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Manoj Pandey, a beauty pageant organiser accused of rape, in police custody

Crime Division of Nepal Police says the alleged rapist has been arrested for an investigation.

Under pressure after widespread protests and the House directive to take swift action, police on Saturday took Manoj Pandey, who has been accused of rape by a former beauty pageant participant who aspired to be a model, into custody.
The Crime Division of Nepal Police said Pandey was arrested from the Swayambhu area in Kathmandu on Saturday afternoon. “We have taken Manoj Pandey into custody for an investigation,” said a senior official at the crime branch on the condition of anonymity. “It is part of our investigation into the charges he faces.”
Pandey, the owner of Model Global Visas Consultancy, was arrested days after the woman on Wednesday posted a series of videos on TikTok in which she shared details of episodes wherein she was sexually harassed by multiple men, including Pandey.
In the videos, she has shared how Pandey, who was the organiser of the pageant called Miss Global International 2014, had drugged and raped her in a room of a hotel where he had invited her to a “success party” of the beauty pageant which she had participated in.
According to the survivor, the sexual abuse continued for six months.
The survivor, now 24, was 16 when she was first raped and sexually abused. The young girl’s videos quickly drew a flurry of reactions, with people across social networks showing an immense outpouring of support and outrage.
On Saturday, protests were organised in different cities across the country, including Kathmandu, Pokhara, Itahari and Birtamode, in support of the survivor and calling for scrapping of the statute of limitations, which has emerged as a major barrier to justice for the survivors of rape and sexual harassments.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence—civil or criminal. However, the length of time the statute allows for a victim to bring legal action against the suspected wrong-doer can vary from one jurisdiction to another and the nature of the offence.
In rape cases in Nepal, as per the section 229(2) of National Penal (Code) Act, any plaintiff can file a complaint only within one year of the incident.
Ever since the survivor spoke of how she was raped, people have taken to the streets chanting “We Want Justice”, and “Hang the Rapist”. A survey of placards displayed by the protestors read: “Hold Perpetrators Accountable”, “Remove the Statute of Limitations for Rape and Sexual Violence”, “Take Action Against the Guilty”, “Provide Support to Survivors” and “Enable Fast Track Court for Rape and Sexual Violence”, among others.
The Nepal Police in the beginning was hesitant to arrest Pandey citing the statute of limitation for registering a court case.
But following public pressure, the law enforcement agency for the first time in Nepal’s #MeToo history initiated an investigation without a formal complaint.
It, however, was not immediately clear which law the police will employ to file a case against Pandey.
Senior Superintendent Sudeep Giri, chief of the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, on Friday told the Post that they were yet to establish the case, so they could not immediately tell what case would be filed.
“Only after analysing the details and collecting evidence, can we move further on which case should be filed,” Giri told the Post on Friday.
The police are in touch with the victim, according to Senior Superintendent Basanta Kunwar, chief of the Metropolitan Crime Division.
The Nepal Police Headquarters on Friday formed a committee under Kunwar to investigate the allegations against Pandey.
The committee has Superintendent Krishna Koirala, Deputy Superintendent Kopila Chudal, Deputy Superintendent Hari Basnet and Inspector Sapana Khadka as members.
“Our team visited the survivor’s home on Friday with a psychologist but since she was still disturbed, we couldn’t record her statement,” said Kunwar, who is also the head of a committee formed by Nepal Police to look into the matter.
On Saturday, the Home Ministry issued a statement that police were investigating the case and action would be taken accordingly.
“A probe committee has been formed and the government is committed to investigating and taking action against those involved in the matter,” read the statement.
The ministry had also urged all to help in the investigation.
On Friday, lawmakers had brought the girl’s charges that she was raped to the notice of the House. Lawmakers demanded immediate action against the perpetrators.
Speaker Agni Sapkota then directed the government to bring the culprits to book.
Questions, however, arise over the lawmakers also as they are the ones who make and amend laws, and whether they are going to act to amend the one-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual violence cases.
The statute of limitations on rape and sexual abused cases is the shortest in Nepal compared to five other South Asian countries—India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Every year thousands of cases related to violence against women and children are registered across the country. According to data provided by Nepal Police, from July 2021 to March 2022, a total of 15,459 cases of violence against women and children were reported across the country. This averages out at 64 cases daily.
The data include cases related to rape, attempted rape, allegations of witchcraft, polygamy, domestic violence, rape and murder, and kidnapping.
Police officials say they have take cognizance of the rape charges against Pandey and that the arrest of the accused is the first step towards ensuring justice to the survivor.
“It’s too early to say how the case will move forward but we are investigating this matter very seriously,” said Senior Superintendent Giri.


Wheat harvest likely to fall below forecast due to unseasonal rains

Production is likely to rise by less than 1 percent to 2.02 million tonnes, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
Shortages of chemical fertilisers added to the farmers’ woes.  Post File Photo

Officials have predicted a lower than expected wheat harvest after the winter crop was drenched in unseasonal rains in October, which means Nepal’s battered economy could face further misfortune.
According to preliminary estimates issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, the wheat harvest is likely to rise by less than 1 percent to 2.02 million tonnes.
Wheat, the country’s third largest cereal crop, is sowed in mid-November and harvested in mid-April.
“Despite abundant winter rainfall, the yield is expected to fall short of projections,” said Ram Krishna Regmi, chief statistician at the ministry. “Wheat planting got underway way behind schedule this year,” he said.
Heavy rainfall is unusual in Nepal during October, which is traditionally outside the monsoon season.
The rains started on October 17 last year in the western part of Nepal and then moved to the eastern part on October 19, claiming lives and damaging roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure in various districts.
The unseasonal rains and floods destroyed paddy crops worth Rs8.26 billion, the highest losses on record.
“The losses were not limited to paddy. Unusual weather patterns also severely hit the yield of winter crops, particularly wheat,” said Regmi.
The delayed paddy harvest due to rain at the maturing stage also pushed back the sowing of wheat. Shortages of fertiliser added to the farmers’ woes.
“Early sowing of wheat can lengthen the growing season and deliver increased yields. Delayed sowing shortens the growing season, thus reducing yield potential,” said Satya Narayan Mandal, a retired soil scientist.
“Normally, grain yield declines by 1 percent with each day of delay in sowing,” said Mandal.
This year, farmers lost time clearing their fields due to wet crops. Even after the harvest, they had to wait to cultivate wheat because of excess soil moisture and low soil temperature.
“Many farmers were worried and sowed their wheat crops, and the impact was seen in germination,” said Regmi.
Farmers also faced a shortage of diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser for their winter crop.
In 2021, the monsoon entered eastern Nepal two days earlier than the usual starting date of June 11 and withdrew on October 11, prolonging the rainy season by nine days and making it one of the longest wet seasons, according to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.
The rains again started on October 17.  
The normal onset and withdrawal in eastern Nepal occur on June 13 and October 2 respectively.
Nepal witnessed a record wheat output of 1.97 million tonnes in 2014-15. Production plunged 12.1 percent to a six-year low of 1.73 million tonnes in 2015-16 due to the winter drought.

Wheat, the country’s third largest cereal crop, is sowed in mid-November and harvested in mid-April. POST FILE PHOTO

Harvests jumped 6 percent in 2016-17, reaching 1.84 million tonnes. The country’s wheat production stood at a record 1.94 million tonnes in 2017-18 despite a prolonged winter drought.
In 2018-19, output swelled to 2.08 million tonnes; and in 2019-20, the harvest reached an all-time high of 2.18 million tonnes, according to the ministry’s statistics.
Last year, the drought lessened the wheat output by 8 percent to 2.00 million tonnes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.
Nepal’s official number cruncher—the Central Bureau of Statistics—has projected an economic growth rate of 5.8 percent for this fiscal year, which many economists doubt is achievable, saying it was “cherry-picking” data when the country and its citizens are suffering.
One of the bases for the growth was the winter harvest, particularly wheat, which officials had projected to grow significantly. In India, delayed sowing and loss of yield due to abnormal heat waves in the major wheat-growing states prompted the government to slap a ban on exports, except to its South Asian neighbours.
“The ban does not apply to Nepal, but it will definitely impact the prices of flour and flour-made products in Nepal,” said Regmi. “Though Nepalis do not widely consume flour, the ban in India could affect the food industry.”
A circular issued by the Indian government says that wheat is not banned in neighbouring countries, but this policy could mean that the private sector can import wheat by obtaining the government’s approval, according to traders.
On May 13, the Indian government prohibited all private wheat exports with immediate effect.
As wheat exports from India trickled to a stop, anxious importing nations have started putting in diplomatic requests as the list of countries seeking the grain continues to increase, according to Indian media reports.
About a dozen countries have reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs seeking clarification on whether their requests for Indian wheat would be fulfilled. As many as 47 countries have sought food grain from India, with many others hinting they would also need them.
The decision came amid widespread loss of yield due to abnormal heat waves in the major wheat-growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Large parts of the crop had shrivelled due to the heat, and in certain cases, had become unfit for human consumption.
India’s official wheat production estimates for 2022-23 have been scaled down to 105 million tonnes from the 113.5 million tonnes estimated earlier.

Annual wheat output
Year                                       Output (in tonnes)
2021-22                                   2.02 million
2020-21                                   2.00 million
2019-20                                   2.18 million
2018-19                                    2.00 million
2017-18                                    1.94 million
2016-17                                    1.84 million
2015-16                                    1.73 million
2014-15                                    1.97 million
2013-14                                    1.88 million
2012-13                                    1.88 million
2011-12                                    1.84 million
(Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development)


Visiting US official meets with Tibetan refugees despite Kathmandu’s caveats

Nepal is in a precarious situation as it navigates carefully to maintain a fine balance amid rapid geopolitical shifts.

On Friday during a regular press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal said that the government was not aware of any meetings between visiting US Under Secretary Uzra Zeya and Tibetan refugee leaders in Kathmandu.
The press meet was organised hours before Zeya’s arrival in Kathmandu, from India where her meetings with Tibetan leaders in Dharamshala, including the Dalai Lama, were making headlines.
Zeya, an under secretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights of the US government, is also a special coordinator for Tibetan issues for the Joe Biden administration.
Some Tibetan leaders in Nepal, who spoke to the Post on condition of
anonymity, however, had intimated that the US official would be meeting them during her three-day stay in Nepal. As soon as Zeya arrived in Kathmandu on Friday, she awarded the International Women of Courage to Bhumika Shrestha and Muskan Khatun, according to the US Embassy in Kathmandu.
On Saturday, Zeya held talks with Tibetan refugee leaders in Jawalakhel.
According to security officials, the meeting lasted over an hour and the US official listened to the concerns of Tibetan refugees in Nepal.
Before visiting the Jawalakhel-based Tibetan camp, she also held a meeting with some human rights defenders and discussed the issues related to Tibetan refugees and the problems faced by them.
On Saturday evening, she visited the Bouddha area where a large section of Tibetan refugees lives. She posted a picture on Twitter, saying: “Honored to visit the impressive Boudha Stupa during my visit to Nepal. What an awesome example of Nepal’s rich religious, architectural, and cultural history.”
According to a Tibetan refugee leader, Zeya will also visit some more Tibetan camps in Kathmandu before wrapping her Nepal visit.
“Primarily we have raised the problems we are facing here [in Nepal] in the absence of documentation and refugee identity cards,” the Tibetan refugee leader told the Post on the condition of anonymity.
The refugee community says that as many as 7,000 Tibetan refugees are deprived of the refugee identity
cards which has caused difficulties for them in doing business and jobs, pursuing higher education, visiting abroad, and in engaging in other social activities.
Tibetan refugees are one of the touchy topics in Nepal, as for Beijing they make a security concern. Kathmandu on every possible occasion conveys to Beijing that it steadfastly sticks to the one-China policy and that it won’t allow anyone or any other country to use Nepali soil against China.
Nepal is home to about 15,000 Tibetans who fled Tibet after the 1959 failed uprising.
The Nepal government has always shown extra sensitivity to address China’s concerns, which is evident from the crackdowns on the Tibetans during some occasions like the Dalai Lama’s birthday and the anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising. The US, on the other hand, has always pressed Nepal to uphold Tibetans’ human and economic rights.
Zeya’s visit to Nepal follows Beijing’s objection to Kathmandu’s decision to ratify the $500 million grant under Washington’s Millenium Challenge Corporation.
Observers say Zeya’s meeting with Tibetan refugee leaders at a time when Kathmandu is already running the risk of falling into a geopolitical quagmire over the MCC may well be taken note by Beijing.
Ahead of Zeya’s visit, senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had communicated to the US side not to raise the Tibetan refugee issue during official meetings with senior Nepali officials including the prime minister and foreign minister, according to at least three government officials the Post spoke to.
“The message was delivered from the top political level to the US side through the US ambassador to Nepal, Randy Berry, in view of geopolitical sensitivity,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.
Fanindra Mani Pokharel, spokesperson for the Home Ministry, said that he had heard about the meeting between Zeya and Tibetan refugee leaders but officially not much communication was made by the security agency because it was Saturday, a public holiday.
Nepal’s government agencies are divided over whether to issue refugee cards to the Tibetans given the problems they are facing in the lack of documentation.
A senior Home Ministry official said that the government should provide refugee cards to the needy Tibetans and their children on humanitarian grounds.
The US and some Western countries have been pressing Nepal to provide the refugee identity card to the Tibetans in Nepal.
Nepal stopped issuing such cards to the Tibetan refugees in 1995.
“The Tibetan refugees in Nepal are facing some problems and the government is considering ways to address their grievances,” said Pokharel. “Though this is a political issue, we have to listen to and address their grievances because they are facing problems in different sectors.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, has a different take on the issue.
Since Nepal follows the one-China policy and is committed to not allowing its soil to be used against China, Kathmandu’s position on Tibetan refugees has not changed over time, said officials.
Spokesperson Lamsal’s statement on Friday stemmed from that very position when she said the government was not aware of any possible meetings between the visiting US delegation and Tibetan refugees as she expressed hope that the visit will be held “within the framework of Nepal’s foreign policy”.
“[But] we are not aware of her private meetings and engagements,” said Lamsal. “We do not know about any programmes other than official meetings. During her official meeting with the prime minister and other ministers, the issue of our commitment to human rights and democracy will be discussed and our commitment to it is very much understandable.”
“Nepal is committed to human rights and democracy. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has already made a commitment to attending the second of the Summits for Democracy being organised by US President Joe Biden,” she said.
Deuba attended the first of the Summits for Democracy in December last year.
“Our position is clear. Overall, the visit of the US Deputy Secretary of State would be concluded within the framework of Nepal’s foreign policy. We don’t know about the meeting with Tibetan refugees. But we will look into the matter if there was such a programme in her schedule,” said Lamsal.
Zeya will be meeting with Prime Minister Deuba, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka and Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand on Sunday
before wrapping up her Nepal visit that day.
Zeya’s visit is one of the highest level delegations from the US in recent times and it also is part of a flurry of arrivals from Washington.
Recent visits from the US also coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Nepal-US diplomatic ties.
Indra Aryal, former chairman of Nepal Human Rights Organisation, said that the issue of documentation of Tibetan refugees in Nepal has failed to get as much attention as it should have.
“I have been closely following this issue since 2007 but it has never gained momentum,” said Aryal, who defends the rights of the refugees, the issue of the Tibetan refugees and the problems they face.
Aryal believes the issue should be addressed from the political level.
“I do not see any change in the status quo in the situation of the Tibetan refugees in Nepal but this is definitely a pressing and humanitarian issue,” Aryal told the Post. “But there has been no progress for a long time due to a lack of political will.
The issue should be settled politically and urgently.”

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Residents of Khotang depend on helicopters to reach hospitals

Pregnant women suffer the most from a lack of good hospitals and roads in Khotang.
As many as 15 pregnant women with health complications had to be rescuedfrom the district by helicopters in the current fiscal year.   Post Photo: DAMBAR SINGH RAI

It has been eight months since Manikala Rai’s husband Shirmani Rai died. Manikala, mother to seven children–five sons and two daughters, wonders if her husband would have been alive if she had been able to take him to a hospital on time.
But there are no hospitals in Diktel Rupakot Majhuwagadhi Municipality-12. When Shirmani lost consciousness on that fateful morning, Manikala wanted to take him to the district hospital 10 km away but the road to the hospital was blocked by a landslide.
“I couldn’t take him to the hospital that day. He never regained his consciousness,” said Manikala.
In times of medical emergencies, the residents of the municipality charter a helicopter to take their loved ones to a hospital but Manikala did not have the financial resources to book a helicopter for her husband.
“Now I’m a widow with seven children to look after. My husband would have been alive if I had enough money to charter a helicopter that day,” she said.
Manikala is one of the many in her village who have lost their loved ones due to a lack of timely treatment. The absence of good roads and fully equipped hospitals in the district compels the locals to rely on helicopters for medical emergencies but not everyone can afford the service.
Chartering a helicopter from Biratnagar or Dharan to Kathmandu costs at least Rs 180,000 to Rs 360,000. Poor families have to carry the burden of debt if they spend such a big amount to charter a helicopter.
Sangram Rai’s three-year-old child was badly injured on April 12. The resident of Rakha Bangdel in Aiselukharka Rural Municipality-1 had to charter a helicopter to take his son to Kathmandu for treatment. He spent Rs 180,000 on the fare.
Pawan Thapa, a 25-year-old man from the same village, fell off a swing last December and was badly injured. His family also had to spend Rs180,000 to reach Kathmandu for treatment.
Pregnant women suffer the most from a lack of good hospitals and roads in Khotang. While many pregnant women have been able to receive free services under the ‘Rescue for Pregnant and Maternity Women at Risk in Remote Areas’ programme under the Presidential Women’s Upliftment Programme, the availability of helicopters in times of need is not guaranteed.
On April 23 Bimala Thapa Rai, a 29-year-old woman of Aiselukharka Rural Municipality-3, was admitted to the nearby health centre when she entered labour. Pregnant with twins, Bimala had to be taken to Thapathali-based maternity hospital in Kathmandu on a government helicopter the day after she was admitted to the health centre.
Sakuntala Rai, a 30-year-old woman of Nerpa in Diktel Rupakot Majhuwagadhi Municipality-6, gave birth at Diktel Hospital in the district headquarters on April 28. But soon her health deteriorated. She was rushed to Koshi Hospital in Biratnagar on a helicopter.
Assistant Chief District Officer Bikal Shrestha said that 15 pregnant women with health complications had to be rescued from the district by helicopter in the current fiscal year. Similarly, 103 pregnant women were rescued from across the country in the last fiscal year.
Manish Poudel, acting chief physician of the district hospital, said that due to a lack of adequate resources in the local health institutions, patients had to be airlifted by helicopter.
Many Khotang residents lost their lives due to untimely treatment during the time of Covid. Some of the casualties were patients who were airlifted by helicopter at a high cost.
According to Durga Ghimire, chairperson of the Senior Citizens’ Association Khotang, the use of helicopters for medical emergencies in the district started around 2001. And even after more than two decades, there has been no significant improvement in the health services of the district. “Helicopter service has somewhat assuaged the sufferings of the locals but not everybody can afford it,” said Ghimire.
It has become a common thing for the district residents to go to Dharan, Biratnagar and Kathmandu for treatment. In the current fiscal year alone, 626 people have been referred from the district hospital to go out. Of these, 358 were referred from outpatient services, 89 from inpatient services and 179 from emergency services, according to the district hospital.
The government offices do not have the exact details of how much the people of Khotang spend annually on the treatment. For the people of Khotang, the government spends around Rs. 20 million annually in the district health office. And nearly the same amount is being spent by the locals while chartering a helicopter for treatment.
According to Vasant Shrestha, who is working as a liaison for helicopters of various airlines, around 100 helicopters are chartered annually in Khotang alone. And about ten of those are used by the political leaders, some are used by the hydropower companies and other wealthy people and except that all are used by the patients.
Based on Shrestha’s statement, the people of Khotang spend nearly Rs. 20 million annually by chartering a helicopter for medical treatment.
According to Khusnarayan Saiju, president of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce Khotang and former president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce & Industry Khotang said that not only the lives of the people but also the economic condition would be saved if improvement in the health sector was reliable. He also alleges that the local level is not even serious about improving the health facilities in the district.


Tension high in Gujara vote counting centre


RAUTAHAT: Security personnel lobbed two teargas canisters after local people attempted to vandalise the vote counting centre of Gujara Municipality in Rautahat district on Saturday. The local people who gathered to support their candidates hurled stones and attempted to vandalise the entry gate of the vote counting centre after the election officials repeatedly made mistakes while announcing the updated votes garnered by the candidates. According to the District Police Office, an additional police team from the Area Police Office in Chandranigahapur has been deployed in the area to avert any untoward incident.


Shortage of blood in Birgunj transfusion centre


PARSA: The blood transfusion centre in Birgunj ran out of blood, resulting in a scarcity of blood in the district. According to Saurabhraj Pandey, head of the centre,  there is a daily demand of 40 to 50 bags of blood in Birgunj and the centre is facing problems meeting that demand. The supply and distribution of blood has been affected as the number of blood donation programmes in Parsa and Bara districts has decreased owing to the month-long local level election.

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Post politics in Nepal

Disillusioned or not with the parties, a large number of people turn out to cast their votes.
Post File Photo: Keshav Thapa

Political developments in Nepal over the years have so strongly dominated the minds of the Nepali people that they appear to be glibly postponing all other concerns of life in order to find time to review their anxieties about political matters. These political developments have triggered serious discussions among politicians, analysts and media people too. Those who do not consider politics as their main subject of interest in their writings and academic discussions have found some important themes for contemplation. The political developments in Nepal over the years defy any monolithic interpretation. I have been following the analyses of political scholars and media analysts over some months to understand the developments. But I have come to realise that one should look at the fast political transformations happening since 2006 to the present day to understand the current situation. To understand these transformations, mainly those of alliances and dissolutions, one has to approach the subject with an open mind.
Postality, that has become the character of ideologies and literary theories, is the best guide for me to understand also the present politics of Nepal. The communist parties of Nepal and their metamorphoses, their shifting avatars in terms of forging and dissolving alliances over the years reaching its climax now in the present local elections nationwide show that instead of sticking to their conventional theories, they have opened themselves up to post-ideological agreements and lines of actions. This development has impelled the oldest democratic party the Nepali Congress also to review its position and open up to the post-ideological conditions which is closer to that of the communists. For lack of space, I would like to put this political situation in Nepal as one that combines features of post-politics that requires parties to work for ethical or moral rather than just political values. In short, the dominant feature of Nepali politics today is guided by conditions of postality.  

Local government
But my conviction is that the political situation in Nepal is far from a mess. It is passing through a phase of experiment that shapes the underlying pattern of new developments in the politics of Nepal. The question is what is that underlying development then? What kind of politics are we talking about here? There is no easy answer to that. Based on certain developments and the current trends that have become manifest in the local elections that were held on May 13 and the fast pace of the dissolutions, formations, reformulations, alliances and uncertainties, we can draw a picture of the politics of Nepal not least the challenges that surround it.
I consider the provision of local government as the most important contribution of the democratic republican system of Nepal because this system functions at all units or palikas; and they are duly elected by the people under the partisan system, which is the main character and spirit of the constitution. The office bearers, the people’s representatives of these palikas became strongly visible during the scourge of Covid-19. It was very good to see them doing their best to create quarantine centres to put up the people who came in droves from India where they had gone to work to support their families back home at different times. Though these efforts of the palikas were not sufficient for that, and they had difficulties because of the lack of coordination with the government at the centre and even at the provincial level, they appeared to be the only viable agencies of the local people to tackle the problems. They had limitations and had no access to vaccines and material facilities because responsible agencies and persons, from government ministers and bureaucratic officials to vyaparis or business people or dealers, were tacitly working in connivance to take advantage of the horridly difficult situation. There were visible examples of the function of local units even during these moments. I am not saying that all the palikas were functioning honestly, but what is true is that, in order to create a system, people were trying to work in tandem with the people they had elected locally. This applies to other moments of challenges as well.
Representatives for the selfsame palikas are being elected now. Votes are being counted even as I write these lines. People have been working with all the available accoutrements of the electoral system as given by the constitution. People’s participation is tremendously invigorating. They responded to the calls, and the torrents of propaganda produced by the political parties in whatever way they could. They entered the polling booths carrying big papers or matpatra with a plethora of electoral signs and names. I heard voters fumbling and complaining from booths near mine. However, the number of invalid votes is not as colossal as I had feared then. It shows the people’s strong faith in the electoral system and their desire to elect the right people in this election. One other development was noticed this time. The tremendous enthusiasm to elect non-partisan candidates including some youths who have come with fresh programmes articulated through new idioms is a subject to reckon with even though this has appeared in a few palikas only. But this trend speaks volumes.  

Psychological dimension
But what is interesting and eloquent is the sense with which the political parties created alliances and fought the elections. That involved bafflements, uncertainties, haste and impatience. An eloquent proof of this psychological dimension of politics is the language the political leaders and their coteries used over the last 10 months or so. And now they feel they are trapped by their own idioms.
One very notable feature is that many people are showing their disillusionment with the established system of party politics, which is supported by convention and the constitution. People have to choose their candidates from the list created by the major well-known political parties. It is considered a voter’s karma to vote for the candidates whom they may not like in a loktantrik system. One fallacy in loktantrik politics that is hegemonised by political parties and the general mass is that all people are members of one or the other political party, which is not a reality. That is the reason why the turnout in democratic elections in many countries is so low. But the Nepali voters’ hearts are very large. Disillusioned or not with the candidates and parties and their false promises, a large number of people turn out to cast their votes. That is a very moving as well as a positive aspect of the Nepali loktantrik system.
The political parties should address the post political trend of the Nepali political system very carefully. The first step towards that is a cool and careful assessment of the current local elections and their political impact.


Funding the polio eradication endgame

Unless we fund a new polio vaccination push today, we risk a resurgence of the disease.

Growing up in India, I did not have access to the polio vaccine, and the disease paralysed my legs when I was an infant. As a result, I have undergone many surgeries and cannot walk without leg braces and crutches. My story is not unique. When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was established in 1988 (I was 10 at the time), the disease paralysed an estimated 350,000 children worldwide each year.
Thirty-four years later, immunisation campaigns have almost eliminated polio. But unless we fund a new vaccination push today, we risk a resurgence of the disease.
The GPEI—which coordinates the efforts of frontline workers, communities, national governments, and global partners to help vaccinate children—has played a major role in reducing polio cases and is now leading the drive to eliminate the disease for good. Since 1988, the GPEI has helped to immunise 3 billion children against polio, and more than 20 million people who otherwise would have been paralysed are able to walk.
But the fight is not over. Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two countries where polio remains endemic, have reported only five cases of wild poliovirus in 2021 and three cases so far in 2022. That may sound encouraging, but the presence of polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how quickly an infectious disease can spread around the world.
The problem is acute, because GPEI-funded polio eradication efforts were halted during the pandemic in order to shift resources to help countries respond to Covid-19. The suspension of polio vaccination campaigns and disruption of routine immunisation led to millions of children missing out. As a result, about 2,000 children in the past two years have been paralysed by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV2)—a variant that can emerge in under-immunised communities—in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe.
So, while we are close to 99 percent polio eradication, this final stretch to achieve zero cases may be difficult. That is why the GPEI launched an ambitious $4.8 billion plan during the recent World Immunization Week to help rid the world of polio by 2026.
The strategy focuses on vaccinating 370 million children annually against polio for the next five years. It envisages increasing the integration of polio immunisation with general health-related services in communities; working with community leaders, clerics, and influencers to earn trust, boost vaccine acceptance, and tackle misinformation; and improving disease surveillance and response.
Investing in polio eradication also delivers broader benefits, not least by strengthening health-care infrastructure and providing routine immunisations and other integrated health services in underserved communities. The polio programme has kept the world safe from many emerging disease threats by detecting and responding to outbreaks of measles, yellow fever, and Ebola.
The GPEI and its partners helped to develop and implement a next-generation oral polio vaccine—nOPV2—to help stop outbreaks of type-2 vaccine-derived polio. Most remarkably, the GPEI’s strong surveillance network helped to coordinate a public-health response to Covid-19 in 50 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This included delivering vaccines, detecting and monitoring cases, tracing contacts, and raising awareness about the virus.
This final five-year push to eradicate polio—at an estimated cost of less than $1 billion a year—must be fully funded and executed. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that cutting back on eradication efforts could cause a global resurgence of polio that 10 years from now could paralyse up to 200,000 children a year, thus greatly increasing the cost of controlling the disease and treating survivors. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director-general, notes that polio eradication is highly cost-effective and could generate more than $33 billion in economic savings.
The world cannot afford to give up the fight to eliminate polio and squander more than three decades of progress. “It is so crucial that all stakeholders now commit to ensuring that the new eradication strategy can be implemented in full,” said Niels Annen, parliamentary state secretary to Svenja Schulze, the German minister for economic cooperation and development. “We can only succeed if we make polio eradication our shared priority.”
The world has an opportunity to end polio in the next five years so that no child will have to suffer as I do from a disease that is entirely preventable. But this will not happen without a fully funded endgame strategy.

Dentler, a 2017 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow, is a polio survivor, a global health advocate, and the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
 — Project Syndicate

Page 5

Health Ministry urges readiness for possible disease outbreaks this monsoon

Even as many local units reel from a lack of health staff, ministry says it has no idea about the problem.
- Arjun Poudel

Helambu Rural Municipality in Sindhupalchok district has been short of at least eight health workers for months. The local unit’s attempts to recruit the staff failed due to the local level elections held on May 13, officials said.
“We are aware of the upcoming monsoon and associated challenges,” Gyanendra Sigdel, chief of the health section of the said rural municipality, told the Post over the phone
from Helambu. “As the local elections are over, we will start the process to hire health workers soon.”
Monsoon, considered an epidemic season in Nepal, is imminent. Along with the rains, the season also brings a number of diseases.
Like Helambu Rural Municipality, many state-run health facilities throughout the country lack health workers to serve.
What is concerning is that the Ministry of Health and Population said that it is unaware of the vacancies of health workers in the local units.
“We don’t know which health facilities lack health workers,” said Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for the ministry. “Local governments are responsible for hiring health workers.”
Given the possibility of a spread of monsoon diseases, agencies under the Health Ministry used to make preparations and mobilise officials, including vector control inspectors, to deal with possible epidemics. The ministry also halted the transfer of health workers and barred them from going on long leaves in view of possible emergencies.
“This year too, we have alerted the agencies concerned about possible epidemics and disaster events and asked them to make contingency plans as per the risk assessment,” said Adhikari. “We have asked local authorities to hire health workers if there are vacancies.”
Officials at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division said that local and provincial governments are responsible for purchasing medicines required for a possible disease outbreak, launching campaigns to make people aware of the risks and ensuring the presence of health workers at health facilities in the local and provincial health institutions.
“We are aware of the possible risks and have alerted all the agencies to start preparations accordingly,” said Dr Gokarna Dahal, chief of the Vector-borne Disease Control Section of the Division. “We are planning to organise an orientation programme soon to sensitise officials at the agencies concerned about the risk of vector-borne disease outbreaks.”
As pre-monsoon rainfall has started and monsoon is about to start, Nepal is highly vulnerable to both water-borne and vector-borne diseases including diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, dengue, malaria, Kala-Azar and scrub typhus. Early and heavier-than-usual monsoon has been forecast this year.
Although sporadic cases of dengue, scrub typhus and diarrhoeal problems have been reported from many districts, Dahal said there has been no major outbreak so far this year.
According to data from the Ministry of Health and Population, over 270 people have been infected with the disease since the start of 2022. Several cases of dengue and diarrhoeal problems have also been reported.
As the epidemic season has started, doctors ask for increased surveillance and vigilance to contain possible outbreaks and lessen the loss.
“The number of diarrhoeal cases has already started to spike at our hospital. We all know that only those who become severe come to hospital for treatment of diarrhoeal diseases,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. “Problems, which seem minor, could be too costly for us.”
Thousands of people get infected with waterborne and vector-borne diseases every monsoon. Despite huge investments over the years, the water and sanitation conditions have not improved in the country noticeably, doctors say.


Nepal spills 200MW power as storm knocks grid

Increased production as a result of rains in recent days is mainly responsible for the spilling of power, according to officials.
Nepal’s average peak-hour demand for power stands at around 1700MW, according to the NEA.  Post File Photo

Just three weeks ago, the Nepal Electricity Authority was imposing power cuts in the industrial belts citing reduced supply of power from India amid an energy crisis in the southern neighbour.
On Saturday, the state-owned power utility faced spilling of power as demand slumped due to disruption of supply as several transmission towers in Bharatpur and other places were felled by storms.
“About 200MW of electricity was wasted on Saturday morning,” said Kul Man Ghising, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). “We could not supply about 50MW in Bharatpur alone while supply was disrupted in many other parts of Tarai.”
When power spilled on Saturday, Nepal imported only 40MW of electricity from India, one of the lowest imports from the southern neighbour in recent weeks, according to the power utility body.
Officials at the NEA, however, say increased production as a result of rains in recent days is mainly responsible for the spilling of power though disruption caused by storms also contributed to the situation to some extent.
For example, the 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is producing 350MW on average in recent days from an average production of 165MW in Baishakh (mid-April to Mid-May), according to Bigyan Shrestha, chief executive officer of Upper Tamakoshi.
Average power production from the country’s largest operating project was 140MW in Chaitra (mid-March to mid-April), according to Shrestha.
It is a Peaking Run-of-the-River project. In such a project, power is produced in full capacity during the peak hours while water is collected at other times.
“In fact, melting of ice in April and rainfall in recent days increased water levels in the river which helped to increase power generation,” said Shrestha. “The project will operate in its full capacity by mid-June.”
Not only the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, some other major hydropower projects are also operating in their full capacity, according to the NEA.
Ghising said that 144MW Kaligandaki, 69MW Marsyangdi and 70MW Middle Marsysangdi have been generating power at their maximum capacity.
Now, power generation from the domestic hydropower project has reached around 1300MW, according to Ghising.
Nepal’s average peak-hour demand for power stands at around 1700MW, according to the NEA. But on Saturday, peak demand stood at 1,374MW as it is a holiday. “In the next couple of weeks, we will be in a position to export electricity,” said Ghising.
The NEA in early May called bids from Indian buyers for long-term power purchase agreement to sell 200MW power from July 1 to November 29. The power utility body has secured approval from Indian authority to export 364MW of electricity.
“We are installing equipment
and are making arrangements to enable Indian authorities to see how our power projects generate electricity in real time before exporting electricity through the power exchange market in India,” said Ghising.
Besides exporting electricity under long-term PPA, NEA plans to sell remaining electricity out of approved quantity, through the power exchange market.
Nepal faces power shortage during the dry season (winter) while it faces surplus power during the wet season (summer).
The country relies on supply from India during the dry season because run-of-the-river projects cannot produce electricity to their capacity because of reduced water levels in the rivers where the hydropower projects are based.
Nepal currently has only one storage type project—Kulekhani Hydropower Project, which cannot fill the country’s demand-supply gap in the winter and the country is forced to import electricity in the dry season.
But, the NEA struggled to secure enough power from India during the dry season as  the Southern neighbour also faced power crisis due to shortages and suring prices of coal.
In late March, the state government of Bihar discontinued supply during the night—from 6pm to 6am—and it discontinued supplying electricity even in day time from late April. The southern neighbour has stopped providing electricity at fixed rate from Tanakpur since mid-February. Nepal failed to get an extra 350MW through Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line.
The state-owned power monopoly was forced to rely on India Energy Exchange (IEX) market where there is no guarantee that Nepal can secure electricity because of a bidding war amid short supply of power in the market, triggered by a high demand for coal resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war. As a result, the NEA was forced to cut power to the industrial sectors for several weeks starting in late March.
During the period, Nepal used storage type Kulekhani project heavily. “We used 31 metres of the water of 1499m deep Kulekhani
reservoir,” said Suresh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the NEA.
But Nepal became lucky as snow melting started in April, earlier than usual, which helped to increase water levels in the Himalayan rivers.
Thanks to rising water levels in the snow-fed waters in the last one-and-a-half months along with rainfall in different parts of the country in recent days, the NEA has been able to supply electricity to a large extent.
Several Indian states are cutting power despite rising temperatures because of coal shortages and skyrocketing prices. Seventy-four percent of India’s power needs are fulfilled by coal-fired plants.
“Because of hydropower generation, we have got some relief,” said Shrestha.
“As the monsoon is approaching, we have to be worried about spilling of power.”

Page 6

Russia halts gas flow to Finland, says Mariupol steelworks siege has ended

Thousands of people in Ukraine have been killed and urban areas have been shattered in the war.
Local residents sit in a courtyard near a block of flats heavily damagedduring the Ukraine-Russia conflict, in Mariupol, Ukraine on Friday.   REUTERS

Russia stopped delivering gas to Finland in an escalation of a dispute over energy payments with Western nations, and claimed victory in a weeks-long battle for Mariupol’s devastated Azovstal steel plant as it presses for control of the Donbas.
Russia also launched what appeared to be a major assault to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the southeastern Donbas region: where Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of territory before the February 24 invasion.
The last Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said, ending the bloodiest siege of the war.
The ministry said in a statement that 2,439 defenders had surrendered in the past few days, including 531 in the final group.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s military had told the last defenders at the steelworks they could get out and save their lives. The Ukrainians did not immediately confirm the figures on Azovstal.
Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces did not comment on Russia’s claim in its morning update on Saturday.
The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured so far, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory in the invasion after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat.
Zelenskiy told local television that while the fighting would be bloody and victory difficult, the end would only come through diplomacy.
“For them, all these victories—the occupation of Crimea or Donbas—is very temporary. And all this will return—since this is our territory,” he said on Saturday.
Full control of Mariupol will give Russia command of an overland route linking the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists.
The Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of Ukrainians who surrendered at the Mariupol steel plant as prisoners of war and Kyiv says it wants a prisoner swap. Moscow says the prisoners will be treated humanely, but Russian politicians have been quoted as saying some must be tried or even executed.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Gazprom halted gas exports to neighbouring Finland on Saturday after it refused to agree to Russian demands to pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles because of Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
The move comes days after Finland and Sweden decided to apply to join the NATO military alliance, a decision spurred by the Ukraine war.
Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas consuming companies in Finland have said they were prepared for a shutdown of Russian flows and that the country will manage without.
Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars and Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.
In addition to trying to isolate Russia through sanctions, Western nations have stepped up weapons supplies to Ukraine since the invasion. Kyiv got another huge boost on Saturday when US President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to the country.
Moscow says Western arms deliveries for Kyiv, and the imposition of drastic sanctions amount to a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies.
The Russian military said on Saturday it had destroyed a major consignment of Western arms in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, using sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles.
Reuters could not independently verify the report, which also said Russian missiles had struck fuel storage facilities near Odesa on the Black Sea coast and shot down two Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft and 14 drones.
Putin says Russian troops are engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists. Western countries call it an unprovoked war of aggression.


US slams China, UN rights chief, ahead of Xinjiang visit


The United States is “deeply concerned” that China will restrict access on a visit by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, the State Department said on Friday, while also criticising Bachelet for “silence” in the face of what it said were atrocities in China’s western Xinjiang region.
China’s foreign ministry announced that Bachelet will visit the country from May 23 to 28, in what will be the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights trip there since 2005. Her schedule includes a trip to Xinjiang, where activists say some 1 million Uyghurs Muslims have been held in mass detention.
The United States accuses Beijing of committing genocide there, and Western rights groups fear the visit will be seen as an endorsement of China’s rights record.
“We’re deeply concerned about the upcoming visit,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing, adding that the United States had “no expectation that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang.”
Price said the United States had made its concerns known to China and to Bachelet, who he said for months had not heeded repeated calls by the United States and other countries to release a report by her staff on the situation in Xinjiang.
“Despite frequent assurances by her office that the report would be released in short order, it remains unavailable to us,” Price said.
“The High Commissioner’s continued silence in the face of indisputable evidence of atrocities in Xinjiang and other human rights violations and abuses throughout the PRC—it is deeply concerning, particularly as she is and should be the leading ... voice on human rights,” he said.
China has denied Western allegations of forced labour and genocide against Uyghurs and has warned other countries not to interfere in China’s domestic affairs by criticising its actions in Xinjiang.


WHO calls emergency meeting as monkeypox cases top 100 in Europe

WHO’s European chief says infections could accelerate as people gather for parties.
A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus in 1968.  CDC via REUTERS

The World Health Organisation was holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, after over 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.
In what Germany described as the largest outbreak in Europe ever,
cases have been reported in at least nine countries—Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom—as well as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Spain reported 24 new cases on Friday, mainly in the Madrid region where the regional government closed a sauna linked to the majority of infections.
A hospital in Israel was treating a man in his 30s who is displaying symptoms consistent with the disease after recently arriving from Western Europe. First identified in monkeys, the disease typically spreads through close contact and has rarely spread outside Africa, so this series of cases has triggered concern.
However, scientists do not expect the outbreak to evolve into a pandemic like Covid-19, given the virus does not spread as easily as SARS-COV-2.
Monkeypox is usually a mild viral illness, characterised by symptoms of fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash. “This is the largest and most widespread outbreak of monkeypox ever seen in Europe,” said Germany’s armed forces’ medical service, which detected its first case in the country on Friday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) committee meeting to discuss the issue is the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises on infection risks that could pose a global health threat.
It would not be responsible for deciding whether the outbreak should be declared a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which is currently applied to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There appears to be a low risk to the general public at this time,” a senior US administration official said.
Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the outbreak as an epidemic. “However, it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long. The cases can be well isolated via contact tracing and there are also drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if necessary,” he said.
Still, the WHO’s European chief said he was concerned that infections could accelerate in the region as people gather for parties and festivals over the summer months.
There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that the vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox, according to the WHO.
British authorities said they have offered a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox.
The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.


Biden and Yoon vow to deter North Korea but offer Covid-19 aid

US and South Korea agree to consider expanding their combined military drills.
US President Joe Biden in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on Friday.   REUTERS

President Joe Biden and his new South Korean counterpart agreed on Saturday to hold bigger military drills and deploy more US weapons if necessary to deter North Korea, while offering to send Covid-19 vaccines and potentially meet Kim Jong Un.
Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol said their countries’ decades-old alliance needed to develop not only to face North Korean threats but to keep the Indo-Pacific region “free and open” and protect global supply chains.
The two leaders are meeting in Seoul for their first diplomatic engagement since the South Korean president’s inauguration 11 days ago. The friendly encounter between allies was clouded by intelligence showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is prepared to conduct nuclear or missile tests.
Yoon had sought more assurances that the United States would boost its deterrence against North Korean threats. In a joint statement, Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons if necessary.
The two sides agreed to consider expanding their combined military drills, which had been scaled back in recent years in an effort to lower tensions with the North.
The United States also promised to deploy “strategic assets”—which typically include long-range bomber aircraft, missile submarines, or aircraft carriers—if necessary to deter North Korea, according to the statement.
Both leaders said they were committed to denuclearising North Korea and were open to diplomacy with Pyongyang.
“With regard to whether I would meet with the leader of North Korea, it would depend on whether he was sincere and whether he was serious,” Biden told a joint news conference.
He said Washington had offered Covid-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, which is combating its first acknowledged outbreak. “We’ve got no response,” Biden said.
North Korea reported more than 200,000 new patients suffering from fever for a fifth consecutive day on Saturday, but the country has little in the way of vaccines or modern treatment for the pandemic.
The US-South Korea alliance, which dates to the 1950-1953 Korean War, must further develop to keep the Indo-Pacific “free and open”, Biden said.
He said the alliance was built on opposition to changing borders by force—an apparent reference to Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s claims over Taiwan.
Changes in international trade and supply chains gave new impetus for the two countries to deepen their relationship, Yoon said, calling for cooperation on electric batteries and semiconductors.
Biden used the visit to tout investments in the United States by Korean companies, including a move by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group to invest about $5.5 billion to build its first dedicated fully electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facilities in the United States.
The two leaders toured a massive Samsung semiconductor plant on Friday, where Biden said countries like the United States and South Korea that “share values” needed to cooperate more to protect economic and national security.


Australian PM Morrison concedes election defeat


Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat after an election on Saturday and the opposition Labour Party was set to end almost a decade of conservative rule, possibly with the support of pro-environment independents.
Partial results showed Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition had been punished by voters in Western Australia and affluent urban seats in particular.
“Tonight, I have spoken to the Leader of the Opposition and the incoming Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. And I’ve congratulated him on his election victory this evening,” Morrison said, stepping down as leader of his party.
Labour had yet to reach the 76 of the 151 lower house seats required to form a government alone. Final results could take time as counting of a record number of postal votes is completed. A strong showing by the Greens and a of group of so-called “teal independents”, who campaigned on policies of integrity, equality and tackling climate change, means the makeup of the new parliament looks set to be much less climate-sceptic than the one that supported Morrison’s pro-coal mining administration.
Centre-left Labour had held a decent lead in opinion polls, although recent surveys showed the Liberal-National government narrowing the gap in the final stretch of a six-week campaign.
In at least five affluent Liberal-held seats, so-called “teal independents” looked set to win, tapping voter anger over inaction on
climate change after some of the worst floods and fires to hit Australia. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it would be “difficult” for him to hold the long-held Liberal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne to an independent newcomer in one of the biggest hits to the government. 


Biden signs $40 billion for Ukraine aid during Asia trip


SEOUL: President Biden on Saturday signed legislation to support Ukraine with another $40 billion in US assistance as the Russian invasion approaches its fourth month. The legislation, which was passed by Congress with bipartisan support, deepens the US commitment to Ukraine at a time of uncertainty about the war’s future. Ukraine has successfully defended Kyiv, and Russia has refocused its offensive on the country’s east, but American officials warn of the potential for a prolonged conflict.


One killed, 40 injured, as tornado hits Germany


BERLIN: Violent storms buffeting western Germany on Friday killed at least one man and injured some 40 people, 10 of them seriously, when an apparent tornado raked several towns, police and local media said. Images on social media showed an apparent tornado with its distinctive spinning cyclone flinging debris through the air, though the German Weather Service did not immediately confirm a tornado had occurred.


Beijing city reports 63 new local Covid cases over 24 hours


BEIJING: Beijing reported 63 new domestically transmitted Covid-19 infections during the 24 hours to 3 pm (0700 GMT) on Saturday, a disease control official at the Chinese capital said. Of the infections, 56 were found in controlled areas and seven during community screening tests, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director at Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing.


Earthquake hits north of Norway’s Svalbard


OSLO: A magnitude 6 earthquake struck north of the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard on Saturday, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said, though police said there were no reports of any injuries or damage. The quake happened 725 km north of Svalbard at a depth of 2 km, EMSC said. “We have had no reports of any incident,” a police spokesperson told Reuters.

Page 7

Russia makes early debt payment dash to dodge default

Russia has $40 billion in international bonds outstanding.

Russia rushed forward two payments on its international debt on Friday in its latest attempt to stave off a default that has looked on cards since its invasion of Ukraine.
A week before the interest payments are due and just five days before a key US waiver allowing such transfers expires, Russia’s finance ministry said it had wired $71.25 million for a dollar-denominated bond and 26.5 million euros ($28 million) for euro-denominated notes.
Russia has faced the prospect of sovereign default since Western capitals imposed sweeping sanctions in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The country has been all but cut off from the global financial system and has seen roughly half of its $640 billion reserves abroad frozen.
Russia, which has retaliated with some counter-measures of its own, has been able to keep paying until now because of a special licence from the US Treasury, which allows international bond holders to receive these kinds of payments.
That exemption is due to run out on May 25, however, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signalled this week that it won’t be extended.
“They are kicking the can down the road,” said Kaan Nazli at asset managers Neuberger Berman, who holds some Russian sovereign bonds.
The country’s $40 billion of international bonds, around half of which are held by foreign investors, have emerged as a flashpoint in recent months.
While Russia initially seemed keen to withhold payments to foreign investors unless it was allowed to make use of its frozen reserves abroad, this seems to have changed.
“The strategy turned into Russia not wanting to be the party to blame for the default,” said Nazli.
According to the finance ministry, Russia’s national settlement depository—which acts as a payment agent on the two bonds—had received the funds. It was unclear if the funds would reach foreign holders of the two Russian Eurobonds, a multistep process that usually involves international banks and clearing houses.
JPMorgan, which previously acted as a correspondent bank on such payments, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The US Treasury declined to comment.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Wednesday that Moscow would service its external debt obligations in roubles if the United States blocks other options and would not call itself in default as it had the means to pay.
Despite the plethora of curbs, Russia has managed to make payments on seven bonds since its invasion of Ukraine before the latest interest payments.
But it seems increasingly unlikely that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will extend the licence Russia needs to make the payments. Treasury Secretary Yellen said on Wednesday that while no final decision had been taken, it was “unlikely that it would continue.”
Those in support of an extension argue that allowing Russia to service its debt would drain its war chest by forcing Moscow to use its hard-currency revenues to make payments to creditors.
Opponents say Russia has to pay less than $2 billion on its external debt until the end of the year, which pales compared with Moscow’s oil and gas revenue of almost $28 billion in April alone thanks to high energy prices.


US, APEC delegates walk out on Russian speaker

Thailand is this year’s host nation for meetings of APEC, which comprises 21 economies.

Delegates from the United States and four other nations staged a walkout on Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in the Thai capital, officials said.
A Japanese official said Japan’s Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada walked out of the meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
A statement from the office of New Zealand Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor said he walked out “in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has slowed the region’s economic recovery from Covid and made it harder for people in the region to get food on their tables. He walked out in good company.”
A US official in Bangkok confirmed the walkout but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is diplomatic sensitivity over speaking about the incident because the proceedings were held in closed session. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai is representing Washington at the meeting.
Thailand is this year’s host nation for meetings of APEC, which comprises 21 economies. The two-day trade ministers meeting ends on Sunday.
The walkout occurred just as Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s minister for economic development, was set to deliver his opening remarks, said a Southeast Asian diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said the delegates of the five protesting nations and their staff walked out together in what appeared to clearly be a planned action, and returned after Reshetnikov completed his remarks.
Western nations have imposed tough diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, but many of APEC member nations, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, have distanced themselves from such moves. The war in Ukraine has raised major trade issues because it has disrupted supply chains, especially in the food sector.
APEC was launched in 1989 to boost growth by promoting economic integration and trade among its members.


Recriminations fly as Indonesia resumes palm oil exports

Workers load palm oil fresh fruit bunches to be transported from the collector site to CPO factories in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia. REUTERS

Long lines of trucks trying to unload palm fruit formed outside Indonesian processing mills this week, illustrating the growing cost of a palm oil export ban by the world’s biggest producer.  The trucks were stuck for days as storage space for palm oil neared capacity and, with local crop prices slumping by 70 percent, farmers took to the streets to demand a policy change.President Joko Widodo has now agreed to lift the export ban, despite a bid to flood the local market with palm oil failing to bring down the price of cooking oil to a government target.“Ultimately, an increasing realisation that the export ban was starting to hurt palm oil producers without benefiting the end-consumers all that much prompted the reversal,” Wellian Wiranto, an economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore said. A palm oil farmer in West Sulawesi told Reuters trucks in his area had been stuck for days as farmers desperate to try to limit losses bypassed agents and offloaded their crop. “But the mill is prioritising their partners, so the number of non-partner farmers is rising and waiting
in a long queue,” said Irfan, who uses one name.The pain caused to farmers comes after a string of policy changes aimed at containing the soaring price of palm oil, a staple for Indonesian families.Jokowi, as the president is known, imposed the export ban, saying a need for affordable food trumped revenue concerns.
The president then justified ending the export ban by arguing cooking oil prices were expected to come down in coming weeks. On Friday, his government unsettled markets again by announcing a domestic sales requirement to ensure supply at home. The cost of the export ban was estimated by the government at $400 million a month in lost state revenue, but there are also questions over longer-term damage in the eyes of Indonesia’s trading partners. India, the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil, previously bought two thirds of its supplies from Indonesia but has started to buy more from Malaysia and Thailand.
“We incurred losses this month as Indonesian shipments couldn’t land because of the ban. We bought from other suppliers at a higher price,” said a Mumbai-based palm oil buyer.  A Bangladesh-based vegetable oil refiner also expressed frustration over Indonesian flip-flops.  
“Indonesia was our biggest supplier with a market share of more than 80 percent. But we will bring down reliance even if Indonesia removes all the restrictions,” said the Dhaka-based refiner. Pakistan, another big buyer, was also looking to balance out it suppliers, including from the world’s second-biggest producer, Malaysia.
“Pakistan would love to buy more from Malaysia, but they don’t have enough stocks,” said Rasheed JanMohd, chairman of the Pakistan Edible oil Refiners Association.
Malaysia’s Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said in a May 10 interview that some importing countries had sought to increase supplies of Malaysian palm oil. Still, Julian McGill, head of South East Asia at LMC International, said importers were unlikely to cut themselves off from Indonesia.
“When Indonesia re-enters the market, as a distress seller of the large stocks that have accumulated during the export ban, they should find plenty of buyers,” he said.


Moody’s cuts Ukraine debt rating, outlook negative


WASHINGTON: Moody’s on Friday cut Ukraine’s debt rating for the second time in three months and lowered the outlook to negative due to the growing risk the Russian invasion will affect the nation’s debt sustainability. The ratings agency cut the grade a notch to Caa3, after lowering it two notches from B3 in early March, saying the country could face “a more protracted military conflict than Moody’s initially expected” following the invasion in late February. That “increases the likelihood of a debt restructuring and losses being imposed on private-sector creditors,” the statement said. (AFP)


India’s Jet Airways allowed to fly again by regulator


NEW DELHI: India’s Jet Airways said on Friday the country’s aviation regulator has cleared it to resume operation of commercial flights. Once India’s biggest private carrier, Jet stopped flying in April 2019 after running out of cash, owing billions to lenders and leaving thousands without jobs. Jet said the grant of an air operator certificate by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation “was the final step in a comprehensive regulatory and compliance process involving several procedural checks for the airline’s operational readiness.” The airline had said in June that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved a resolution plan submitted by a consortium of London-based Kalrock Capital and UAE-based businessman Murari Lal Jalan. (REUTERS)


Vietnam sacks head of the country’s main stock exchange


HANOI: Vietnam has fired general director of its main Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE), the government said on Saturday, as the country intensifies a long-running crackdown on officials it accuses of graft. Le Hai Tra, 47, was dismissed for “having committed serious violations and wrongdoings”, the government said, without elaborating. (REUTERS)

Page 8

Life after armed revolution

Ever since the revolution ended, Arun and Rubina, both former rebel soldiers, have struggled to make ends meet.
- Sandesh Parajuli

If not for an entire life, why not for a night? Why couldn’t we sleep contently even for a single night?” Arun mumbled in frustration. Rubina, his wife, had just brought a meagre-looking dinner to his bed.
It was a cool summer night. A heavy downpour, which lasted the entire day, had just receded to a drizzle. A small and dark underground room they had rented in Phidim Bazaar was engulfed with water. “Commander Arun, why are you so discontent?” Rubina asked, sweeping the water out of the room.
“Looking at our life. Looking at you, a former Maoist combatant who has fought in multiple battles but now visits houses of rich capitalists so that you can feed your family. What an irony! The very people who took arms to fight against the oppression of the upper class and establish an egalitarian society are now facing injustice,” said Arun.
“But our leaders proudly state that they have compensated everyone, including us!” said Rubina.
“Compensated? They gave me what? Rs 500,000. I can’t believe it. We struggled for ten long years. I parted ways with my family and even left my teaching job to take part in the revolution. God damn it! I lost one leg and paralysed the other, and all of it is worth just a mere Rs 500,000? I could have earned that in two years, and what about the other eight? Look at you. They deemed you ‘disqualified’ to join the army in the verification process for being a minor, handed you Rs 6,000, and forced you out of the cantonment. How fair was that?”
Rubina didn’t respond.
“Had it not been for my injury, I would have been appointed as a politburo member of the party, and, hopefully, would have been able to provide you with a much better life,” said Arun.
“I don’t need that life. I didn’t fight to receive a ‘corrupt’ tag,” replied Rubina.
“I wouldn’t have been corrupt!” Arun defended.
“How can you say that? Remember the time you stirred me up to join the guerilla force? I was just a thirteen-year-old girl! My family was poor, but we were hard-working Tamangs. I was one of the few privileged children in the village who could regularly attend school without worrying about any household chores. But you, my teacher, told me that I won’t need that “bourgeoise education”, and my life would immediately transform once the revolution gets successful. Don’t you think you cheated me back then?” said Rubina.
Arun could not look at his wife’s face.
A tinge of remorse was clearly visible in his expression, “It was what they said, the people in the upper echelon of the party.”
“You see, that’s where the corruption starts–adhering and respecting your corrupt hierarchy despite knowing that they are wrong and believing that you’d get something in return, maybe power in the long run. You knew how important education was to me, but still chose to brainwash a teenager.”
“I am so sorry. I’d done you wrong.”Rubina produced a loving smile and said, “I knew you’d say that, commander Arun. No matter what I say for some healthy discussions between a husband and a wife, I don’t feel that you have done me any wrong. The material life of a true revolutionary won’t change and should not change just because he/she is giving up everything to create a better future for posterities. In fact, you’ve made me proud. I am proud that because of three thousand child soldiers like me, the other 300,000 children now get a shot at receiving “modern education” every year.”
“But Rubina, I could not give you what I promised. At the end of the day, it is you who is taking care of me.”
“I have a very high pain threshold, commander Arun. This is nothing. Further, I owe you my life. Remember that last battle?”
“You mean you are doing all these just because I saved your life? Just to prove your honesty by paying me back?”
“Oh dear, I didn’t mean that. When good people owe you money or other materialistic things, they are driven just by the sense of honesty to pay it back. But when people feel that they owe you abstract things, like their life, or their company for life, they are very purely driven by love and respect. I love you, commander Arun. I respect you.”A moment of silence ensued, followed by a lovely gaze between the couple. “Dinner is getting cold.”
After dinner, Arun tuned to the radio for his daily dose of the evening news. Their leader was all over the news.
“I can’t understand why these people are just hurling slaps and shoes. I’d have shot him right between his eyes,” said Arun and took a deep breath. “I still have that gun.”
An hour or so had passed when there was a knock on the door. Rubina gets up to answer the visitor. Arun hears some indistinct chatter outside, “…young, beautiful ... cripple husband… waste…. a beautiful life together...”
“Don’t ever dare talk to me like that again,” shouted Rubina to the person at the door.
“Okay, if not for life, why not for a night? Mine is a dry room,” says the person.
This one gets Arun on his nerves, but he decides to stay calm and silently observe.
Arun senses an eerie silence for a few seconds until Rubina says, “Not this time!”
Rubina enters the room, and Arun looks at her and said, “Not this time, huh. How can you love me and let me die at the same time, Rubina?” Arun thinks to himself, and takes a turn, “I can’t even protect you here.”

Parajuli is a student of aerospace engineering at IOE, Pulchowk Campus.


Rising inflation


Prices of commodities are rising
The common people are suffering
But the leaders are all busy
Thinking about the election results

Rice, fruits, vegetables, cooking oil
There isn’t one single thing
That hasn’t seen a price increase
Inflation is out of control

But the problem is
Income hasn’t increased at the same rate
People’s hard-earned money is losing value
But the authorities are unbothered

The government’s inaction for all these months
Goes on to show people's high tolerance level
But if it goes on like this for more time
The people won’t tolerate it anymore

Look at what has happened in Sri Lanka
It could happen here as well
So all you government folks
Get your act together before it is too late.

Mohan Pyakurel

Pyakurel is a student at Prithvi Narayan Campus, Pokhara.


Dealing with rejection

Rejections are inevitable, but how you deal with them and move forward is entirely in your control.
- Raman Budhathoki

You might have come vis-à-vis situations where someone does the exact opposite of what you’re expecting them to do or in cases where your friends exclude you altogether from their plans. Yes, I’m talking about rejections, which are almost an inevitable aspect of our lives. It’s no surprise that it hurts to be abandoned, and when we face rejections, we are often left feeling bad for ourselves.
The reason why rejections hurt so much is connected with human evolution. According to Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist, when our ancestors used to live by hunting in groups, abandonment from the herd usually meant certain death. Thus, our brain is wired to take rejections as something that jeopardises our survival. Besides evolution, our brain’s response to rejection also depends upon how we are brought up as an infant and how we connect with other people. People who grow up in an environment with healthy interaction with family members can usually socialise in all kinds of situations and regard themselves as lovable and worthy. On the other hand, those who grow up in a rough environment typically go on to develop an insecure attachment style and take themselves to be undeserving, despicable, and insufficient as an adult.
Although life is all about swerving past rejections, you might not be lucky enough to elude one every time. However, you are not really rejected unless you cannot convert failure to your advantage. Yes, I’m talking about dealing with setbacks and using them as life experiences to learn from and move on. Whenever you face rejection or find yourself in a situation that frustrates you, instead of mulling over the unpleasant situation and expressing your frustration and thus escalating your rage, step away from the situation and do not react. Focus on staying calm and gaining your composure. Respond to the unpleasant situation and the people involved in it only after you feel more in control of your emotions and can see the situation much more clearly.
A cliché that most of us fail to remember is that not everything in life is within our control. People are not always going to do things that we want them to do. Once we understand this truth at an intellectual level and an emotional level, we become better equipped to deal with setbacks.
Likewise, looking at the broader picture of avoidance is always going to make us discern other people who are there for our emotional support, like our family and friends. Spending more time with our loved ones will make us feel valued and cared for, and this realisation that you matter and people love you is important whenever we face setbacks in life.
When you face rejections, make sure that you never lose your focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is important to ensure that you are getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating and drinking well. But most importantly, one should always keep their heads high and remember Winston Churchill’s beautiful quote–‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.’

Budhathoki is a recent graduate of mechanical engineering from Kathmandu University.

Page 9

Nepal wrap up with victory, Uganda claim T20I series 3-2

Opener Pandey scores 49 runs as the home team pull off a 33-run win in the fifth T20I.
- Sports Bureau
Uganda, who won the first three matches of the five-match T20I series, celebrate with trophy at the TU ground in Kirtipur, on Saturday.  POST PHOTO : KESHAV THAPA 

Opener Jyoti Pandey was one run short of half century as hosts Nepal edged Uganda by 33-runs in the fifth and final match to lose the bilateral Women’s Twenty20 International series 2-3 at the TU ground in Kirtipur on Saturday.
Visiting Uganda were already assured of the series victory after they secured wins in the first three games of the five-match series. They were defeated by 15 runs in the penultimate match on Friday.
Invited to bat first, Nepal posted 123-6, the highest total of the series after opener Pandey contributed 49 runs. Chasing the target, Uganda managed 90-6 in the 20 over format.
Pandey in her career best hit three fences in a 61-ball knock before she was run out in the 18th over. She was also three runs short of a half century against the same opponent in the third match on Wednesday.
The player-of-the-match Pandey shared a 47-run partnership for the first wicket with Sita Rana Magar who contributed 17 runs. Rana Magar cracked three fences facing 24 deliveries before she was bowled out by Phiona Kulume.
Kabita Joshi was the other home batter to make a remarkable contribution scoring an unbeaten 18 runs. She struck two fences and a maximum in her 15-ball knock. Apsari Begam was the other player to score in double digit before she was run out for 11 runs in the last delivery of the innings.
Concy Aweko and Phiona Kulume pocketed one wicket each for Uganda who ran out four Nepali batters. Aweko gave away 26 runs in her four over bowling and Kulume conceded 18 runs in as many overs.
In the run chase, Uganda kept losing wickets in regular intervals. Rita Musamali was the highest scorer for the visiting side contributing 26 runs off 38. She was bowled by Indu Barma. Opener Kevin Awino scored 15 off 22. She hit one boundary and was also bowled by Barma.
Janet Mbabazi and Shakirah Sadick were the other Uganda batters to touch double digit figures. While Mbabazi scored 12-ball 10, Sadick was not out on 13 runs facing 17 deliveries. Mbabazi hit two fences and Sadick smashed a maximum.
Nepali all-rounder Rana Magar and Barma grabbed two wickets apiece while Asmina Karmacharya and Hiranmayee Roy picked one scalp each. Rana Magar conceded 15 runs in her four over bowling and Barma 12 runs in four-over spell.
Uganda all-rounder Mbabazi was named the player-of-the-series. She had scored 103 runs and claimed five wickets in the series.


Holders Man City aim to end Liverpool’s quadruple bid

Anything other than a City win over Villa will allow Liverpool to take the title with victory at home to Wolves.

Manchester City have the destiny of the Premier League title in their  hands heading into Sunday’s final day showdown, with the defending  champions holding a slender one-point lead over quadruple-chasing  Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s men will claim a fourth English title in five  years of a dominant era for Abu Dhabi-backed City with victory over  Aston Villa.
“It’s difficult to control your emotions when you know what you are playing for,” said City manager Guardiola. “The players are human beings but it’s football, when you think that it is over it is not over.”
City know that to their cost having been minutes away from  the Champions League final only to blow a two-goal lead in their  semi-final, second leg against Real Madrid earlier this month. “The importance is unnecessary to tell them,” added Guardiola. “They know it, they feel it.”
Liverpool will instead face Real in next weekend’s battle to  be crowned champions of Europe in Paris as they remain in contention for  an unprecedented haul of four major trophies in the one season. Jurgen Klopp’s men have already lifted the League Cup and FA Cup.
“Imagine somebody tells you before the season you’re going to  be in all three cup finals and want to fight for the league,” said  Liverpool manager Klopp. “The boys did it—fed by the people here in the building, by our supporters, by all these kind of things. It’s a fantastic time for a Liverpool supporter and now we  have to make sure we enjoy the last two games as well,” the German  added.
The presence of Liverpool great and now Villa manager Steven  Gerrard on the opposition bench at the Etihad adds extra intrigue to the  decisive day in the title race. Gerrard famously never won a league title in his 17-year career at Anfield, but could deliver one on a plate to his old club. Anything other than a City win will allow Liverpool to take the title with victory at home to Wolves.
“We’ll go out at the weekend and give it everything we’ve got  to try and get points for Aston Villa and our supporters,” said  Gerrard.

European places at stake
Chelsea will join City and Liverpool in next season’s  Champions League, with north London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal still  battling for fourth spot. Spurs are in the driving seat as they just need a draw  to already-relegated Norwich to secure a return to the Champions League. Back-to-back defeats have seen Arsenal throw away a golden chance to get back to European football’s top table. The Gunners have to win at home to an Everton side fresh from  sealing their Premier League status and hope Spurs stumble at Carrow  Road.
Manchester United and West Ham are guaranteed European  football next season but their battle to be in the Europa League rather  than the Conference League has also gone to the final day. Should United fail to win, the Hammers can finish sixth with victory at Brighton.

Burnley, Leeds in survival battle
 At the bottom of the table, one of Burnley and Leeds will be relegated. Burnley have the advantage of just having to match Leeds’s result thanks to their superior goal difference. The Clarets host Newcastle at Turf Moor, while Leeds travel to Brentford.
Everton’ celebration at avoiding the drop when they beat  Crystal Palace in dramatic fashion on Thursday were marred by a pitch  invasion at Goodison Park. Police are investigating an incident where Palace manager Patrick Vieira kicked out after being taunted by a fan. Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is keen to avoid similar scenes should Burnley stay up.


Grishma clinch corporate futsal


KATHMANDU: Grishma Multipurpose Cooperative edged Zakipoint Health 4-0 to clinch second NRS Corporate Futsal Tournament at the Dhuku Futsal Hub in Kathmandu on Saturday. Winners Grishma bagged a purse of Rs100,000 along with winners’ trophy while the runners up Zakipoint walked away with Rs50,000. Grishma had edged Nepal Sports Journalists Forum in the semi-final. Sanjog Shrestha and Sanyog Baskota of winners Grishma were declared the best player and best goalkeeper of the tournament. The duo were rewarded with Rs5,000 each. Altogether 21 teams participated in the event organised by NRS Foundation. National Sports Council (NSC) member secretary Tanka Lal Ghising among others gave away prizes to the winners. (SB)


Mbappe to stay at PSG, says French media


PARIS: Kylian Mbappe has decided to extend his stay at Paris St Germain, French sport daily L’Equipe reported on Saturday. The France forward, whose current contract expires on June 30, had been widely tipped to join Real Madrid. L’Equipe said a new contract, which is likely to tie him to the French champions until 2025, had not been signed yet. PSG declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Real’s bid to sign Mbappe last year was rejected by the Parisian club, who appeared prepared to lose him on a free transfer this year. Reports last year claimed the Spanish champions offered PSG as much as 200 million euros for Mbappe. PSG had no intention of selling their young talisman in their quest for Champions League glory, but the French club fell well short this season when Real staged a dramatic second-leg comeback in the last-16 to knock them out of competition. (REUTERS)


Manchester City’s Foden voted Young Player of the season


LONDON: Manchester City forward Phil Foden was named the Premier League’s Young Player of the season for the second consecutive year on Saturday. Foden has been instrumental in City’s bid to retain the Premier League title, scoring nine goals and producing five assists. The 21-year-old has matched his goal and assist totals from last season and could surpass them in City’s vital Premier League title decider against Aston Villa on Sunday. Pep Guardiola’s side are one point clear of second placed Liver-pool and will be guaranteed to win a fourth English title in five seasons if they beat Villa at the Etihad Stadium. “I’m very proud to have won this award for a second season in a row,” Foden told City’s website. “There are so many talented young players in the Premier League this season and it’s a real honour to win it again.” (AFP)



ARIES (March 21-April 19) ****
You won’t feel like socialising much this morning. You could find yourself in an internal struggle of sorts, especially if you’ve been thinking of making a change within your professional path.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20) ***
You will be likely to deal with waves of emotion. You may learn that someone has been wagging their tongue at your expense, try not to stoop to their level or allow unkind words to bruise your ego.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21) ****
You may have a hard time focusing today. Work-related stress could be particularly distracting right now. Rather than stressing over things, do your best to stay present, especially if you’re in need of some relaxation.

CANCER (June 22-July 22) ***
A healing energy will find you today. Your cosmic climate could require you to go deep within your psyche, as the universe asks you to release and make peace with any pain you may have been carrying around.

LEO (July 23-August 22) ***
Though you may feel tempted to call others out on their nonsense, doing so could bring through more drama than you’d anticipated, so you may want to save these tense conversations for another day.

VIRGO (August 23-September 22) ****
Trouble could brew within your love life today. You may feel as though your emotions are being disregarded or that your partner hasn’t been giving you the emotional support you need.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22) ***
If you haven’t been catering to your physical health, it could catch up to you today. Your body will send signals if something’s not right, making it a good time for stretching, meditation, and healthy eating.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 21) ***
Emotions from the past could resurface today. The day is ideal to help put old issues to bed once and for all, as long as you’re willing to discuss them openly with the appropriate parties.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21) ***
The vibe might feel a bit off in your home today. If you have plans for the day, you may want to cancel them in favour of catching up on chores and doing a bit of smoke cleansing, and bring the energy back to where it should be.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19) ****
You may feel stressed or tense today. You could find the day especially challenging if you’re fallen behind on your chores, errands, and personal organisation, making it a good day for catching up on both.

AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18) ***
Watch your spending and indulgence levels today. While you’ll certainly be in the mood for fun before the weekend ends, it would be easy to go overboard with your shopping or mimosa intake at brunch.

PISCES (February 19-March 20) ***
You may feel more emotional than usual today. Don’t feel guilty if you decide to take a step back socially, especially if you’re called to recharge at home before the workweek begins.

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