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India Front Line Report
SEAnews Issue:monthly
2020-05-20 ArtNo.46783
◆Nationwide lockdown: For corona's control or dirty politics?

【Kathmandu】Nepal has been under a countrywide lockdown for more than a month. The restriction, which was imposed by the state as a measure to control the coronavirus on March 24 for a week, has been extended thrice, and it is still uncertain when the country will finally open. Fortunately, no death of a corona patient has been reported yet, but the number of corona positives has been increasing day by day.
 The lockdown has heavily affected the life of the commoner, especially the poor people working in the country and abroad. Most of them are daily-wage workers, who are now out of work, and without any earnings to survive in the city, they are desperate to reach their villages. But due to a ban on bus services, they have been making even a 700-km journey by foot. Most of them have faced harassment by the police on the way, and some of them even brutally beaten as well. Some of them tried to swim across big rivers like the Mahakali to reach the country from India as they were desperate to reach home. But those who reached Nepal after a risky swim were taken into police custody. However, the government, especially the Prime Minister of Nepal, has reacted to the situation as if no one is facing hunger. He termed the news coverage as "media conspiracy" to show that the government is performing poorly.
 While citizens are living in anxiety and facing a difficult situation, the government has been involved in a number of controversies. Two ministers have been accused of corruption while procuring medical equipment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the government which signed a contract worth Rs 1.24 billion with Omni Group to import pandemic-related medical equipment. It was done by escaping the procurement procedure, citing it as an urgent situation. But the intention to allow a private company without any experience was to make unnecessary profit using the crisis. Omni brought some materials, namely, Personal Protective Equipment s, N95 masks, surgical masks and surgical gloves, portable Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines and rapid testing kits from China but at a very high price. Also the quality of these materials was questioned. The government, which initially defended the procurement, decided to scrap the deal with Omni group under mounting pressure from the people and media. But the controversy did not end there. The task was handed over to the Nepal Army. Why was the Army chosen by the government? How could the Army be the right institution to import medical equipment as it was beyond its professionalism?
 Another controversy was generated by the Nepali government when it tried to bring two irrelevant ordinances. The government issued two ordinances on April 20. One ordinance was related to the Political Party Act, which, if amended, would allow any party to split if 40 per cent of its central members or parliamentary party members want to register a new party. The earlier provision allowed a party to split only if 40 per cent of the members of both the central committee and parliamentary party were in favour. Eyebrows were raised when the Prime Minister defended the ordinance at the Party Secretariat, saying it was introduced to ease the split of one of the opposition parties in the Parliament. Another ordinance, related to the Constitutional Council, would allow it to take decisions even with just two votes out of its six members.
 However, unable to weather the criticisms coming from various corners, including strong protests from within the ruling party, the government decided to scrap the controversial ordinance after just five days. With one ill-timed political controversy after another being created by the government, the Nepali people have not been able to concentrate on fighting against the corona pandemic. (The Himalayan Times: Opinion)

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Nationwide lockdown: For corona’s control or dirty politics?

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