a three-year record of UV rays measurement in four areas of Nepal.

The researchers from Pulchowk Engineering Campus, in collaboration with the NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology, recorded the ultraviolet index in Lukla, Kathmandu, Pokhara and Biratnagar during the period to be 12.6, 11, 10.5 and 9.8 respectively.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Economic growth around four per cent: World Bank

World Bank has projected Nepal’s economic growth to be at four per cent. The GDP in current prices for Nepal in year 2010 is $15.10 billion, according to World Economic Outlook 2011 that has ranked Nepal at 108th position in world rankings according to GDP for 2010.

"Nepal is more than the average," it said, adding that a year ago in 2009, the GDP (at current prices) was $12.89 billion.

In the year 2011, the GDP (at current prices) will be $15.17 billion, which will be 0.41 per cent more than the 2010 figure.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had, last week, projected 3.8 per cent growth for 2011. The ADB had projected inflation at 10 per cent but the World Economic Outlook 2011 has projected the price-hike to be at 9.9 per cent.

"The consumer price is estimated at 9.9 per cent in 2011 from 2010’s 9.3 per cent," according to the World Bank report. "It is expected to moderate to eight per cent in 2012."
< class="text11verdana">Source: , April 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian Ambassador calls on PM

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood called on Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal at his office today.

According to Milan Raj Tuladhar, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, issues of the peace process, constitution-drafting and mutual cooperation were discussed. The prime minister underlined the need to work closely to consolidate cordial bilateral ties between the two countries.

Khanal also apprised the Indian ambassador of the current political situation in the country.

Khanal further expressed confidence that through broad political consensus among major political parties, the two major tasks ? the peace process and constitution-drafting ? would be concluded soon within the given time frame.

Ambassador Sood expressed India’s support and cooperation to the ongoing peace and political process in Nepal and also reiterated enhanced support and cooperation to Nepal’s development endeavours.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoists resume opposition to Indian investment

Nepal’s ruling Maoist party has resumed its opposition to Indian investment in the republic’s thorny hydropower sector, saying they went against the country’s national interests.

The Maoists, who are the dominant partners in the new government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, Wednesday (April 13, 2011) kicked off their campaign against Indian investment in hydropower projects and the new emergency energy policy on the anvil, saying power projects should be developed with domestic investment.

At an interaction organised in the capital Wednesday, former minister Leelamani Poudel, who is also the water resources chief of the former guerrillas, said projects given to Indian investors - like the 900 MW Upper Karnali and 402 MW Arun 3 projects - served only Indian interests and fuelled repeated Indian intervention in Nepal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: , April 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Maoist PLA integration may trigger another civil war, warns Sushil Koirala

Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala said on Thursday (April 14, 2011) that if he was not allowed to exercise his presidential prerogatives, the party cannot run smoothly.

"I am doing my best to steer the party as per the party’s charter and discipline", Koirala said in Kathmandu and added "I am also putting efforts to take all into confidence".

Koirala further pointed out that if the Maoists’ Peoples’ Liberation Army was integrated into the national Army then it could trigger another civil war. "Peace process must be concluded much ahead of the Constitution drafting process".
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US, Nepal to sign TIFA

Nepal and the US are signing bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on Friday, opening the doors for preferential entry facility to Nepali goods into the world’s largest market.

Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari and US trade representative Ron Kirk are sealing the deal on behalf of the respective governments. A Nepali delegation led by Adhikari, including the secretaries of Commerce Ministry, Law Ministry and Energy Ministry, have already embarked on a weeklong visit.
< class="text11verdana">Source:, April 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Digital divide threat rises

Nepal ranks among the ’extreme risk’ countries in the Digital Divide Report launched recently. "Of the 39 countries rated at ’extreme risk’, Nepal is one of them," according to the report that revealed that 29 countries were from sub-Saharan Africa.

The Digital Inclusion Index, released by risk analysis firm Maplecroft uses 10 indicators to calculate the level of digital inclusion found across 186 countries. These include numbers of mobile cellular and broadband subscriptions, fixed telephone lines, households with a PC and television, internet users and secure internet servers, internet bandwidth, secondary education enrollment, and adult literacy.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rashtriya Prajatantra Party rings bells for ’Hindu State’

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal) rang bells for one hour today calling for reinstating Nepal as a Hindu state.

Speaking at the bell ringing programme organised by the party at the Bhadrakali Temple here this morning, party president Kamal Thapa reiterated that Nepal should be made a Hindu state in order to address the aspirations of the followers of Hinduism in the country.

He said although secularism was not demanded by the people in the Jana Andolan (people’s movement of 2006/07), it was thrust on the Nepali people in haste by the then restored Parliament as per the conspiracy of and under foreign pressure.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, April 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India moves to normalise cricket ties

India is considering resuming cricket ties with Pakistan in order to normalise bilateral relations, according to Indian government sources. Authorities added that the tour, if finalised, will take place next year, given the teams’ prior commitments. Ijaz Butt, chief of Pakistan Cricket Board, welcomed the initiative and said, ’getting positive signals on the resumption of a bilateral series is a good omen and Prime Minister Gilani has directed us to arrange the series as soon as possible.’ Security concerns, however, will weigh heavily on the final decision, as the host country continues to be affected by high levels of violence. In fact, Pakistan has not hosted international cricket since March 2009, when the Sri Lankan national team was ambushed by militants while on route to the stadium in Lahore.

The latest attempt at ’cricket diplomacy’ closely follows the India-Pakistan match during the recently concluded World Cup. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had invited his counterpart, Gilani to watch the game, in the hope that the festive environment will reduce the level of acerbity that usually follows bilateral meetings, and create an environment which is more conducive to resumption of full-spectrum dialogue. Earlier, in 2009, Manmohan Singh’s attempt to revive dialogue on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh was harshly criticised by his detractors. The decision to resume cricketing ties, therefore, is an attempt to revive relations by merging conventional diplomacy with public opinion exercises using cricket as a medium.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Times, April 15, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ISI chief visits US

ISI Director-General, Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha, visited United States to meet with his counterpart, CIA’s director, Leon Panetta on April 11. The purpose of the visit was to renegotiate the terms of counter-terrorism cooperation in wake of the arrest and subsequent release of CIA operative Raymond Davis.

Gen Pasha carried the personal message of army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani that the US ’steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan,’ besides calling for greater control and ’visibility’ of spy agency’s activities inside the country. Additionally, Pakistan also called for a halt on drone attacks in the tribal areas. Expectedly, the United States is believed to have rejected these demands.

The recent revelation that contractors like Davis managed to operate inside Pakistan without the knowledge of the ISI has caused great consternation, and embarrassment, in the intelligence community, besides fueling existing fears that the US is scheming to locate and dismantle the country’s nuclear weapons.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, April 12, 2011; Reuters, April 9,11, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Drone strikes resume after fierce protest

Armed drones fired four missiles in the South Waziristan tribal agency, killing six alleged militants on April 13. A vehicle thought to be carrying transnational militants was hit in Angoor Adda, a border village used by insurgents to cross into Afghanistan. It is the first aerial raid since March 17, when a similar attack had killed 45 members of a pro-government tribe in North Waziristan. Pakistan strongly protested the attack and even refused to attend a trilateral meeting with the US and Afghanistan. The recent attack was also strongly condemned by the Foreign Office, which called drone attacks the ’core irritant in the counter-terror campaign.’

The strike assumes significance since it occurred barely two days after ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha visited the US and called for a halt to drone attacks. Security agencies have restricted counter-terrorism cooperation with the US after the ’Raymond Davis affair’. US sources, on the other hand, insist that Pakistan is not against drone strikes per se, but rather is incensed over the increased scope of the program, preferring that they be used only against ’high value’ targets and not against regular insurgents. Drone attacks are immensely unpopular, and detrimental in many ways. At the national level, they reduce the legitimacy of the government and accentuate opposition to cooperation with the US. At the local level, they are believed to cause immense collateral damage, leading communities to support the Taliban in order to extract revenge, an obligation in Pashtun tribal society.
< class="text11verdana">Source: New York Times, April 13, 2011; Dawn, April 14, 2011

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Experts report on conflict handed over to UN chief, Colombo dubs it ’flawed’

The UN’s Expert Panel report on accountability issues with respect to the conflict in Sri Lanka was handed over to the UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon in New York, the UN said.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq told media that "the Secretary-General is also sharing a copy of the report at this time with the Sri Lankan Government as a matter of courtesy before making it public".

The panel members delivered their report, and the Secretary-General expressed his sincere appreciation to the distinguished members of the panel for having completed their assignment. He will study the report carefully and will determine his next steps in the coming days, Haq added.

In its initial reaction to the report, the Sri Lankan Government today rejected the report of the as ’flawed’ and ’biased.The External Ministry said in a statement that it has received a copy of the three-member expert panel report and said, "The Government finds this report fundamentally flawed in many respects. Among other deficiencies, the report is based on patently biased material which is presented without any verification"

"The Government will, in due course, comment in detail on the contents of the Report" it also added.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, April 13, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India asked to probe drug exporters

The Sri Lankan Health Ministry announced that the statement issued on Monday that the Indian Government was going to take punitive action on errant drug suppliers, quoting High Commissioner Ashok Kantha was incorrect and that Sri Lanka has requested an inquiry and action against the Indian drug suppliers who have violated the tender procedure.

The Indian Government has also pledged Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena a fully-fledged 150 bed hospital to Hatton ? Dikoya area under its health assistance programme, a spokesman of the Ministry said.

The pledge was made during a cordial discussion between Minister Sirisena and Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kanth held on Monday at the official residence of the Minister, he added.

"High Commissioner Mr. Kanth reiterated the continuation of the health assistance programme to Sri Lanka and expressed hopes that the new hospital would be a blessing to the people in Hatton ? Dikoya and the estate population in particular, Ministry spokesman W.M.D.Wanninayaka said.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, April 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Disciplinary threat against cricketers

Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has said that disciplinary action will be taken against those Sri Lanka cricket team members who fail to return from the IPL for the practice matches for the England tour once they are selected.

The Sri Lankans are scheduled to leave for England on May 10, and the IPL-contracted players have been requested to return home at least by May 5 to prepare for the tour. The IPL ends on the May 28.

"On a recommendation made by the national selection committee I have instructed the secretary of the board to inform the players to return by at least the 5th of May to prepare for the tour," Sri Lanka’s sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said.

"When contracted players of Sri Lanka Cricket represent other tournaments, they should make sure that their priority lies with the national team and this will be strictly adhered to in the future," Aluthgamage added.

The move is in complete contrast to the one that was taken three years ago when it cancelled a tour of England in 2009 to allow the players participate in the hugely popular Twenty20 league in 2008.

Besides Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Nuwan Pradeep are some of the Sri Lankan players involved in the fourth season of the IPL.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, April 12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Turkey set to open office for the Taliban

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that Turkey has agreed to set up an office of the Taliban in order to facilitate a political solution to the conflict. Ankara is awaiting official request from the government of President Hamid Karzai before it begins the formalities. Given Turkey’s history of serving as an interlocutor between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it could play a vital role in negotiations between the belligerents. In fact, Pakistani officials backed plans for the Taliban to have a representation in Ankara during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to the country.

Turkey has for long preferred political initiatives over military efforts in the country and has contributed to the coalition of international forces in Afghanistan. Its strictly non-lethal mandate, according to experts, has given it greater credibility among the different sides.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, April 14, 2011; Voice of America, April 14, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Suicide bomber strikes Kabul

A suicide bomber targeted a group of Afghan National Army soldiers in Kabul, injuring four troopers and three civilians on April 9. The attack occurred less than a kilometre from the main military training centre. While no group claimed responsibility, unlike usual practice, nevertheless recurring strikes on security forces strongly suggests Taliban’s role. In fact, this is the sixth attack in the capital in recent months. Informed sources believe that the government had earlier come to an understanding with the Taliban and other insurgent groups which provided a virtual immunity to the capital in exchange for peace parlays between the two sides. The recent surge in insurgent violence in the capital, therefore, points towards Taliban’s aversion towards negotiations as long as their principal demand, the withdrawal of foreign troops, is not met.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Panjwok, April 9, 2011; Tolo News, April 9, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Good support for Bhutan’s UN bid

Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said that Bhutan had fruitful discussions with the leaders of over 60 key countries regarding Bhutan’s membership to the United Nations Security Council. He said that Bhutan had got commitments from 22 countries from the SAARC, European, Latin American, African and Middle Eastern regions regarding their support. Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan were yet to make their positions known. It was reported that the canvassing would continue during the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Bhutan Observer, April 08, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">BRIC leaders’ summit

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) indicated the will of the participant countries to take BRICS beyond the realm of financial cooperation alone at the annual BRICS summit at Sanya in Hainan island, China. The five major emerging economies charted out an action plan which included issues of international relevance including political, economic, climate change, terrorism and reforms of the United Nations and international financial institutions. The plan scheduled high level meetings on all these issues including an upcoming meeting of the respective National Security Advisors in China.

It was stated by analysts that China in particular was interested in leveraging the influence of the group in the global scene.

Economic reform however continued to the major area of focus with issues of economic governance, tackling foreign exchange volatility and special drawing rights being discussed.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">High turnout in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu polls

In what could be a record turnout, an estimated 77.8 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections .Kerala too registered a turnout of almost 75 per cent with districts of Kannur and Kozhikode posting above 80 per cent turnout. The final phase of the Assam election is also known to have registered a turnout of 78.6 per cent. The figures are based on provincial estimates.

The Election Commission which holds the responsibility of supervising and overall conduct of the elections has been praised for its exceptional vigilance against the illegal use of cash and other gratifications to lure voters, especially in Tamil Nadu.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 14, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">No direct inclusion of SC-ST in BPL list

The United Progressive Alliance Government is contemplating not to give direct inclusion to all members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in the proposed BPL list. The inclusion is now proposed to be based on their ranking obtained from the number of deprivation indicators they satisfy.

Only six categories of people will be compulsorily included in the BPL list. These include the designated primitive tribal groups, most discriminated SC groups called Mahadalit groups where so identified by the State, female headed households with no adult male member, minor head of households with no adult member, destitute households which are dependent predominantly on alms for survival, and households that are homeless or with no homestead land. The six compulsorily included categories will account for about 3 percent to 4 percent of the BPL population.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 11, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hazare ends strike as Centre concedes to demands

Civil society activist Anna Hazare called off his five-day hunger strike after receiving a gazette notification from the Centre regarding constitution of a joint committee, comprising members from the government and civil society, for preparation of the draft Lokpal Bill.

The 10-member Joint Drafting Committee will have five Cabinet members ? Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (chairman), Home Minister P. Chidamabaram, Law Minister Veerappa Moily (convenor), Telecom and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid.

Apart from Mr. Hazare, civil society will be represented by the former Law Minister, Shanti Bhushan (co-chairperson), the former Supreme Court Judge, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, April 10, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tackling declining sex ratio

The Centre reconstituted the Central Supervisory Board set up under the Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (PC & PNDT Act) to address concerns of declining sex ratios reflected in the provincial results of Census 2011. Chaired by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and co-chaired by the Minister of Women and Child Development, the Board consists of ex-officio members; 10 non official members. The first meeting of the reconstituted Board is likely to be held in the last week of May.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, April 11, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC grants bail to Binayak Sen

The Supreme Court granted bail to Binayak Sen, who has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh trial court for sedition and helping Naxalites. The Supreme Court said it was giving no reason for granting bail and left it to the trial court to impose the conditions for his release on bail.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, April 15, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tata Power bags Rs.1,000-cr IAF project

The Indian Air Force’s project of upgrading 30 airfields in the first phase under Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) has been bagged by Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division. The project is estimated to cost over Rs.1,000 crore. The MAFI includes supply, testing, integration and sustenance of Instrument Landing System (ILS), Distance Measurement Equipment, Tactical Air Navigation System, Air Traffic Management System and CAT-2 Airfield Lighting System.

In the first phase, the IAF plans to modernise 30 airfields and the project is to be completed in 42 months. The government made a provisional allocation of Rs. 180 crore in the 2009-10 budget to be released after the contract is signed. Under Phase-II, 20 airfields that include those with the IAF, the Army, Navy and the Coast Guard are to be taken up for modernisation.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Business Standard, April 12, 2011.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rufiyaa made flexible

President Mohamed Nasheed has declared the exchange rate of Rufiyaa, Maldivian currency, within a band of fluctuation of 20 percent around the current fixed exchange rate of Rf12.85 per US dollar-peg.

In a letter to Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) Fazeel Najeeb, the President said that the decision was made, as stipulated by Article 13 of MMA Act, in consultation with the Board of Directors of the MMA.

In his letter, the President also asked the Governor to publish, as required by the Article 13 of the MMA Act, the new external value of currency as no less than 20 percent below or no higher than 20 percent above the current exchange rate of Rf12.85 per US Dollar.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem said that the Government decided as such and now are working to keep a reserve of US $ 200 m. He said that most of the reserve has been now brought to the country and the remaining will be brought soon. Naseem said that this sudden change might raise the dollar price initially but when the shortage issue is tackled, the Dollar price will go down eventually.

For his part, Minister of Finance, Ahmed Inaz, later said that the media’s portrayal of the exchange rate situation was incorrect and that the true picture will be seen within three months. Instead, the dollar rate will be stabilised within three months, he added.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, April 11-12, 2011

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN asked to support democray in Muslim world

The Maldives delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has called on the international community, led by the UN, to support the democratic and human rights reform movement taking hold across the Islamic world.

Iruthisham Adam, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, told assembled delegates that the Muslim Awakening presents enormous opportunities to the Muslim world but also places enormous responsibilities on the international community "to ensure that the newly emerging democratic States receive all the support they need". She thus called for a UN Special Session to be convened on the subject of "human rights in the context of democratic transition" during which countries in transition like Egypt, Tunisia and the Maldives and the wider community of nations could share experiences, discuss challenges and extend offers of support and assistance.

Speaking in response to a Report by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, Ambassador Adam agreed with the High Commissioner’s assessment that "events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere demonstrate, without a doubt, that human rights ? the idea that we are all equal and that everyone should have the opportunity to live in peace, security, freedom in a world free from wont ? are more than just words on a piece of paper. They are an inherent and undeniable part of what it means to be human".

Referring to the Muslim Awakening, she explained that "If we get it right, democracy and human rights can become entrenched across a civilization which has historically been one of the most progressive, tolerant and enlightened on the planet. It is therefore beholden on us ? representatives of the international community ? to ensure that the newly democratic States emerging across the Islamic world receive all the support they need during what is sure to be an extremely difficult and fragile democratic transition".

With this in mind, the Maldives suggested that the Council "organize an international meeting on the Muslim Awakening during which we can exchange thoughts and ideas, ask for and pledge support, discuss how the international human rights mechanisms can best support change, and work together to ensure that the aspirations of Muslims, so clearly voices over recent months, are realized and fulfilled".
< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, April 11, 2011

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

Afghanistan & Pakistan: Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti;
Bhutan & India: Akhilesh Variar;
Nepal: Satish Misra;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N SathiyaMoorthy;

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