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Cross-border transmission line with China to use MCC-funded substation

Nepal Electricity Authority officials say Millennium Challenge Account-Nepal has given its nod to new plan.

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has shelved its plan to set up
a substation at Trishuli Bazaar for the Nepal-China Cross-border Transmission Line as it plans to connect the power line with a Ratmate-based substation to be built with the assistance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US aid agency.
When the controversy over the MCC assistance was at its height before its eventual endorsement by the erstwhile House of Representatives early this year, the power monopoly had planned to set up a separate substation.  
One reason behind envisioning a separate substation was to save the cross-border transmission line from the China-US rivalry, according to officials of the NEA.
Kul Man Ghising, managing director of the NEA, told the Post that no separate substation would be built for the Ratmate-Rasuwagadhi-Kerung Transmission Line Project.
“As we are connecting this cross-border transmission line with the Ratmate-based substation, there is no need for a separate substation at Trishuli, which is close to Ratmate,” he said.
According to NEA officials, they held a discussion with the officials of the Millennium Challenge Account, Nepal (MCA-Nepal), a special-purpose vehicle established to implement MCC-assisted projects in Nepal, to connect the cross-border transmission line with a Ratmate-based substation, which is to be built under the MCC grant.
“The MCA-Nepal told us that they will set up two connecting points [bays] at the substation for Nepal-China Cross-Border Transmission Line,” a senior official of the power utility said.
“We, however, have not given up on the new substation amid continued geopolitical rivalry between the two superpowers.”
Dirghayu Kumar Shrestha, the chief of the transmission directorate at the Nepal Electricity Authority, the state-owned power utility, had told the Post in August last year that they planned a separate substation for the Nepal-China cross-border transmission line so as to ward off any geopolitical risks.”
“By not building a separate sub-station, the NEA will save a significant amount of money. It takes Rs4–5 billion to construct a substation and it is not good to set up another substation at a distance of 15–20 kilometres,” said Ghising.
A separate substation was to be set up at Trishuli Bazaar, near the site of the Trishuli Hydropower Project, for the cross-border power line, which is around 26 kilometres from Ratmate, Nuwakot.
A 315km-long 400kV transmission will be built with a grant of $500 million from the MCC in the country’s mid-hills. One of the substations will be at Ratmate.  
The transmission project has five components—one segment starting from the northeast of Kathmandu at Lapsephedi, extending to the west of Kathmandu near Ratmate; a second segment runs from Ratmate to the industrial town of Hetauda located south of Kathmandu; a third segment will connect Ratmate to Damauli in the west; a fourth segment will link Damauli with Butwal in the southwest; and a fifth will run from Butwal to the Indian border, which is part of the cross-border transmission line.
The Ratmate-Rasuwagadhi-Kerung transmission line is the first such connectivity project between Nepal and China. The two countries had in 2018 formed a joint technical team to expedite the construction of the transmission line.
A Joint Technical Group comprising representatives of the NEA and the State Grid Corporation of China held two rounds of talks in China and Nepal for the transmission line before the start of the Covid pandemic.
Another meeting scheduled to be held in China could not happen due to continued Covid restrictions in China.
“As Covid cases spiked in China, we are in discussion with the Chinese side if another meeting could be held in Nepal sometime in February next year,” said an official of the NEA.
According to the NEA, once the cross-border line is built, it will open an alternative market for Nepal’s electricity. Currently, Nepal has only India as its foreign market to buy and sell electricity. India has allowed Nepal to sell a maximum of 452MW of electricity from 10 hydropower projects.
The 400 kV transmission line from Ratamate (Nepal) to Kerung (China) will allow power trade between Nepal and China, the NEA said in its annual report 2021-22.
Currently, the project’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process is underway.


Can Dahal walk the foreign policy tightrope?

Nepali premier needs to find an equilibrium in ties with two neighbours and calibrate country’s relations with the West.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s new rise to power is being followed with great interest in New Delhi.   File Photo: PIB India

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has a chequered past in terms of dealing with the immediate neighbours and big powers. He has a habit of making easy promises but failing to keep them.
Once again Dahal is at the helm of government, and he again faces
huge domestic and international challenges. Experts closely following the foreign policy priorities of the new government said that Dahal has a bumpy road ahead and the biggest challenge for him would be to strike a balance between the neighbours and Western powers.
“He has the task of negotiating a delicate balance between the neighbours and big powers,” said CPN-UML leader and former foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali. “The immediate past Sher Bahadur Deuba government made some mistakes in international relations, and the new government should correct them.”
Though Dahal has not declared his foreign policy priorities and a foreign minister is yet to be appointed, his government’s major challenges include winning the trust of neighbours and major powers, implementing the $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact, executing some projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, expediting the stalled SAARC process, and effective conduct of labour diplomacy. There are peripheral challenges too.
“There are some ruptures and cracks which need to be fixed. As this is his third stint as prime minister, he will hopefully act as a mature politician. He has himself declared that this is his last chance to serve the nation. He should establish himself as a credible politician by pursuing a balanced and nuanced foreign policy,” said Gyawali, who is also the deputy general secretary of the CPN-UML, the largest coalition partner of the Dahal government.
Dahal is known as an “unpredictable” politician in Kathmandu’s diplomatic circles. He was exposed last year ahead of the MCC compact ratification when he publicly denied having signed a joint letter that he and Deuba sent to the MCC headquarters.
Unlike the last time, he now leads a government of parties with conflicting political ideologies and philosophies.
“Whether the two big communist parties and others in the coalition remain in a ‘live-in relationship’ or they will ‘marry’ will determine Nepal’s future political landscape,” said Ramesh Nath Pandey, another former foreign minister.
“The government has to get a vote of confidence within 30 days. The two communist parties that were fighting in the streets after an acrimonious divorce two years ago have again come together, so a lot of things will depend on how their newfound relationship develops.”
If their partnership sustains, the government will understandably be more friendly to China, and other major powers will come up with strategies to tackle Chinese influence in Nepal accordingly, Pandey added.
“So we need to invest huge amounts of time and energy to balance the strategic interests of major powers,” said Pandey.
Given the geostrategic importance of Nepal, Dahal’s startling rise to power is being followed with great interest in New Delhi, Washington, Beijing, Brussels and other capitals.
And, how does New Delhi view Dahal’s comeback? According to Constantino Xavier, a research fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress in New Delhi, India’s Nepal policy since the late 2000s is marked largely by continuity, and frequent government changes here does not surprise them.
“Delhi knows it has to live with the different leaders in Kathmandu, so no fundamental change in relationship is expected,” Xavier said.
“Despite ups and downs in trust levels, Prime Minister Dahal is a familiar figure in Delhi, and he is seen as predictable and transactional. The Kalapani episode left a bitter aftertaste in Indian mouths, so it is doubtful it will ever fully trust Oli again. But again India will deal with Oli also when his turn comes,” Xavier, who frequently writes on Nepal issues, told the Post from New Delhi.
“And with Dahal, despite the growing tilt towards China, he will continue to cultivate relations with India even if only to extract concessions.”
Dahal will face institutional lethargy as the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is weakening. There are several issues and disputes—including those related to boundaries—with both India and China.
Professor Khadga KC says Nepal should negotiate the middle path in its relations with the two close neighbours. “We cannot embrace one over the other. Dahal should also be mindful that the Americans do not feel left out.” he said.
“As the MCC compact was ratified with the backing of Dahal’s party while the UML remained a mute spectator, it is now his obligation to implement the MCC,” KC who teaches international relations at Tribhuvan University said. “But Beijing could also be upbeat to see Dahal back at the helm.”
KC advised Dahal to try to maintain “a delicate balance between benefits and risks.”
“He should not provoke one neighbour against the other. And at the same time, striking a fine balance in the relations with the West is as important,” added Prof KC.

Page 2

Asian Highway section to open on Jan 1

The six-lane highway and a ‘friendship bridge’ built over Mechi River are expected to start operation from New Year.
The Asian Highway, also known as the Great Asian Highway, is a 141,000km long road network covering 32 countries.  Post File Photo: Prakash Chandra Timilsena

The Nepal section of the Asian Highway, which was constructed two years ago but was not operated fully, will come into operation from January 1, 2023. The six-lane highway and a ‘friendship bridge’ constructed over the Mechi river are expected to start operation from the new year.
A bilateral meeting of customs officers and security officers of Nepal and India held in Panitanki on December 21 agreed to operate the bridge. Ram Prasad Pathak, chief of Mechi Customs Office, and Lha Tshering Sherpa, deputy commissioner of Naxalbari Customs Division, signed the agreement.
“The friendship bridge along with the Asian Highway will come into operation fully following the agreement,” Pathak said. “We are finally successful in the highway operation after arduous efforts.” Pathak added bilateral meetings were held several times regarding the operation of the highway but failed to make any headway.
India, citing security concerns, delayed the operation of the highway and the bridge leaving the local people of both countries in hardships. The Indian side has not allowed vehicles other than goods trucks to use the Asian Highway. There are often hour-long traffic jams as the vehicles have to pass through the old bridge across the Mechi river.
“We are hopeful that the traffic jams in the Nepal-India border area will be resolved by the new year. We expect traffic movement to ease,” said Pathak.  
According to a source, the Indian side admitted the delay on their part over the operation of the bridge which was constructed with the investment of the Indian government. According to the Mechi Customs Office, preparations are on to manage four-wheelers running along the new friendship bridge while two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws will use the old bridge. The old two-lane bridge is overcrowded with vehicles and pedestrians.
Local residents in the border areas on both sides have been hugely affected as the highway and bridge remained unused. “The locals will be relieved of the chronic problem while crossing the border once the bridge comes into operation,” said Gopal Chandra Budhathoki, mayor of Mechinagar Municipality.
With the loan assistance of IRs 1.5 billion from the Asian Development Bank, the Indian government constructed the six-lane friendship bridge and around 500 metres of the access road. Then-prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had signed an agreement to construct the 575-metre long friendship bridge over the Mechi six years ago.
The Asian Highway, also known as the Great Asian Highway, is a 141,000km long road network covering 32 countries. The highway runs 1,321kms in Nepal.


Women in Madhesh are being murdered over dowry

Justice remains elusive, complain victim’s relatives.
Post illustration

Puja Loniya, a 23-year-old woman from Jaipur of Nepalgunj sub-metropolitan city, was found dead at her husband’s house on December 13.
Puja, a mother of a son and a daughter, was married to Rajkumar Loniya of Janaki Rural Municipality-6 five years ago. Puja’s parents received the news of her death through a neighbour and have accused Rajkumar’s family of torturing and killing their daughter over dowry. They claim that their daughter committed suicide because of dowry-related physical and mental abuse. They have filed a complaint against her husband and father-in-law at the local police station in Kohalpur. Puja’s post-mortem report states that she died by consuming poison, police said.
Puja went back to her husband’s house from her parents’ house just 20 days before the incident and would regularly inform her parents about the regular torture she was subjected to from Rajkumar’s family for dowry. She went back to her husband’s house on the condition that she wouldn’t be tortured any more, and Rajkumar also agreed not to abuse her. “Her husband is under police custody now,” said Motiram Chauhan, uncle of Puja.
A few months ago, Godi Varma of Janaki Rural Municipality in Banke was also found dead. Police have said she committed suicide by hanging. The victim’s parents, however, accused her husband’s family of murdering her and filed a complaint of murder against the family. Her parents accused the family of torturing her reguraly for dowry.
Similarly, Afsarul Khan of Rapti Sonari Rural Municipality-7 was found dead hanging in her room on November 2. Khan was the mother of a nine-month-old boy. Her medical report also said that she committed suicide. However, the victim’s parents said that it was a murder. On November 4, the police filed a case saying Khan was abetted for suicide. After the complaint, Khan’s husband and brother-in-law have been remanded into judicial custody.
“The police did not file our complaint the first time but only after the fourth time when we put pressure on them and demanded justice,” said Wahab Khan, the father of the deceased. “My daughter and Meraj Shesh got married two years ago, and after some time, she was repeatedly tortured mentally and physically for dowry. My daughter did not commit suicide; she was murdered by Meraj’s family, and they made it look like it was suicide. No matter what happens, I will fight the legal battle to get justice for my daughter.” “Look at the nine-month-old,” he added. “How are we going to tell him what happened to her mother when he grows up?”
The police have been investigating  Khan’s case by putting Meraj Shesh, her husband, and her brother-in-law Alamin Shesh in custody. However, the relatives and parents of Khan have demanded that all the family members should be investigated by putting them in custody. Relatives of the victims are still struggling to get justice from the police administration. They also complain that the government does not ensure justice to victims.
Basanta Gautam, a human rights activist in Banke, said that there are several pending cases of suicide and murder set up like a suicide. This problem occurs when the police do not do their investigation properly, Gautam said. When the police themselves become the judge and pass judgement on homicide cases, confusion occurs, resulting in victims like Khan not getting justice immediately, he added. Domestic violence complaints are increasing by the year as criminals go unpunished.
According to the data of the District Police Office, Banke, there were 518 complaints of domestic violence in fiscal year 2019-20; 738 in 2020-21; and 844 in 202-22. It has been found that all the complaints were about cases of violence against women. Apart from the registered cases, most of the complaints get settled in the presence of the police. In the last three years, 1,278 cases were settled, while 222 complaints reached the court.
“Even though women are being killed in the name of dowry and other things, the police do not file their complaint; they only do so after putting pressure on them,” said Ruby Khan, another human rights activist in Banke. “When the accused gets away unpunished, other perpetrators also feel emboldened. In cases related to murder, it is filed as abetment of suicide, which has made the victims more vulnerable.”


Man dies after being run over by Nepal Railway train in Janakpur


DHANUSHA: A man died after being run over by a train at Baidahi Railway Station in Janakpur on Wednesday. According to the police, Puran Sada, 34, of Raghopur in Nagarain Municipality of Dhanusha district, died after he came under the train while trying to board the locomotive from the railway station. Armed Police Force Deputy Superintendent Prakash Subedi said that Sada, while trying to board the moving train, slipped and fell into the tracks at 9:20 am. The train, heading towards Janakpur from Jayanagar, had stopped at the station to pick up passengers.


Conference of outgoing chief ministers postponed


BUTWAL: The conference of outgoing chief ministers of all the seven provinces that was scheduled for December 30 in Lumbini has been postponed. The meeting of the Lumbini Council of Ministers on Wednesday took the decision to that effect. Minister of Internal Affairs, Law and Communications Tilak Ram Sharma, also the spokesperson for the Lumbini provincial government, said that the conference has been postponed to accommodate the first session of the newly-elected assemblies of all seven provinces which are to be convened by January 5 next year. The conference, scheduled to be held on December 30 in Dang’s Deukhuri, the provincial capital of Lumbini, was proposed by the Lumbini Chief Minister Kul Prasad KC to review the tenure of provinces and recommend suggestions to the new House of Representatives for implementation of federalism. The meeting of the Council of Ministers has also decided to recommend the provincial chief convene a meeting of the provincial assembly on January 2 next year.


Teacher arrested on charge of kidnapping and killing student


PARSA: The vice principal of Gurukul Panna Memorial School in Birgunj, Dili Prasad Patel, and his accomplice Shyam Sundar Yadav, a local of Birgunj, were arrested on charge of kidnapping and murdering a 14-year-old boy. The police made the accused public on Wednesday. According to DSP Deepak Giri, spokesperson for the District Police Office, the duo kidnapped the boy on November 21 for ransom and killed him on December 25. “Both of them killed the boy when he tried to escape. The accused are in custody and further investigation is underway,” said Giri.


Two snow leopards spotted in Lapchi area


DOLAKHA: A female snow leopard and its cub were spotted in Lapchi area in Gaurishankar Conservation Area, Dolakha. A camera captured the elusive mammals a month ago to the delight of conservationists. “Snow leopards were spotted in four different places through camera trapping. But it is still not clear whether they are the same snow leopards or different ones,” said Tulasi Prasad Dahal, an information officer at the conservation area. A male snow leopard had been captured on a camera in Gaurishankar Conservation Area three years ago.


Congress elects provincial assembly leaders in Bagmati, Gandaki


MAKWANPUR/ KASKI: Bahadur Singh Lama has been elected the leader of the Nepali Congress Bagmati provincial assembly party. Nepali Congress, the largest party in the Assembly, elected the leader through a vote on Wednesday in Hetauda, the provincial capital. In the 110-member Assembly, the Congress has 37 lawmakers. Lama, who has been elected from Nuwakot 2 (B), secured 21 votes and defeated Indra Bahadur Baniya, who garnered 16 votes. Baniya is the president of the party’s provincial committee. Meanwhile, Surendra Pandey was elected the leader of the Nepali Congress Gandaki provincial assembly party. Pandey defeated Bhojraj Aryal in the election on Wednesday in Pokhara. The former secured 18 votes while the latter garnered eight. One vote was invalid, according to assembly member Kalpana Tiwari. The election was conducted after the provincial assembly party could not reach consensus on the candidate.

Page 3

Who will lead Madhesh?

As federal coalition partners Janata Samajbadi and Janamat parties haggle with the CPN-UML over the chief minister post, the opposition Nepali Congress is trying to steal the deal.
The Madhesh provincial assembly is 107-strong; 54 members make a majority.  Post File Photo

The ruling coalition of the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) is in deliberations to seal a package deal on provincial government positions.
As many parties are keen to lead the Madhesh province, government formation has seemingly become challenging for the coalition. Coalition leaders, however, claim they will seal a deal in a day or two.
The CK Raut-led Janamat Party, a coalition partner, has made the chief ministerial position in Madhesh its red line.
Party leader BP Shah said they have already staked their claim for Madhesh chief minister, and will decide about other ministries only after the main demand is met.
“Our first priority in Madhesh is to join hands with the federal ruling alliance. If that is not possible, we will also consider partnering with the Nepali Congress in the province,” he said.
The Janamat Party, which has 13 seats in the Madhesh provincial assembly, has already joined the federal Cabinet. It sent vice-chair Abdul Khan as a minister in the eight-member Cabinet.
Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal became the prime minister with the support of UML chair KP Sharma Oli, by outfoxing Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba following a surprising turn of events.
Dahal got the support of 169 representatives in the House—78 from the UML, 32 from the Maoist Centre, 20 from the Rastriya Swatantra Party, 14 from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, 12 from the Janata Samajbadi Party, six from the Janamat Party, and four from the Nagarik Unmukti Party.
Independent lawmakers Prabhu Sah, Kiran Kumar Sah and Amresh Kumar Singh also backed him in office.
The Janata Samajbadi Party, with 13 seats in the Madhesh provincial assembly, is yet to join the Dahal-led government. Sources say it is also trying to bargain for the chief ministerial position in the new Madhesh government as the third largest force in the province.
Party spokesperson Manish Suman said the meeting of provincial lawmakers on Thursday will find a way out on provincial government formation. “We have yet to decide on it.”
UML provincial leaders say they are flexible to adequately accommodating other parties like the Janamat and the Janata Samajbadi. Meanwhile, Nepali Congress leaders are also quietly attempting to form a government in Madhesh.
The UML is the largest party in the Madhesh provincial assembly with 23 seats. The Nepali Congress is right behind, with 22 seats. As many as six independent candidates have made it to the Madhesh provincial assembly.
“We have slated the parliamentary party leader election in Madhesh province for Thursday. We will give government-formation in the province a last try. We are in regular touch with the Janamat Party and the Janata the Samajbadi Party,” said a provincial committee leader of the Nepali Congress.
Party insiders said they will most likely project the province chapter president Krishna Yadav as candidate for next chief minister if the Congress is to lead the government.
The Madhesh provincial assembly is 107-strong; 54 members make up a majority.
CPN-UML Madhesh province committee vice-chair Rewati Pant said their party at the centre will reach a package deal on the leadership of provincial governments.
“Logically, the UML as the largest party should get the leadership of the province, but the centre will strike a package deal. We also need to accommodate the Janata Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party,” he said.
“We might even have to cede the chief ministership to some other party and settle for provincial assembly Speaker.”


After years, Student Union elections likely on March 12

Student Welfare Council will recommend date to the university’s executive committee which will formally announce the schedule.
- Post Report
Only the university students below 28 years of age can take part in the vote.  Post File Photo

If everything goes as planned, the Free Student Union elections that have been stalled for years will be held in March, 2023.
The Tribhuvan University, which has a share of some 85 percent university students in the country, is preparing for the polls that elect the student’s representatives for two years. The biennial elections haven’t been held since 2017.
In the elections five years back, voting couldn’t take place in more than 35 constituent campuses and some 100 community colleges following differences among student unions and incidents of violence.
It was only in 2009 that the elections were held across the country. The officials at the university say they are making final preparations to announce the election schedule.
“Based on the suggestions of student unions, deans and the examination controller’s office, we have reached a conclusion that the elections should be held on March 12,” Pashupati Adhikari, chief at the Directorate of Student Welfare and Sports, told the Post.
The Student Welfare Council will recommend the date to the university’s executive committee which will formally announce the schedule.
Starting in 2017, the varsity has adopted a mixed electoral system that would allow equal division of seats between those elected through the proportional and first-past-the-post systems. Only those students below 28 years can take part in voting.
In addition to 61 constituent colleges, the university administration wants to conduct the elections in its 1,040 affiliated colleges—both the community and private.
“The university will direct its constituent colleges to elect students’ representatives through polls,” said Adhikari.
Though the affiliated community colleges, in addition to the constituent campuses, have been holding the elections, the private ones haven’t held such elections. Private college operators say they will discuss the issue among themselves and make their position on the matter public once the university takes a decision to this effect.
“We are not aware of the move of Tribhuvan University. Private colleges will formulate their position once the university takes its formal decision,” said Lok Bahadur Bhandari, general secretary of the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal (HISSAN), a national level umbrella association of privately funded higher schools and colleges.
University officials say there is a practice in several countries to have student councils in colleges and universities.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong in holding the elections in private colleges as well. Bhandari, however, says private colleges in Nepal don’t have the practice of electing student councils and they are yet to evaluate the pros and cons.
In their meetings, student unions have told the university administration that they are eagerly waiting for the polls long overdue.
Dujang Sherpa, president of the Nepal Student Union affiliated to the Nepali Congress, said they are ready to participate in the vote whenever the university wants. “We now want the university to call all the student unions and make a formal decision with their signatures,” he told the Post.
“Also the polls should be held after publishing the pending examination results.”


Electric, kerosene and charcoal heaters major winter fire hazards

Police request the public to be extra cautious while heating their rooms this season.

On Sunday evening, a five-month-old baby was found dead in a room at Pandu Bazar Height in Suryabinayak Municipality, Bhaktapur.
According to the District Police Range Bhaktapur, the baby was found dead in a room when the baby’s mother Sarmila Moktan, 37, had gone to buy vegetables at a nearby shop, keeping the electric heater on.
“When police reached the place, they found the sofa in the room was burnt and the baby dead,” said Deputy Superintendent Raju Pandey, who is also a spokesperson at the police range.
“By the time the police reached the site, locals had already doused the fire,” said Pandey.
He, however, said it was the first case of burns in the district, after the winter season started this year.   
In a bid to avoid fire-related accidents at home during the winter season, the District Police Range Kathmandu has requested the residents to be alert and take special precautions while taking the warmth from electric heaters, kerosene heaters, coil heaters, and firewood.   
According to the District Police Range, Kathmandu, last year, five people lost their lives and a dozen were injured in fire-related accidents in the district.
“Although there have not been any fire-related deaths in the district, it’s a very serious issue which everyone should pay heed to,” said Superintendent of Police Dinesh Raj Mainali, also the spokesperson at the police range.
He said the police have already started a campaign to make people aware of such incidents.
“During winter, many such fire-related accidents occur and their cause normally is negligence and lack of awareness,” said Mainali. Last year, on December 25,  Nima Chaudhari, 21, died in her room after she slept burning wood charcoal on a clay pot inside her room in Bansbari. Chaudhari was originally from Tulsipur Sub-metropolitan City -10.
Meanwhile, on December 20 last year, Sushil Sahani, 18, fainted in the hostel bathroom at Bagbazar while taking a shower from a gas [LPG] geyser. Sahani fainted and breathed his last at the Kathmandu Model Hospital at Pradarshani Marg.
“There were five such deaths, and those were very tragic incidents, and people should be extra alert. These messages should be disseminated across the country,” said Mainali.
The Kathmandu police range has requested the public to be extra careful while using electrical heaters to warm the room, and not to sleep burning wood charcoal in a closed room. It has also requested the public to make sure that the heaters have been turned off or woodfire has been doused before they leave their home.  
Burning wood or coal inside a closed room is dangerous as the fire produces carbon monoxide, a toxic gas, and if there is not enough ventilation then it can kill those in the room within a few minutes.
“The risk of asphyxia (death in lack of oxygen) is high when using a gas heater. LPG gas fire produces carbon monoxide,” said Hemanta Joshi, chief-coordinator at Phect (Public Health Concern Trust), Nepal Kirtipur Hospital.  
The hospital has 30 beds for burn victims, and during the winter they all get occupied.
Padma Sobha Maharjan, who keeps the record of burn patients at Kirtipur Hospital said that compared to Kathmandu, mostly people from the Tarai come with burn-related injuries.
“Most such patients are women and elderly. They suffer burns while taking the warmth from burning logs, coal or wood charcoal,” said Maharjan. She said mainly the women get injured because the sari they generally wear can easily catch fire.
The hospital’s record shows that compared to last year, the number of burn patients has come down.
According to Maharjan, last year during November and December, the hospital had admitted 125 patients coming for burn treatments, mostly from the Tarai. And the hospital’s data this year shows that only 90 patients were admitted in the last two months (November and December).
Doctors say heaters (electric, gas, wood, coal) cause dryness in the skin and irritation in the eyes, and advise the public to open their windows, and keep a mug full of water nearby to maintain the moisture, while using heating equipment.

Page 4

Reluctant federalists

Troublingly, partners in the current ruling coalition have little to say about strengthening federalism.

At a critical juncture in recent Nepali history, when the country was going through a rough transition after the abolition of constitutional monarchy, Pushpa Kamal Dahal became a passionate champion of republicanism, secularism and federalism. When the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 made those ideals the fundamental features of Nepali society, it was no small feat of Dahal and others like him those who championed those ideals. After seven years, republicanism and secularism have found a firm footing. However, federalism continues to falter for lack of laws required to fully implement it, amid widespread suspicion and criticism that it is too costly for a small, poor country like Nepal. The legal instruments to make federalism functional are still not in place seven years after the promulgation of the constitution and inception of federalism. As the newest executive head of the state, Dahal is now in charge of implementing federalism in its full spirit. Dahal will not have it easy—that is, if he is first committed to making federalism in Nepal work.
The powers that be are still reluctant to devolve power to the provinces and the local levels. Leading the brigade of reluctant federalists is the CPN-UML, whose chairperson KP Sharma Oli is a known sceptic of federalism, having infamously claimed that aiming for federalism was akin to travelling to the United States on a bullock cart. Oli is now joined by Rabi Lamichhane, who has reservations with the country’s provincial setup. His party, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, did not even field candidates for the provincial assembly elections claiming federalism as it is practised is not feasible. And Oli and Lamichhane are joined in the ruling coalition by Rajendra Lingden, who represents the archaic Rastriya Prajatantra Party, a party still fascinated by the prospect of bringing back monarchy from the dead, scrapping federalism, and undoing secularism in favour of a unitary Hindu state. In such a scenario, there is little to expect from the current coalition government in terms of fully implementing federalism.
What is even more alarming is that the partners in the coalition claim to be supporting Dahal based on common agendas. Although they are yet to elaborate on those agendas, they have hinted that their most important agenda is corruption control. They have little to say as yet on secularism, federalism and republicanism. Not that political ideology has had any effect on making and unmaking of coalitions in contemporary Nepali politics, but there is little doubt that the political ideologies of the current coalition partners often clash. There is hardly any trust among its members, as it is a rebound of jilted parties from other coalitions. Even calling it a marriage of convenience would be unjust. It is, rather, a coalition of opportunism—just to grab power in Singha Durbar.
As the coalition is a patchwork of parties with ideologies belonging to left, right and centre, the likelihood of them coming together on federalism is low. In such a scenario, federalism is likely to be left in the lurch, like in the past. The question is whether Dahal has the willpower to further strengthen the federal project even by going against his coalition partners. Seeing the way he has lusted for power in the past few years, there is little to hope. But if the rumours of him wanting to leave behind a lasting legacy this time are even partly true, one of the best ways he can do so is by strengthening the federal project by delegating more rights and resources to the provinces. And to do so, he must push to amend the requisite laws, even if that entails leaning on his coalition partners. 


Don’t count on remittance

Recession in high-income countries can hit the economies of middle-income countries.

Till the 1990s, agriculture provided a livelihood to more than 90 percent of the Nepali population. Today, the figure has come down to less than 70 percent. The share of agriculture to GDP was 34.4 percent during the period 2001-06. This had dropped to 25.6 percent by 2013-20. At the same time, remittance has been rising steadily. The percentage of remittance to GDP soared from a mere 9 percent in 2001-06 to 29.1 percent in 2013-20. This figure is consistent with the finding of the International Labour Organisation which shows that remittance flow into Nepal as a share of GDP doubled from 14.9 percent in 2005-06 to 32.1 percent in 2015-16, the fastest rate in South Asia, following a massive increase in labour migration. It is evident that Nepal’s economy has been shifting from agriculture to remittance.
Remittance is the primary source of foreign exchange, and most of it is spent on importing consumer goods and energy. Recent data shows that 78.9 percent of the remittance received is spent on daily consumption, 7.1 percent on loan repayment, 4.5 percent on household property and 3.5 percent on education. Only 2.4 percent of the remittance is spent on capital formation. This clearly shows that Nepal has not been able to mobilise remittance in productive sectors, making the future of Nepal’s economy even more uncertain, unsustainable and vulnerable. The use of remittance in unproductive sectors will neither create jobs nor increase production and productivity. This will hit the economy in the long run, and result in the worst situation of a “remittance trap”.  

Trade cycle
Recession refers to the phase of the trade cycle when there is a decline in economic activities as opposed to expansion during the alternating phase. There are several indicators that exhibit particular phases in the business cycle that are conventionally measured using real GDP. A decline in real GDP for two or more consecutive quarters indicates recession. The United States, Britain, Europe and also some Asian countries like Japan almost experienced a recession in 2008, according to the rule-of-thumb of two consecutive quarters of falling GDP. The International Monetary Fund says there is a recession when the real GDP growth rate drops to less than 3 percent.
Recession in high-income countries can hit the economies of middle-income countries. Middle-income countries are where youths from low-income countries like Nepal find jobs. An economic downturn in middle-income countries could shrink employment opportunities for potential workers in low-income countries. Nepal’s growing labour force depends on foreign employment, particularly in middle- and high-income regions like the Middle East, East and South Asia, Britain, Eurozone, Australia, the United States and Canada. Also, if China and India were to suffer a recession, Nepal’s economy would be hit as these countries are major trade partners.

Depends on remittance
Nepal’s economy today depends on remittance, and its effects can be manifold. One, banks depend partly on real estate and auto loans. Both these sectors are unproductive, and can grow only when the country is able to achieve high economic growth. Two, manufacturing and other productive sectors are not booming, so bank lending depends on real estate and auto loans. During times of an economic downturn, these sectors will fare worse than other sectors of the economy, causing banks to collapse. This phenomenon will slow business activities in the economy. Three, the number of people living in poverty will rise if our youths lose their jobs in foreign countries. When these people return home, Nepali households will have a hard time. The result is more people will be pushed into poverty. In essence, if the foreign employment sector becomes more vulnerable and uncertain, it will badly hurt the livelihoods of poor and marginal households in Nepal.
Lastly, real estate is another growing sector of Nepal. Remittance is a key factor behind the rapid growth of this sector. In the past, a significant portion of remittance income was invested in real estate, particularly in the country’s urban areas. If our youths lose foreign employment, their income will diminish. They will lose their capacity to buy real estate. Consequently, this sector will be affected faster than others.

Dhungel is an economist.


Bringing science to Ayurved

With enough effort, Ayurved could be co-opted and developed into a modern system of therapeutics.

Ayurved strongly holds our collective consciousness, but we don’t understand it well enough–not even those who claim the superiority of Ayurved over other therapeutic systems. The knowledge required to make such claims simply does not exist.
Ayurved is a pharmacopoeia and a system of therapeutics that closely developed alongside our civilisation, going back millennia. This body of knowledge must be considered quite advanced for those times. Today, arguments both for and against Ayurved often descend to tribalistic shrilling full of vapid ad hominem—mainly because the history of Ayurved is often intertwined with our own cultural history. The debate is certainly not informed enough to make claims about whether it is any better than other systems of therapeutics, like allopathy. We deserve better. So does Ayurved.
With enough effort, Ayurved could be co-opted and developed into a modern system of therapeutics. But before that, we have to start with the assiduous task of brushing up, building and understanding the knowledge base of Ayurved. It needs to pass the muster of the currently accepted standards of knowledge creation and the determination of objective truths.

Empirical observation
Scientific investigation and scientific methods are the tools currently used to determine what are known as verifiable objective truths that explain physical phenomena such as biological processes. By the standards of modern science, Ayurved often comes up short in this aspect: We haven’t yet validated what most Ayurvedic therapies do to the body and how they do it. For a system of therapeutics that some claim is better than what we currently practise, this level of scientific precision and objective fidelity is just not acceptable.
Ayurvedic knowledge developed over time as a series of careful observations of the efficacy of a certain natural substance or concoctions on a particular kind of sickness. In that sense, Ayurved starts where modern accepted scientific investigation methods start, with a few careful observations. From there, Ayurved uses inductive reasoning to extend that knowledge from the few to the general—without an adequate understanding of what drives the process. That, by the standards of the modern scientific method, is a problem.
Let’s take the example of Aswagandha, a plant used to treat diseases of the mind and body and as a nervine tonic. The plant is also used in ailments such as gastric ulcers, joint pains, mental illnesses, Parkinson’s disease and even cancers. Ayurvedic practitioners gathered knowledge on the usefulness of Ashwagandha over time by careful observation of the effect of this plant’s extract on these conditions. However, they neither knew the biochemical basis of the diseases they were treating nor what chemical entity in this plant was acting upon the human body or how it was doing so.
Because there was minimal, if any, understanding of the anatomical details of the human body, from the cell upwards, there was no way Ayurved could explain how these agents were working on the human body. As a result, there was no way to know how these benefits were accruing or if there was any harm from these agents. Therefore, most of the Ayurvedic knowledge was an observation of the net effect of these agents on the human body as opposed to a real and detailed understanding of what went under the hood.
With a modern understanding of biochemistry, cell biology and the biochemical processes that drive it, it is now possible to study many Ayurvedic therapies using the scientific method of replicable experiments. For example, the root of Ashwagandha has been found to have bioactive chemical compounds called “glycowithanolides” that appear to reduce anxiety in mice. These experiments now need to be extended to human beings. When these experiments on the effect of “glycowithanolides” are repeatedly verified by several experiments, they become part of our accepted scientific knowledge base. This is the basis of modern experimental science—broadly covered under the philosophical ideas of empiricism—the idea that all knowledge (or concepts) is built by experience.
The broad idea of empiricism is that ideas, concepts and knowledge are generated by our senses in order to make observations of the physical world. Or that a belief becomes rational only through repeated experiences and observations. This is a modern basis of scientific observation that aims to deduce rational truths about the physical world around us.
In this regard, Ayurved and modern biomedicine begin roughly at the same place. But they diverge when modern biomedicine takes empiricism beyond what our sense organs can perceive to the microscopic. Modern scientific methods allow us to see, measure and experience the microscopic cellular structures and the biochemical processes that drive cells and tissues. Therefore, what is observable becomes much broader (enhanced empiricism), making it possible to experimentally verify what a chemical or a biological substance does to the human body.
This results in an understanding of a therapeutic much richer than previously possible, which Ayurved never achieved.

Theory of falsification
Another idea in the modern philosophy of science that has helped biomedicine get an advantage over ancient systems of therapies like Ayurved is the theory of falsification. The idea of falsification is that a scientific theory that attempts to explain a physical phenomenon needs to set the experimental premise under which it can be proven false before it can be considered scientific. Any plausible scientific theory subjected to experiments is considered true until repeated, carefully done experiments fail to falsify the theory’s premise. This is the starting point for modern scientific hypothesis testing.
Modern philosophy of science has offered inordinate clarity in the development of modern scientific methods, which has turbocharged the development of biomedicine. Ayurved has lost ground here; fortunately, not everything is lost. Ayurved is a hotbed of empirically testable theories that can benefit from the methodologies of modern science. Enhanced empiricism and ideas of falsifiability can be helpful for the objective and dispassionate examination of Ayurved as a potential system for modern therapeutics. This is how Ayurved can be made relevant in the modern day, and not through indiscriminate brow-beating of anyone who might demand more intellectual rigour from it.

Pandey is an internal medicine physician and health services researcher.


Renewables revolution

Use of fossil fuels hasn’t decreased, and is unlikely to in the near future.

It’s frustrating to know that an investment proposal to produce 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power has been gathering dust at the Bangladesh Power Division at a time when the country desperately needs to expand and diversify its energy basket. Reportedly, the proposal for the $1.79 billion project was submitted by a US-based company in February 2022, just before the Russia-Ukraine war, which caused global energy prices to soar forcing a dollar-strapped Bangladesh to stop LNG import from the spot market. The lack of response from the authorities—despite the project’s potential to meet domestic needs and realign our energy policy with international commitments on renewables—is inexplicable, to say the least.
We are told that, if approved, this would be the biggest investment of its kind in Bangladesh. Lack of investment is among the reasons cited for the lack of growth of our renewable energy sector. Why sit on the proposal, then? Is it because of any pushback from anti-renewables interest groups? Is it because of lack of land needed to produce solar energy? The last argument doesn’t hold with the aspirant investors having secured 5,000 acres of marshland in Swarna Dwip, Noakhali, following an agreement with Bangladesh Army, which is in charge of the island. Those who have long benefitted from Bangladesh’s dependence on fossil fuels and its energy policy that left room for exploitation through collusive deals and exorbitant prices may have an interest in seeing any renewable project to not take off.
Whatever the reason may be, there is no doubt that proposals that advance the cause of renewables deserve serious consideration. Officially, the government remains in favour of this cause. According to the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan submitted in COP26, Bangladesh aims to meet 40 percent of its energy demand through clean power by 2040, as part of a bid to reduce the impact of climate change. Last year, it made a major leap forward when it scrapped plans for ten new coal-fired power plants. Despite that, use of fossil fuels hasn’t decreased, and is unlikely to do so in the near future. The push for renewables has somehow never gone beyond official plans, feel-good commitments and cosmetic changes.
As the UN secretary-general has said, “our burning world needs a renewables revolution”. For Bangladesh, it means weaning itself off harmful fossil fuels including coal, oil, and gas, and redirecting efforts to scaling up renewable energy. Unfortunately, renewable initiatives still don’t enjoy the flexible provision and facilities that fossil fuel-based power producers do. The playing field is decidedly uneven for the former. Experts warn that if such initiatives are unnecessarily delayed—there are currently unapproved proposals for producing 4,000 MW of solar energy—it will send a negative massage, and may even affect adaptation funding for us.
We, therefore, urge the authorities to address the mismatch between our energy commitments and practices, and take steps to get rid of the bottlenecks in the process of undertaking renewable initiatives. The Power Division must support the cause through its policies and initiatives.

— The Daily Star/ANN

Page 5

China reopens Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border to Nepali exports after three years

Chinese goods have been entering Nepal intermittently through Kerung, but it was no go in the other direction.
- Post Report
Nepal exports mainly handicrafts produced by small and medium enterprises and herbs to China. Transport restrictions have pushed them to the brink of collapse.   PHOTO COURTESY: CHINESE EMBASSY NEPAL

Beijing on Wednesday allowed Nepal’s exports to pass into China through the Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border after keeping it shut to two-way traffic for three years.
Chinese goods have been entering Nepal intermittently through Kerung, one of the two international border points on the Nepal-China border, but it was no go in the other direction.
“The two-way trade through the Kerung/Rasuwagadhi border port has been resumed today. After a ceremony, 6 cargo trucks full of Nepali goods passed through the port into China. Looking forward to more Nepal’s export to China!” the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu tweeted.
The fate of another border point further to the east at Tatopani is uncertain. Once a hotspot for transit commerce, Tatopani has lain abandoned since the 2015 earthquake destroyed the infrastructure and trans-Himalayan trade came to a halt.
Nepali traders, who are reported to have suffered massive losses by missing out on the holiday shopping seasons in 2021 and 2022 after China halted all shipments through the border, have been calling the policy a trade embargo.
For years, China had permitted only outbound shipments to pass through the Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border point, about 175 km north of Kathmandu, and that too under a quota system.
From January 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to spread, there was a near halt in the arrival of cargo containers from China to Nepal. Trade still has not resumed fully, with the northern neighbour placing strict restrictions at the border. Even then, imports from China swelled in the last fiscal year ended mid-July 2021.
According to the Department of Customs, imports from China in fiscal 2020-21 rose 28.58 percent year-on-year to Rs233.92 billion.
Before Covid in fiscal 2018-19, imports amounted to Rs205.51 billion. In 2017-18, imports were valued at Rs159.98 billion, up from Rs129.87 billion in fiscal 2016-17.
Nepal suffers a huge deficit in its trade with China. If Nepal imported Rs233.92 billion worth of goods from the northern neighbour in 2020-21, its exports across the Himalaya were valued at a mere Rs1 billion.
This translates into a trade deficit of Rs232.90 billion, which accounted for 14 percent of Nepal’s total trade deficit in fiscal 2020-21.
The Kerung-Rasuwagadhi border point, a conduit for political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries for centuries, became official in 1961, and was approved as China’s national first-level port in 1987. After Beijing closed the border crossing, the Nepal government had multiple talks with China to persuade it to ease the movement of vehicles, but nothing came of them.
Nepal exports mainly handicrafts produced by small and medium enterprises and herbs to China. Transport restrictions have pushed them to the brink of collapse.
In Kathmandu, economists and trade experts blamed the failed economic diplomacy with China and other countries as the reason behind Nepal’s ballooning trade deficit.
Though the country saw a 41.7 percent increase in the export of goods to Rs200.03 billion, imports stood at Rs1.9 trillion in the past fiscal year ended mid-July.
“Our trade policies are inclined to promote import rather than export,” said Bharat Raj Paudyal, secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a programme organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), a trade think tank, in Kathmandu on Wednesday. Nepal has the potential to increase its exports by 12 times, according to a report published by the World Bank last year.
“This report estimates Nepal’s untapped export potential or ‘missing’ exports at around $9.2 billion, 12 times the actual annual merchandise exports,” he said. Industry insiders say Nepal needs to enhance its economic diplomacy to promote exports.
“Nepali missions abroad need to prioritise economic diplomacy to increase trade,” said Toyam Raya, secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. “A review of the existing trade policy has reached the final stage, and it will be made public soon.”
Though officials at the Nepali missions abroad are given orientation on how to conduct economic diplomacy, they have failed to comprehend its importance, experts say.
Foreign Secretary Paudyal agrees that the Foreign Ministry has not been able to deliver on economic diplomacy, which he attributes to lack of sufficient manpower. “Most of Nepal’s foreign missions are occupied by migrant worker-related issues,” he said.
Labour migration researchers blame Nepali missions for failing to effectively deliver their services towards migrant workers.
“Lack of coordination, supply constraints, low productive capacity, incoherent policies, inability to leverage new and emerging sectors and poor implementation of the existing policies have affected the trade sector,” Paudyal added.
The federal structure should have been used to capitalise on the strength of the local units and their potential, but the centralised tendency has sidelined this possibility, speakers said at Wednesday’s programme.
“Along with the formulation of a result-oriented action plan, the government needs to tailor its existing institutions to implement trade policies,” said Paudyal.
“High trade costs because of being a landlocked country has also affected Nepal’s exports,” said SAWTEE Chairman Posh Raj Pandey.
The Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) is being updated.
“Nepal’s existing trade policy adopted in 2015 does not incorporate federal structures,” said Purushottam Ojha, former secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
“Local governments need to be included in the formation of trade policies. Agro-based products need to be prioritised for exports.” he added.


No immediate surge of Chinese tourists expected after re-opening


China’s relaxation of Covid-19 rules for international arrivals has raised hopes that its multi-billion dollar travel business will soon flourish again but countries longing for the return of Chinese tourists will likely face more of a wait.
China’s National Health Commission announced on Monday that inbound travellers would no longer have to go into quarantine from January 8.
There are no official restrictions on Chinese people going abroad but the new rule will make it much easier for them to return home.
China was the world’s largest outbound tourism market before Covid shut down global travel, with its overseas visitors spending $127.5 billion on travel in 2019.
Airlines are drawing up plans to expand their services but ordinary Chinese and travel agencies suggest that a return to anything like normal will take some time.
“It’s great they announced it so I can seriously make my plans,” said Beijing exporter Tom Guo, 43.
But he said he would likely wait until the late spring or even the summer before venturing abroad again, most likely to the United States to visit a sister.
US carrier United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was evaluating the market demand and operating environment to determine when to resume additional flights to mainland China.
The airline currently operates four times a week between San Francisco and Shanghai.
TUI expects a positive impact on its currently limited flights to China, a spokesperson said.


Finland gets floating LNG terminal to replace Russian gas

Russian energy giant Gazprom halted gas exports to neighbouring Finland in May.

Finland’s first floating liquefied natural gas terminal was moored on Wednesday at the southern port of Inkoo where it will supply gas to the Nordic country that was cut off from Russian gas imports earlier this year amid the war in Ukraine.
The massive 291-metre-long and 43-metre-wide offshore support vessel Exemplar, which sailed to the Baltic Sea from Spain earlier December, has a capacity of 68,000 tons of LNG and is scheduled to be operational from the beginning of 2023.
FSRU Exemplar, owned by the US company Excelerate Energy Inc, will ensure future availability of gas in Finland, replacing supplies earlier imported from Russia, Finland’s state-owned Gasgrid Finland said.
The vessel will reconvert LNG to gas which will then be fed into the Finnish network for distribution. The arrival of the Exemplar will also enable gas deliveries to the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—and possibly also to Poland through the undersea Balticconnector pipeline between Finland and Estonia that runs near Inkoo.
Russian energy giant Gazprom halted gas exports to neighbouring Finland in May, citing Helsinki’s refusal to pay in rubles, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European countries do since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Gazprom’s move marked a likely end to Finland’s nearly 50 years of importing natural gas from Russia. The two parallel Russia-Finland natural gas pipelines were launched in 1974.
Natural gas currently accounts for just some 5 percent of total energy consumption in Finland, a country of 5.5 million. Until May, nearly all of that gas came from Russia, and has been used mainly by Finnish industrial and other companies with only an estimated 4,000 households relying on gas heating.
As Moscow has cut off electricity exports to Finland—also in May—and the Finnish state-controlled oil company Neste has replaced imports of Russian crude oil with other sources, Finland’s energy ties with Russia are now all but gone.
Gasgrid Finland has leased the Exemplar for a period of ten years for an estimated total cost of 460 million euros ($490 million).
European Union member Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometre long border with Russia, applied to join NATO in May and is currently waiting for the remaining two members—Hungary and Turkey—of the military alliance to ratify its membership.


Bagmati Province sets up compensation fund for poultry farmers

The egg production figure in the province stands at around 899 million per year.   SHUTTERSTOCK

Bagmati provincial government has set up a compensation fund worth Rs50 million for poultry farmers. The fund will compensate the farmers for the loss caused by poultry diseases.
The province produces the highest quantity of chicken meat and eggs in the country, according to the data from Nepal Rastra Bank. Chitwan, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Sindhuli and Dhading districts contribute the most to the province’s poultry production.
“Bagmati Province is the capital of poultry farming in the country,” said Sharan Kumar Pandey, secretary at the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives of the province. “That’s why the fund is set up for the benefit of poultry farmers and traders.”
“Poultry farmers will also be categorised on the basis of their poultry production and will be issued identity cards which will help in the allocation of compensation as well as management of the market,” said Pandey.  
The traders have welcomed the decision.
Raju Adhikari, vice president of Makwanpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the government has worked for the betterment of traders.
While the province produces around 163,939 tonnes of meat annually, around 113,432 tonnes of chicken and duck meat was produced in the last fiscal year that ended mid-July.
According to the ministry, the egg production figure in the province stands at around 899 million per year.
Traders, however, are worried by the decline in the number of poultry farmers in recent years.
“Diseases such as bird flu have caused a huge financial loss,” said Adhikari, a poultry trader. “Now the government, traders and insurance companies need to reach an agreement regarding the compensation for the survival of this sector.”
Industry insiders say there is a need to set a standard for commercial poultry farming in the country.
“We are self-reliant in poultry products,” said Adhikari. “A mechanism must be developed to deliver the facilities provided by the state to the farmers.”
The provincial government has also established the Poultry Development Board.
“The government has formed the Bagmati Province Poultry Development Board and moved forward the process to bring it into operation,” said Basundhara Humagain, former agriculture and livestock development minister of the province. “The provincial government has also proposed the Province Agriculture Development Ordinance 2022 which is in the process of authentication.”


Singaporeans hit the malls before sales tax hike

At 8 percent, Singapore’s new sales tax will be slightly higher than Thailand’s 7 percent.
Shoppers browse merchandise in a shopping mall on Orchard Road, in Singapore on Friday.   REUTERS

Singaporean Soif Noor has already bought furniture and appliances for his new home, four months before he can move in. Like many residents, he’s been on a spree—because on January 1 Singapore’s sales tax goes up for the first time in 15 years.
From next year, the sales tax on everything from groceries to diamond rings goes from 7 percent to 8 percent. Barring a sharp global economic downturn next year, it will then rise to 9 percent in 2024 as the city state of 5.6 million people raises revenue to support its ageing population.
Overall, economists say the impact of the one percentage point tax hike may be muted, with a consumer spending surge before the rise likely to be offset by a drop afterwards. But for residents like Soif, it’s a significant trigger.
“A 1 percent increment may be small, but any savings help in this inflationary environment,” the 28-year-old engineer told Reuters. By buying everything now before the hike, Soif said he’s saving S$250 ($185) on his purchases, now in storage at retailers’ facilities.
Soif said some of his male colleagues are rushing to get engagement rings, being urged by girlfriends to “propose now—if not it will be more expensive next year”.
At 8 percent, Singapore’s new sales tax will be slightly higher than Thailand’s 7 percent but lower than Indonesia’s 11 percent, less than half the roughly 20 percent rate imposed in many countries in Europe, and below Japan’s 10 percent.
Singapore’s move to forge ahead with the tax increase comes even as some countries, like Thailand and Italy, approve consumption tax breaks to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living crisis.
OCBC economist Selena Ling said the current “positive bump” in big-ticket consumer purchases was good for the retail sector, but the impact on the overall economy is likely to be muted. The sale or lease of residential property is exempt from the tax, while the impact on car sales remains uncertain, with prices at record highs this year.
Ling expects economic growth in the first quarter of next year to be slow with “less consumer appetite for excessive spending in the near term until the uncertainties abate”.
From department stores to furniture shops, savvy retailers are tapping into residents’ ‘smart shopping’ mode, with promotions telling consumers to “Beat the goods and services tax hike!”


China approves first foreign video games since crackdown


BEIJING: Chinese regulators approved 44 new foreign video game titles on Wednesday, the first to be allowed to hit the market since an industry crackdown to rein in minors’ gaming habits swept the sector last year. Beijing moved against the country’s vibrant gaming sector last August as part of a sprawling crackdown on big tech companies, including a cap on the amount of time children could spend playing games. Officials also froze approvals of new titles for nine months until April, but a growing number of domestic titles have been approved since then. China’s gaming regulator, the National Press and Publication Administration, on Wednesday said it had approved 44 new imported games in December including Nintendo’s Pokemon Unite. It separately approved 84 new domestic titles. The body normally approves foreign titles in batches a few times per year. The last foreign game approvals to be handed out were in June 2021. Earlier this month, China granted homegrown tech giant Tencent its first video game licence in 18 months, ending a dry spell that had threatened its position as the world’s top game maker. (AFP)


Germany shrugs off Russia’s oil export ban


BERLIN: Germany on Wednesday shrugged off Russia’s ban on oil sales to countries and companies that comply with a price cap agreed by Western allies, saying it has “no practical significance”. “I would not like to say that it’s irrelevant but it has no practical significance,” said an economy ministry spokeswoman, adding that Germany has been preparing since early summer to do without Russian oil. Berlin has been working to ensure security of supply which “continues to be assured regardless of whether this decree has been issued or not”. The price ceiling of $60 per barrel agreed by the European Union, G7 and Australia came into force in early December and seeks to restrict Russia’s revenue while making sure Moscow keeps supplying the global market. (AFP)

Page 6

Pakistan court frees rapist after deal to marry victim

Rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute in Pakistan, where women are often treated as second-class citizens.

A Pakistan court freed a rapist after he married his victim in a settlement brokered by a council of elders in the northwest of the country, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
The decision has outraged rights activists, who say it legitimises sexual violence against women in a country where a majority of rape goes unreported.
Dawlat Khan, 25, was sentenced in May to life imprisonment by a lower court in Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for raping a deaf woman.
He was released from prison on Monday after the Peshawar High Court accepted an out-of-court settlement agreed by the rape survivor’s family.
“The rapist and the victim are from the same extended family,” Amjad Ali, Khan’s lawyer, told AFP.
“Both families have patched up after an agreement was reached with the help of local jirga [traditional council],” he added.
Khan was arrested after his unmarried victim delivered a baby earlier this year, and a paternity test proved he was the child’s biological father.
Rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute in Pakistan, where women are often treated as second-class citizens.
According to the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell—a group providing legal assistance to vulnerable women—the conviction rate is lower than three percent of cases that go to trial.
Few cases are reported because of the associated social stigma, while lapses during investigations, shoddy prosecutorial practices, and out-of-court settlements also contribute towards abysmal conviction rates.
“This is effectively the court’s approval of rape and facilitation of rapists and rape mentality,” Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, a lawyer and human rights activist, said of the Peshawar court decision.
“It is against the basic principles of justice and the law of the land which does not recognise such an arrangement,” she told AFP.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “appalled” by the ruling.


Chinese hospitals, funeral homes ‘extremely busy’

China reports three new Covid deaths for Tuesday, numbers that are inconsistent with what funeral parlours are reporting.
Medical workers attend to patients at the intensive care unit of the emergency department at Beijing Chaoyang hospital on Tuesday.  REUTERS

Chinese hospitals and funeral homes were under intense pressure on Wednesday as a surging Covid-19 wave drained resources, while the scale of the outbreak and doubts over official data prompted some countries to consider new travel rules on Chinese visitors.
In an abrupt change of policy, China this month began dismantling the world’s strictest Covid regime of lockdowns and extensive testing, putting its battered economy on course for a complete re-opening next year.
The lifting of restrictions, which came after widespread protests against them, means Covid is spreading largely unchecked and likely infecting millions of people a day, according to some international health experts.
The speed at which China, the last major country in the world moving towards treating the virus as endemic, has scrapped Covid rules has left its fragile health system overwhelmed.
China reported three new Covid-related deaths for Tuesday, up from one for Monday—numbers that are inconsistent with what funeral parlours are reporting, as well as with the experience of much less populous countries after they re-opened.
Staff at Huaxi, a big hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said they were “extremely busy” with Covid patients.
“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years and this is the busiest I have ever known it,” said one ambulance driver outside the hospital who declined to be identified.
There were long queues inside and outside the hospital’s emergency department and at an adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday evening. Most of those arriving in ambulances were given oxygen to help with their breathing.
“Almost all of the patients have Covid,” one emergency department pharmacy staff member said.
The hospital has no stocks of Covid-specific medicine and can only provide drugs for symptoms such as coughing, she said.
Car parks around the Dongjiao funeral home, one of the biggest in Chengdu, were full. Funeral processions were constant as smoke billowed from the crematorium.
“We have to do this about 200 times a day now,” said one funeral worker. “We are so busy we don’t even have time to eat. This has been the case since the opening up. Before it was around 30-50 a day.”
“Many have died from Covid,” said another worker.
At another Chengdu crematorium, privately-owned Nanling, staff were equally busy.
“There have been so many deaths from Covid lately,” one worker said. “Cremation slots are all fully booked. You can’t get one until the new year.”
China has said it only counts deaths of Covid patients caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as Covid-related.
Zhang Yuhua, an official at the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said most recent patients were elderly and critically ill with underlying diseases. She said the number of patients receiving emergency care had increased to 450-550 per day, from about 100 before, according to state media.
The China-Japan Friendship Hospital’s fever clinic in Beijing was also “packed” with elderly patients, state media reported.
Nurses and doctors have been asked to work while sick and retired medical workers in rural communities have been rehired to help. Some cities have been struggling with drug shortages.
In a major step towards freer travel, China will stop requiring inbound travellers to go into quarantine from January 8, authorities said this week.
The global financial hub of Hong Kong also said on Wednesday it would scrap most of its last remaining Covid restrictions.
Online searches for flights out of China spiked on Tuesday from extremely low levels, but residents and travel agencies suggested a return to anything like normal would take some months yet, as caution prevails for now. Moreover, some governments were considering extra travel requirements for Chinese visitors.
US officials cited “the lack of transparent data” as reasons for doing so.
India, Taiwan and Japan would require a negative Covid test for travellers from mainland China, with those testing positive in Japan having to undergo a week in quarantine. Tokyo also plans to limit airlines increasing flights to China.
The Philippines was also considering imposing tests.
China’s $17 trillion economy is expected to suffer a slowdown in factory output and domestic consumption as workers and shoppers fall ill.
News of re-opening borders sent global luxury stocks higher, but the reaction was more muted in other corners of the market.


Kosovo closes main border crossing with Serbia


Kosovo closed its biggest border crossing with Serbia on Wednesday after protesters blocked it on the Serbian side to support their ethnic kin in Kosovo in refusing to recognise the country’s independence.
Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have been running high since last month when representatives of ethnic Serbs in the north of Kosovo left state institutions including the police and judiciary over the Kosovo government’s decision to replace Serbian issued car licence plates.
Kosovan Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said on Tuesday Serbia, under the influence of Russia, was aiming to destabilise Kosovo.
Serbia denies it is trying to destabilise its neighbour and says it just wants to protect its minority there.
The Kremlin on Wednesday also denied the Kosovan accusations but said it supported Belgrade.
“Serbia is a sovereign country and it is absolutely wrong to look for Russia’s destructive influence here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
For over 20 years, Kosovo has been a source of tension between the West which backed its independence and Russia which supports Serbia in its efforts to block the country’s membership in international organisations including United Nations.
Since December 10, Serbs in northern Kosovo have exchanged fire with police and erected more than 10 roadblocks in and around Mitrovica.
Their action followed the arrest of a former Serb policeman accused of assaulting serving police officers.
Serbia on Monday put its troops on highest alert.
Late on Tuesday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who said Serbia was continuing to fight peace and seek a compromise, inspected the troops close to the border.
Serbs in Serbia used a truck and tractors on Tuesday to create the latest roadblock, close to the Merdare crossing on Kosovo’s eastern border, Belgrade-based media reported.
The government in Pristina has asked NATO’s peacekeeping force for the country, KFOR, to clear the barricades. But KFOR has no authority to act on Serbian soil.
Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry announced on its Facebook page the Merdare crossing had been closed since midnight, saying: “If you have already entered Serbia then you have to use other border crossings ... or go through North Macedonia.”


Russia intensifies attacks on liberated Kherson, eastern Ukraine

A dog walks past a building burned from a strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, during intense shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine on Monday.   REUTERS

Russian forces stepped up mortar and artillery attacks on the recently liberated city of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said, while also exerting constant pressure along front lines in eastern regions of the country.
Russia fired 33 missiles from multiple rocket launchers at civilian targets in Kherson in the 24 hours to early Wednesday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its report. Russia denies targeting civilians. Heavy fighting also persisted around the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, now largely in ruins, in the eastern province of Donetsk, and to its north, around the cities of Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk province, where Ukrainian forces are trying to break Russian defensive lines.
Air raid sirens also sounded across Ukraine on Wednesday morning, officials said. Ukrainian social media reports said the nationwide alert may have been declared after Russian jets stationed in neighbouring Belarus took off. Reuters was unable to immediately verify that information.
Britain’s defence ministry said in its latest update on the military situation in Ukraine that Russia had likely reinforced the Kreminna section of the frontline as it is logistically important to Moscow and has become relatively vulnerable following recent Ukrainian advances further west.
There is still no prospect of talks to end the war, now in its 11th month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is vigorously pushing a 10-point peace plan that envisages Russia fully respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and pulling out all its troops.
But the Kremlin on Wednesday rejected the plan, reiterating its stance that Ukraine must accept Russia’s annexation—announced in September after “referendums” rejected by Kyiv and the West—of four Ukrainian regions: Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.


China slams Taiwan’s ‘cannon fodder’ conscription decision


BEIJING: China’s government criticised Taiwan on Wednesday for seeking to use the Taiwanese people as “cannon fodder” by extending compulsory military service from four months to one year starting in 2024. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced the extension to compulsory military service on Tuesday, citing the rising threat that the island faces from its giant neighbour China. China considers democratically-governed Taiwan its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Responding to a question on Taiwan’s decision to lengthen the period of miltary service, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that “struggling for the great task of achieving national reunification is immeasurably significant, dying for Taiwan independence separatist activities is completely worthless”. “We believe Taiwan compatriots are highly principled, they will not be put up as cannon fodder by Taiwan independence separatist forces,” Wang told a regular news conference.


President Biden arrives in US Virgin Islands to relax between holidays


KINGSHILL: President Joe Biden on Tuesday travelled to a place very familiar to him—the US Virgin Islands—to enjoy some downtime and warmer weather and to ring in a new year with family. The president and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, flew from Washington on Tuesday to St Croix, one of three islands that make up the US territory in the Caribbean. St John and St Thomas are the other two islands. The Bidens were joined by their daughter Ashley and her husband, Howard Krein, as well as grandchildren Natalie and Hunter, whose father was the president’s late son, Beau. St Croix is a tropical getaway that Biden has been getting away to at least since he was vice president, from 2009 to 2017. “We’ve missed him the last couple of years,” Beth Moss Mahar, a retired attorney and island resident for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview.


Indian police say 4 suspected rebels killed in Kashmir


NEW DELHI: Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir said government forces killed four suspected militants in a gunbattle on Wednesday. A top police officer, Mukesh Singh, said troops intercepted a truck in the outskirts of Jammu city early Wednesday following its “unusual movement” on a highway. As the troops began searching the truck, gunfire came from inside it, to which the troops retaliated, leading to a gunfight, Singh told reporters. Police said four suspected militants were killed and authorities recovered at least eight automatic rifles and some ammunition from the truck. According to police, the driver of the truck escaped and a search was under way to find him. There was no independent confirmation of the alleged gunbattle. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the disputed territory in its entirety. Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Page 7

Man United start bright without Ronaldo


Manchester United made a positive start to life without Cristiano Ronaldo as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stepped out from the Portuguese’s shadow to score in a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Ronaldo’s rollercoaster second spell at Old Trafford came to an end during the World Cup break after an explosive interview in which he took aim at manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners.
On the field, his influence had already waned since Ten Hag took charge at the start of the season.
Rashford has been a player transformed under the Dutch coach and carried his fine form for England at the World Cup into the Premier League’s return.
A brilliantly worked corner opened the floodgates for United as Christian Eriksen picked out an unmarked Rashford inside the area to sweep into the top corner.
Forest were without their first choice goalkeeper Dean Henderson as he is on loan from United and his understudy Wayne Hennessey was culpable when the home side doubled their lead just three minutes later.
Rashford’s burst down the left and teed up Martial at the edge of the box, but the Frenchman’s strike should not have had enough power to beat the Welsh international goalkeeper.
United were also short handed at the back with Lisandro Martinez absent following Argentina’s World Cup celebrations, Diogo Dalot injured and Harry Maguire still feeling the aftereffects of an illness.
As a result Raphael Varane was forced into starting just nine days after playing 113 minutes for France in the World Cup final, while Luke Shaw lined up as a centre-back in a back four for the first time.
But Forest did little to test a makeshift backline as they remain with just one goal away from home in the league all season.
Steve Cooper’s men did have the ball in the net shortly before half-time, but Willy Boly’s effort was ruled out for offside after a lengthy VAR check.
United should have added more than one goal in the second half.
Antony fired straight at Hennessey after fine play from Rashford and Bruno Fernandes gave the Brazilian a clear sight of goal.
Hennessey also stood firm to block from Martial and Rashford from close range, but the Red Devils finally got the third goal they deserved three minutes from time.
The imperious Casemiro strode forward to win possession and picked out his Brazilian compatriot Fred to slot into the far corner.


Lumbini win Super Over drama

Airee’s men overcome Far West challenge to maintain their perfect record in the Nepal T20 League.
- Sports Bureau
Lumbini All Star’s Gulsan Jha attempts to save his wicket during the Nepal T20 cricket match against Far West United in Kirtipur on Wednesday.   Photo: Hemanta Shrestha

Lumbini Province defeated Far West United in the Super Over to maintain their unbeaten record in the Nepal T20 League on Wednesday.
Tailender Gulsan Jha scored an unbeaten 36 to rescue Lumbini from 85-7 and duplicate Far West’s 137 off 20 overs in a see-saw contest.
Chasing 138, Lumbini needed five runs in the final over but a controlled bowling from Karan KC helped Far West restrict Lumbini to 137-9.
South African Shadley van Schalkwyk—whose six off the last delivery gave Lumbini a thrilling win over Pokhara on Tuesday—was at the strike and looking for another nail-biting finish.
But KC dismissed Van Schalkwyk in the first delivery to turn the game on its head. Sagar Dhakal joined Jha but KC conceded only four runs in a tight spell, forcing the Super Over.
Sri Lankan wicketkeeper batsman Lahiru Milantha blasted two sixes and added six more runs with Schalkwyk to take 19 runs off Karan KC.
Far West captain and Afghanistan top order batter Hashmatullah Shahidi hit the first ball for a six with Binod Bhandari at the other end. But the duo could only manage 10 runs off Kishore Mahato as Lumbini
racked up their fourth victory in as many matches.
Batting collapse
Earlier, opener Milantha scored 34 off 20 balls but Lumbini batting dramatically collapsed and were gasping on 48-5 when Bipul Sharma arrived at the crease. Sharma then added 31 to revive the chase and Jha played a crucial knock of 24-ball 36 to save Lumbini.
KC took 2-20 and Sher Malal returned 2-17 for Far West.
Sent in bat first after losing the toss, Far West opener Dev Khanal scored 48 off 42 balls to give his side a good start before Dhakal put struggling Hasim Ansari (11) out of misery.
Shahidi (32) joined Khanal for a 45-run stand to keep Far West in the game before Singh dismissed Khanal.
Bhim Sharki departed adding 15 before Schalkwyk (2-39) had Shahidi caught by Singh in the 17.3 overs.  Bhandari contributed 11 and KC made 12 to take Far West to 137-6.
The win cements Biragnatar position at the top of the six-team standings with eight points–four off second placed Kathmandu Knights who have played a game less.
Far West are second from bottom with two points from three matches.
First win for Biratnagar
In the other action of the day, Biratnagar Super Kings beat Pokhara Avengers by six wickets for their first victory of the tournament.
Biratnagar elected to field first and restricted a winless Pokhara side to 139-7 in 19 overs. Kushal Malla top scored for Pokhara with 37 off 18 balls.
Siddhant Lohani provided the second highest score with 26, while captain Upul Tharanga added 19 runs.
Pakistani Hussain Talat and West Indies bowler Raj Nanan picked two wickets each for Biratnagar.
In reply, Talat hit an unbeaten half-century to guide Biratnagar to a comfortable victory.
Talat’s 50 off 30 balls that included four boundaries and one six came after a 47-run opening stand from West Indies batsman and captain Andre McCarthy (21) and Arjun Saud (25) had given Biratnagar a good start.
Malla and Sharad Vesawkar pocketed two wickets each for Pokhara.


Nepal T20 League
Ninth Match, TU Cricket Ground
Toss: Lumbini All Stars, elected to field first.
Far West United 137-6
D Khanal 48 (42), H Shahidi 32 (29)
Van Schalkwyk 2-39
Lumbini All Stars 137-9
L Milantha 34 (20), B Sharma 31 (27),
G Jha 36* (24)
K KC 2-20, S Malla 2-27
Match tied. Lumbini win in Super Over.
Player of the match: Lahiru Milantha
Tenth Match, TU Cricket Ground
Toss: Biratnagar Super Kings, elected
to field first.
Pokhara Avengers 139-7 (19/19 ov)
K Malla 37 (18)
R Nanan 2-8, H Talat 2-33
Biratnagar Super Kings 140-4 (17.5/19 ov)
H Talat 50* (30)
S Vesawkar 2-12, K Malla 2-21
Biratnagar win by six wickets.
Player of the match: Hussain Talat

Today’s Matches
Pokhara Avengers vs Biratnagar Super Kings
Janakpur Royals vs Far West United


Rai takes lead ahead of final round

- Sports Bureau

Top ranked golfer Sukra Bahadur Rai took a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Surya Nepal Eastern Open Golf Tournament—second event of the Surya Nepal Golf Tour 2022-23—at the Dharan Golf Club on Wednesday.
Rai carded six-under 64 for a total of 10-under 130.
Overnight leader Niraj Tamang carded one-under 69 for a total score of six-under 134 to stay second.
Sanjay Lama scored a round of even-par 70 to remain in the third
position with a total score of four-under 136. Bhuvan Nagarkoti carded an even-par 70 for a total score of three-under 137 and lies in the fourth position.
Amateur Raj Kumar Rai scored three-under 67 for a total score of two-under 138 to keep the fifth spot.
Dhana Bahadur Thapa is sixth with a total score of one-under 139. He carded four-under 66. Jayaram Shrestha carded one-over 71 for a total score of one-over 141. Rame Magar who carded a round of even-par 70 has a total score of two-over 142.
Dinesh Prajapati and Surya Prasad Sharma both carded one-over 71 for a total score of three-over 143.
Amateur Yubaraj Bhujel (71) and Bal Bhadra Rai (72) are at four-over 144.
Deepak Magar (68), Deepak Acharya (71), Bhuwan Kumar Rokka (71), Amateur Sundar Rai (71) and Amateur Rupendra Gurung (72) have the total score of five-over 145 each.
Rai shot four-under 32 after carding birdies on the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth holes. On the back nine, he sank birdies on the 12th and 15th holes for two-under 32.
Tamang carded two-under 34 on the front nine with birdies on the third, fifth and seventh holes against a bogey on the fourth hole. On the back nine, he dropped a shot on the 13th hole for one-over 35.
Lama scored one-over 37 on the front with lone birdie on the fifth against bogeys on the fourth and seventh holes. On the back nine, he made birdies on the 10th, 15th and 16th against bogeys on the 11th and 14th holes for one-under 33.
Nagarkoti carded one-under 35 on the front nine with birdies on the third, fifth and ninth holes against bogeys on the first and first and fourth holes. On the back nine, he dropped shots on the 11th and 15th holes against a lone birdie on the 13th hole for one-over 35.
Amateur Raj Kumar played one-over 37 on the front nine with dropped shots on the first and fourth holes against a birdie on the ninth hole.
On the back nine, he made birdies on 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th against a bogey on the 13th hole for four-under 30.
The tournament will conclude on December 30.



ARIES (March 21-April 19) ***
You may awaken to good news, fresh opportunities, or a sense that possibility lies around each corner. Watch out for professional tension as evening rolls in. You’ll have a chance to focus on happier topics later tonight.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20) ****
You may experience vivid and colourful dreams early this morning. Be sure to document any interesting encounters you had. Your intuition will be heightened. Use this cosmic climate to commune with your spirituality.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21) ****
Your presence online will be pronounced today. Use this energy to find like-minded individuals and grow your following. On a personal level, you’ll want to leave space for your heart and mind to shift directions.

CANCER (June 22-July 22) ****
Your professional ambitions will be blessed with some extra cosmic support this morning. A romantic energy will come into the air that’s perfect for expressing your love. These vibes are also ideal for indulging in self-care.

LEO (July 23-August 22) ***
An abundance of support from beyond the veil will come into play, marking the ideal occasion to meditate on your goals. Try to bring structure to your dreams, or you could begin to lose focus on what’s important.

VIRGO (August 23-September 22) ***
You’ll be reminded that the more you release negativity from your life, the more positivity can come in. Make sure to embrace positive shifts and prioritize your own needs. You’ll have a chance to break free from restrictions in evening.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22) ***
The stars will conspire to elevate your love life this morning. Use this energy to nurture and appreciate the bond you and your sweetie share. If you’re currently on the hunt for a partner, be sure to manifest for one.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 21) ****
This cosmic climate is perfect for chipping away at your goals, as the effort you showcase today will have positive and lasting impacts tomorrow. Feel free to speak honestly and from a place of love today.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21) ***
This cosmic climate is all about standing in your truth, so don’t be afraid to take life by the reins with authenticity and no apologies. It is a good time to reinforce yourself and your romantic partner through positive words.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19) ****
Think positively and open yourself up to the idea that anything can happen while also tending to your needs and those of your loved ones. Take some time to tidy up your space this evening and check in with your feelings.

AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18) ****
Your voice will carry a huge punch this morning. Choose your words wisely and be sure to advocate for your agenda, and you’ll soon manifest the outcome you’ve been wishing for. Consider working with positive mantras.

PISCES (February 19-March 20) ****
A prosperous energy will find you today. Work with these vibes by boldly pursuing monetary success, and be sure to work with positive mantras. Plan on embracing luxury from the comfort of home later in the afternoon.

Page 8

Never too late to read good books

Author and translator Sujit Mainali on his favourite books, why he prefers writing over translating, and how reading contributes to one’s growth.
Post Photo: Elite Joshi

Sujit Mainali is one of the more popular names in Nepal’s literary landscape. Most of Mainali’s works have to do with history, a subject that the author/translator is keenly interested in. His first book, ‘Breaking Nepal’, released in 2017, is a collection of criticisms of foreign scholars’ writings on Nepal. His 2019 book ‘Shilanyas’ (2019) and 2021 book ‘Sati: Itihas Ra Mimamsa’ are both based on Nepal’s history and traditional practices. In 2020, Mainali translated ‘Yuganta: Mahabharat ko Mahamritu’, a Nepali book by Irawati Karve, into English. In this interview with the Post, Mainali talks about his favourite genres and his preference between authoring and translating.

Did you grow up in an environment that encouraged reading?
Hindu rituals and values structured the life of my grandparents. My grandfather had all four books of Vedas, which he used to recite on different occasions. His respect for the Vedic books could be some of the earliest socialisation factors that sowed deep curiosity in me to learn more about these books. In addition to this, my grandfather was a great narrator. He told me stories from different Indic epics. This further raised my curiosity to unfold more stories and wisdom from these texts.

Which genres do you enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
For the past two years, I have been reading academic books that are related to the history of religions in the Indian subcontinent. I chose these books to learn more about how religions in the subcontinent may have evolved and how they shaped people’s thinking and social organising capacity then and even now.
Since my passion is for non-fiction books, I have very little opportunity to enjoy fiction. However, whenever some of my friends insist I go through any fiction, I read them. Some of the fiction I have read in the past few years are ‘Ular’ by Nayanraj Pandey, ‘Paitala’ by Ganesh Poudel, and ‘Hamsa’ by Sanjeev Uprety.  

What is the one interesting thing that you learned from a book you read recently?
I just finished reading a couple of books on Harappan civilisation- ‘Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate’ by Koenraad Elst and ‘Early Indians’ by Tony Joseph.
‘Early Indians’ was eye-opening to me. Elst and some other authors writing on Indology argue that the Vedic civilisation and Sanskrit language emerged on Indian soil, and in the meantime, they dispersed to other parts of the world through migration. Joseph, an Indian journalist, outrightly denies this idea and asserts that the Vedic civilisation was introduced in the sub-continent from East Europe via Central Asia and the Harappan civilisation pre-dates the Vedic civilisation in the sub-continent.
After reading ‘Early Indians’, I realised that the inquiry of pre-history has nearly ceased to become a subject of historians. The study of the genome has dominated this subject, thereby making historians lacking a sound knowledge of science absolute.  
I also found an interesting fact about the incompatibility between milk and meat in the ‘Early Indians’. According to the book, a study of the DNA samples across India shows that the people in North and West India possess higher lactose persistence which means that they are able to digest milk even after infancy. That’s why they consume dairy products very frequently for protein. On the other hand, meat is consumed more frequently by the East and South Indians as their ability to digest milk is lower. While reading the book, I realised that the campaigns to make the entire people vegetarian are incompatible with our nature.

Could you name a book that you wish your younger self had read?
I think it is never too late to read good books.

An author or a translator, which role do you prefer more and why?
I prefer the role of the author because it is related to expressing my own thoughts. Although translation is a great job, I have found it more difficult. In the Nepali publication industry, we have yet to institutionalise the practice of peer-reviewing the translated contents, and translators aren’t paid well. These are some of the reasons why not many are interested in working as translators.

What books would you recommend to someone who wants to begin a career in writing?
One cannot become a writer simply by reading good books. But without reading books, one cannot become a good writer. Reading helps to gloss our understanding of a subject.
‘Madhavi’ by Madan Mani Dixit, presents a brilliant portrayal of the Vedic period. The author had well understood the Vedic period with the help of extensive readings. I read Steven Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ during the Dashain festival. The book claims that we are living in the most peaceful era of history. This assertion is backed by facts collected from multiple sources. Without becoming an avid reader, one cannot write these types of books. Thus, rather than suggesting one or a handful of books, I suggest they make reading a routine of their daily life.

Could you name one book you think today’s youth must read and why?
I suggest they choose books of their own interests. If they are football fans, they can grab biographies of some great footballers. Reading helps to make people imaginative, and only an innovative mind can think outside the box.

Could you name your favourite books?
The first one is ‘Lichchavi Kaal ka Aavilekh’ by Dhanavajra Vajracharya. I think one cannot write anything substantive about Nepali history if he or she ignores this book. The second one is ‘Janai Purnima dekhi Rani Pokhari Samma’ by Mahes Raj Panta. I haven’t read any other books of this worth that can shed light on the historicity of the festivals and traditions which exist in Nepal. The third one is the ‘Thatched Huts and Stucco Palaces’ by Mahesh Chandra Regmi. It gives us a glimpse of how draconian our state was in the pre-democratic era. Fourth is the entire volume of the ‘History of Dharmasastra’ by PV Kane, which I think is essential to understanding Hindu civilisation. The fifth one is ‘The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization’ by AS Altekar. Although several feminists have criticised this book, it has proven to be a milestone in an intellectual quest to unfold the history of the life of women in South Asia. In addition to this, all the books which offer a critical analysis of the ancient Hindu epics, ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’, are also included in my list. ‘Yuganta: The End of an Epoch’ by Irawati Karve is an example of a book of this genre.


A musical New Year’s Eve awaits you at Yak & Yeti

The event will feature live performances by Raju Lama and Mongolian Heart and Voice of Nepal fame Tara Shree Magar and Barsha Itani.
- Post Report

Though Hotel Yak & Yeti has several New Year’s Eve events, the one that is most talked about is its ‘Sinners In Heaven Back’. The highlight of the event is the live performance by Raju Lama and the Mongolian Heart. Also performing at the event are singers Tara Shree Magar (finalist of Voice of Nepal Season 3) and Barsha Itani (from Voice of Nepal Season 4). Apart from the musical performances, the event will also feature a buffet dinner and welcome drinks, and countdown to the New Year followed by a DJ session.
The event’s tickets are priced at Rs 5,555 nett per person and Rs 9,999 nett. For those coming in groups, the hotel also has VIP packages for Rs 100,000 (8 pax) and Rs 50,000 (6 pax), and both groups get food and beverages vouchers worth the package prices.

When:     December 31 (Saturday) 8pm onwards
Price:     Rs 5,555 nett per person and Rs 9,999 nett per couple. VIP packages Rs 100,000 nett (8 pax) and Rs 50,000 nett (6 pax) with free food and beverages vouchers worth the package prices.
Contact:     9851082805


Ringing in the New Year at Hotel Everest

The five-star hotel’s NYE event is all about good food, music, and unlimited drinks.
- Post Report

Everest Hotel, one of Kathmandu’s premium hotels, is going all out with its New Year’s Eve event. The hotel’s New Year Eve gala dinner event will start from 8pm and will feature a lavish gala buffet dinner, unlimited select beverages, and live band.
The NYE event will be hosted at the hotel’s The Cafe and Poolside.
The hotel also has a special NYE getaway package that includes accommodation in deluxe room for two on a bed and breakfast basis and tickets to NYE gala dinner event.
The hotel will also be organising lucky draw during the NYE event and guests stand chance to win special prizes and gift vouchers.

When:     December 31, Saturday, 8pm onwards
Price:     Rs 3,999 per person for dinner and Rs 14,999 per couple for NYE getaway package. Prices are exclusive of taxes
Contact:     9801977323