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Fragile walls, buildings posing threat to pedestrians




Gorkha earthquake and its aftershocks turned many buildings and walls to rubbles. Even greater number of houses and walls were severely cracked by the earthquake and some of these were so severely cracked that they were given support. The support was meant to be an intermediary solution to buy some time for procuring means to demolish the structure. But with the aftershocks thinning out gradually, it seems people have forgotten the quake jolts and are therefore undermining the risk that these cracked structures pose to human life.

The boundary wall around the Minbhawan Campus in New Baneshwar was cracked by the quake jolts. The wall was given support from wooden poles, with plans to demolish it at a more convenient time. Instead of pulling down the wall, the wooden pole support has been removed and the pavement cleared for pedestrians to commute. Daily hundreds of commuters walk on this pavement with the cracked wall barely standing and waiting for a minor jolt to bring it down and crush any pedestrians commuting along the pavement.

Its not only the walls, but there are many old houses in the valley that are serious threats to pedesterians but still are not pulled down and are once again being inhabited- endangering lives of people living and those walking along the pavement. A house on Tripureshwar -Thapathali road section was given support of wooden poles after it fragile structure was weakened by the quake. This house that stands on a major pavement can come down any day and be the reason of the pavement commuters and its inhabitants. But instead of pulling down the house to avert such a potential tragedy, the house owner had pulled off the wooden pole support and got new tenants for the house.

Bishwo Sarkar, owner of the flower shop in this same building had shifted to another house after it was severely damaged by the earthquake jolts. When those wooden pillars support those pillars were gradually taken down, he assumed that the owner was planning to demolish it. But it was never taken down. He finds it precarious to walk through the pavement alongside the building everyday and feels concerned for all the pedestrians that walk on the pavement, unaware of the eminent danger from the rattled structure.

“Wooden pillar support given to around a half dozen building in this area has been removed. It’s very dangerous to walk on the pavement, knowing that these houses can come down crashing any moment,” said Sarkar expressing amazement at the way the house owner and the government has remained indifferent to public safety.

Similar sight was seen around old quarters of Patan and these have been also turned back to normal, forcefully. Though the structures are visibly fragile the supporting pillars have also been removed and no initiation has been taken to demolish.

“With the life getting back to normalcy, residents and the government authority are reluctant to demolish the fragile structure,” said Prashanta Khanal, program coordinator at Clear Air and Urban Mobility, an organization that advocates pedestrians’ safety. “It is pathetic to see that both the authority and the locals seem to have forgotten the damage caused by the Gorkha earthquake.”

The Department of Urban Development and Building Code (DUEDBC) has held responsible boundary walls for many deaths during the quake. Narayanhiti Museum’s eastern wall collapse had claimed three lives, Nepal Police report shows. Besides this accounted for report, all the deaths triggered by walls remain unaccounted for.

KMC marking vulnerable walls for demolition

Meanwhile, even after the three months of the Gorkha earthquake complaints seeking demolition of buildings and boundary walls at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) keep coming.

Concerned authorities have demolished 2600 houses that posed life threats to the people in the various localities. Around 50 boundary walls have been pulled down by the KMC.

Chief of the Implementation Department at the KMC, Dhanapati Sapkota said that people have been showing pull down their boundary walls though they do not meet the building code. However, the institution has started marking such vulnerable walls on the basis of local complaints. “Our first priority is to demolish the walls built without pillar and those which are taller than four feet from the base,” Sapkota said.

The draft amendment of the Building Code proposes a new provision for erecting the boundary walls. The draft which is under review suggests that an individual has to take the permission to erect walls above 1.2 meters.

Urban Road Standard

In the wake of the Gorkha earthquake, the government is mulling on redesigning the urban road standard to ensure the safety of the pedestrians. This is somehow missing in the existing policies.

According to Ramesh Singh, deputy director general at the DUEDBC, the new urban road standard would highly prioritize the safety of the pedesterians and manage separate cycling lanes in the Valley and the emerging cities.

Likewise, the new standard would emphasize more on zebra crossing rather than the overhead bridge. “The pedestrians’ lives must not be at risk due to any infrastructure during disaster. This is under high priority now,” he stated.

The Department of Road is also working on designs of the overhead bridges. These bridges will be easily accessible to passersby and will be friendly to senior citizens and people with physical disabilities.

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Myagdi residents call for empowering women


MYAGDI, July 21


Men raised the issue of women rights and their equality for citizenship whereas women reciprocated demanding provisions to end “economic violence” of men. A constructive feedback on gender equality stole the show when CA members reached to collect public feedback on the first draft of the constitution in Myagdi.

District Secretary of Nepali Congress Madhav Regmi suggested to lawmakers to ensure equal rights for women in citizenship. For one to be eligible to acquire naturalized citizenship, the new constitution requires both parents to be Nepali citizens. Regmi suggested that such citizenship should be provided even if either of the parent is a Nepali citizen. He warned that inability to do so would create problem for many children in future.

“This is my personal suggestion as a Nepali citizen rather than a political party leader,” Regmi said adding “The interim constitution was more progressive in terms of empowering women. It sought either of the parents to be Nepali citizen for providing a person to acquire citizenship, unlike the proposed one.”

Shom Bahadur Bishwokarma, a primary school teacher and a human rights activist, suggested for increasing the capacity of the National Women Commission (NWC). He opined that NWC should be given full authority to take action on the cases of violence against women (VAW).

“Limiting NWC’s ability to only providing recommendations on VAW cases has been leading to delays in ensuring security and rehabilitation of victim women,” he said while also seconding Regmi’s view on the citizenship.

Generally, male are seen dominating the venues where suggestion for the draft are being collected. The scenario was different in Myadgi, where active participation of women remained overwhelming. They expressed their opinions on issues that concerned them openly.

Malati Khatri, a local journalist suggested that the new constitution should guarantee joint rights in the property of husband and wife considering the alarmingly increasing cases of economic violence against migrant men workers.

“Cases of migrant men worker becoming victim of infidel wife has affected them mentally and economically. As the wife takes away all the earning while eloping away with her new found love, migrant husband workers are exploited emotionally and economically,” she mentioned. Myagdi is one of the most remittance receiving districts in Nepal.

Women Development Officer of the district, Nirmala Sharma claimed that provisions related to reproductive rights of women lacked clarity in terms of empowering women to decide for themselves whether or not to bear children.

Speakers raised concerns for families whose family member is a victim of a crime. Anusha Lama, a local, said that the new constitution should guarantee employment to at least one family member whose has been a victim of a crime. She said that such act would help in rehabilitating the victim’s family and would increase citizen’s faith in the rule of law.

Lama’s husband was murdered in Beni few years ago. With the murder of the sole bread winner of the family, Lama said her family was thrown into the misery of poverty, depriving it of a good health, good education and of a good future. “Punishment to guilty is only half justice to the victim’s family. Full sense of receiving justice can be felt only when such families are provided with means to be economically independent, as well,” she opined suggesting the CA members to include such provisions in the new constitution.

Responding to the feedback, lawmaker Navaraj Sharma promised to present all the feedbacks to the CA along with working towards institutionalizing common agenda of the Myagdi residents. Lawmakers Nardevi Pun and Resham Bahadur Baniya also participated in the two-day feedback collection program and interacted with participants.

Published-21 Jul 2015

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Baglung locals strongly seek threshold for PR seats


BAGLUNG, July 20

Representatives from various walks of life here in the district have suggested to the lawmakers to set threshold for seats under proportional representation (PR) electoral system.”Lack of threshold would weaken the national government encouraging unwanted foul play for formation and dissolution of a coalition,” said senior lawyer Padma Nath Sharma at an interaction held to collect feedback on draft constitution here on Sunday.

Many countries have set threshold for PR seats and practiced it as basic democratic criteria for parties to prove their eligibility. This threshold starts from the minimum of two percent of the total votes, he said citing examples.

Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML ahead of the election for Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2013 had lobbied in favor of threshold provision but they had to give in due to strong protests by UCPN (Maoist), Madhes-based and other fringe parties.

If, for example, one percent threshold provision is introduced, a political party must secure at least one percent of the total valid votes cast across the country to be eligible for a seat in parliament under PR quota.

Representatives here in the district were of the view that the more the number of political parties with a seat or two, the uglier the situation becomes in parliament.

Participating in the interaction, another lawyer Ram Sharma said one of the major reasons behind the practice of horse-trading in parliamentary system is the lack of threshold provision. “It has ultimately weakened the parliamentary system,” he said. They also emphasized the need for barring convicts from contesting in election.

The Election Commission has been suggesting to the major political parties to include the threshold provision and bar criminals from contesting the elections.

Reiterating the same proposal, Bikash Poudel, lecturer at Gupteshwar Multiple Campus said lack of threshold would promote the culture of splitting political parties to form a separate organization and lobby for power-sharing in the government.

Removing the threshold would encourage tendency to form a political party with a group of family members, near and dear ones and seek a seat in parliament under PR quota, said Bishwa Nath Regmi, former chairperson of Nepal Red Cross Society, Baglung.

Handing over the suggestions to CA member Prakash Sharma Poudel in Hatiya of constituency 2, most of the locals stressed on setting threshold for PR seats. “Locals here in my constituency have strongly recommended that we must include this provision to check anomalies,” Poudel told Republica.

Meanwhile, legal experts expressed concern over CA’s failure to realize the need for a court to settle family disputes. An ever increasing number of cases of family disputes are reaching the district court, said advocate Ambika Shrestha.

Property and other family disputes form of large chunk of cases filed in courts every year, which has slowed justice delivery and made it difficult for the victims of crimes to seek justice, said Shrestha.

Published-20 Jul 2015 

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Local sense readymade mind-set in lawmakers


PARBAT, July 19


“We have been asked to read and comment in a few days as if this was not a constitution draft but a light novel,” said Shova Kanta Rijal, a resident of Huwas VDC in Parvat while getting the draft distributed in his village on Friday, a week behind the schedule.

Headmaster of Janasewa Sanskrit Higher Secondary School, Rijal stated it coinciding with a common concern of the public who are dissatisfied with a short time frame set for collecting feedback on the constitution draft.

While the CA members elected from the FPTP from the district are interacting with the locals at the constituency, the locals have labeled them to have appeared with a ready-made mindset.

“This is merely a process, that the CA members want to skip with a formality,” said Yam BK, coordinator of Dalit Common Forum in the district while interacting with the Lawmaker Bikash Lamsal of Parbat-1.

On one hand, the draft distribution to the public from municipality and VDC officials is moving at a snail’s pace even on the eighth day of 15 days of CA deadline to collect feedback. On the other hand, the people are not convinced that their feedback would make any difference in the draft amendment.

“Knowing that the country can’t bear the cost of eight provinces, we are dissatisfied with the model will the lawmakers minimize it to respect our disagreement?” questioned Guru Prasad Upadhyay, forum coordinator at Ward-8 in Kushma Municipality.

Shukra Raj Dhungana, 64 is a disabled elderly ridden to a wheel chair. He says he was disappointed to read the provisions of fundamental rights, where the CA has failed to guarantee education and job to each and every disabled in the country.

“It is the state’s responsibility to patron its disabled citizens. An indifference towards that side has left us to suffer forever,” said Dhungana. He suggested CA member Lamsal to add the point.

Responding to the public concern, CA member from Parbat-1, Lamsal tried to convince the participants arguing that the draft was based on four million questions raised by citizens earlier in 2008 when the lawmakers went to people asking their expectation from the new constitution.

“Each and every suggestion is the part of CA history even if they can’t be comprised in this single document,” Lamsal told the participants. He further mentioned that the feedback would also be useful for amending the constitution in the long run.

“Less like a constitution, more like an act”

The draft missed the philosophical and theoretical approaches of constitution making, which gives it a general shape of an act rather than the constitution, said Dilip Paudel, Chairperson of Nepal Bar Association, Parbat.

Points dealing with local governance, rights to property among others are too lengthy, which could be included in the separate act, he added.

“This draft fails to maintain the supremacy of the constitution rather looks like the compilation of various agreements between the political parties,” he argued.

A political science lecturer at Gupteshowor Multiple Campus, Yadav Prasad Paudel argued that the document was a wrapped up of jargons. Likewise, the use of vague statements confuses people, giving loopholes for misinterpretations.

“The draft is still immature and demands a wide range of understanding and expertise to take a shape of constitution,” he mentioned.

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A week on, public wait for the constitution draft


PARBAT, July 18

Achala Sharma, secretary for ward 8 and 9 in Kushma municipality was busy with her work at office on Friday morning while the table in her room was occupied with bundles of the constitution draft.

Though a week of the CA schedule to inform and gather feedback on constitution draft from public has passed, dozens of copies meant to be distributed to people pile up at the municipality office.

“I could not distribute them and most of the copies are still at office, given the reason that the CA schedule overlapped with the closing session of last fiscal year,” said Sharma. She added that only a few copies she has distributed in two of the wards she is responsible for. This was the scenario at the district headquarter a few hours before Bikash Lamsal, the CA member elected from Parbat-1 was scheduled to interact with public.

Since July 10, the officials dispatched from the CA secretariat with some 2000 copies have already distributed 1700 of them to the municipality and VDC officials for distributing to public, according to Udabir Nepali, Secretary at the Committee on Citizen Relation and Public Opinion Collection.

However, the municipality that is responsible to distribute 180 copies of drafts in the municipality, 10 in each of the 18 wards, could not say how many of the draft reached to public.

Likewise, 25 copies each were given to VDC secretaries to distribute in 47 VDCs. But some of the officials have not even left for villages, till now.

Suraukhola VDC secretary Ganesh Bahadur Rana, who was in the district headquarter Kushma till Friday evening told Republica that the copies would be carried out to the village on Saturday only. Similar is the story at Shaligram and Rani Pokhari as the draft are on hold with the VDC secretaries, they admit.

Lamsal is scheduled to receive feedback on the draft from the villagers of Rani Pokhari, but the secretary is unanswered whether the draft would even reach before the lawmaker or not. The secretaries of Huwas, Ramja Deurali and Tilar VDC managed to distribute the draft on Friday only.

“With the weak campaigning to make the draft accessible to public, the situation is that they might comment without going through the content or just disown it,” said Biplab Hamal, advisor at of the Parbat FNCCI.

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Going by her tired eyes and wrinkled face you’d guess she was at least 60 years old but Ram Maya Gurung, who runs a small shop that serves tea and snacks on the way to Gorkha Durbar, is just 35. She knows she looks decades older than she actually is and becomes more acutely aware of the fact when women with neatly combed hair, bindis glistening on their foreheads, and sometimes even hints of makeup, visit her tea shack that also houses a small souvenir and flower shop.

“Women can do so much with their lives. They can fulfill their dreams and live the life they want. I just wasn’t that lucky,” she says, as she takes orders from the female guests she secretly envies but rarely admits to doing so. Ram Maya’s smile reflects her pain – it’s in the way her eyes crinkle and the way her lips twitch as she tries to hide her sorrow behind the toothy grin.

And when Ram Maya starts narrating her story, you can’t help but feel for her. This 35 year old lady has been through a lot and every time she recalls her past, though her voice remains steady, her eyes well up. Her childhood was cut short when, as an 11 year old, her father got her married off.

“I was playing with my friends when we saw a marriage procession heading towards my house,” she says explaining how her father called out to her and ordered her to wear the new set of clothes kept aside for the ‘bride’. Though she had rebelled and refused to do as he said, Ram Maya couldn’t escape her ‘surprise’ and forced marriage.

At the time Ram Maya got married, she had recently been admitted in grade one at a school in her village in Kashi. Post marriage, she did not get a chance to continue her studies and all that remained of her wish to go to school was a deep sense of longing. She recalls how her parents used to send her to the fields to rear cattle and she used to run away to try and attend classes at a primary school. “I would not dare to enter the class and would peep through the window,” says Ram Maya further explaining that finally being enrolled in class one had brought her immense joy. She just did not know the happiness would be so short lived.

“Some of my friends are teachers and some have become nurses. I, too, might have fared well, had my father not insisted on marrying me off so early and depriving me of education,” she says. And her marriage to Shar Singh Gurung of Keramja was a difficult one – not only because she was only a child, but also because her parents had adopted a baby boy they later named Shuka Lal, who Ram Maya insisted on taking with her to her new home.

“My mother-in-law was angry with me because I entered her house with a child. She even went to the extent of saying that the kid I called my brother was actually my own,” she says adding that this allegation at a time when she had not even had her first period was hurtful and insulting.

Ram Maya’s parents had adopted Shuka Lal upon her insistence. Following a bout of Typhoid, Ram Maya had been admitted at a hospital in Bharatpur when a pregnant woman was brought in the same ward. The mother died soon after giving birth and there was no one to care for the newly born. Seeing this, Ram Maya had wanted her parents to take the baby home and her father had given in to her wish.

Despite family issues after marriage, Ram Maya gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 14. Her family migrated to Gorkha Bazaar for a better life and started selling flowers and souvenirs to tourists who visited the Gorakhnath Temple within the premise of the Gorkha Durbar. To bring up the children, her husband, now 41 years old, also started working as a laborer at a construction site.

Over the years, though Ram Maya had difficulty raising her own kid, she adopted two more – the kids had been left near the hospital in the district headquarters of Gorkha. She later gave birth to two more kids – Kumar, who is now 21, and Purnima who is 11. Ram Maya currently shares a single room with her two daughters and her husband while her sons have moved away with their wives and have a daughter each.

“My sons have started earning and my adopted daughter, Sarita, is 14 and currently studying in seventh grade. The children bring a sense of achievement and make my life meaningful,” she says before adding that though she takes great delight in the way her children have turned out, at times she can’t help but lament over her own lost childhood. This sense of loss is something, Ram Maya confesses, she might never really get over.

Published- 26 Jun 2015

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Renewed interest in Doleshwar Temple fuels local economy




Five years after Bhagirathi Thapa opened a shop offering religious knickknacks near the Doleshwar Kedarnath temple in Sipadole, she has been able to depend on the income from the business, thanks to the publicity the place gained in the last six months.

Forty-three years old Bhagirathi recalls the days when she used to wait throughout the day for customers and get disappointed when no one turned up.
But these days she is quite busy dealing with customers the whole day and normally earns up to Rs 1000 per day, says Bhagirathi.

Encouraged by her flourishing business, Bhagirathi´s brother-in-law Jay Ram Thapa also opened a hotel in the vicinity just two months ago.
A laidback village, Sipadol suddenly hugged limelight in 2009 after Jagat Guru Bhimashankar Linga Shivacharya Mahaswami declared the idol inside the Doleshwar Temple as the head part of the Kedarnath Temple in India. He is the head priest of the Kedarnath Temple.

However, the such an important declaration failed to get proper attention because of the political turmoil in the country, says advocate Bharat Jangam. “We must understand that this place as the great potential to become a major destination for religious tourists,” Jangam says.
In July last year, the chief priest of Kedarnath came here for special worshipping as the devotees couldn´t reach the Indian temple after the area was hit by a massive natural disaster.

Gyanendra Rajthala, 43, who opened a hotel serving few varieties of fast food and snacks near the temple just four months ago, says that the place has proven lucky for him.
“Who had expected a few years ago that I would someday make Rs 40,000 per day from my small hotel here?” says Rajthala, talking about his income during festive seasons associated with Lord Shiva. His wife Chameli said the couple earns at least 2000 rupees during off-season when there is no special occasion.

For many people who wish to visit Kedarnath Temple in India but are unable to go there, the temple in Bhaktapur is dream come true. But 65 years old Mana Thapa considers herself the most fortunate one among those who have benefited from the expanding market in Sipadole.

Mana, who supports herself and her 90 year old bedridden husband, sits right at the temple´s entrance and asks every visitor to buy the fresh leafy vegetables grown in her kitchen garden.

“As the area is bustling with increasing movement of people, I am now able to run my livelihood by selling green leaves,” Mana says. Earlier, she had to go to Suryabinayak Temple paying Rs 50 every day.

Dense bushes growing around and the desolate surrounding gave a feeling only six months ago that the temple would see few visitors. No one came here even though the main priest offered morning and evening prayer every day.

Today, one can sense the change from 4 km away where the pathway to temple separates from Araniko Highway in Jagati. The entrance gate has been built there on the way to Sipadole so that the visitors do not get confused. Around a dozen of shops selling the offerings such as flowers and religious items and hotels have been established in front of the temple within a few months.

The government´s master plan has also been initiated in the last few months. Bal Hari Chalise, coordinator of the temple conservation committee, who expressed his dissatisfaction over the authority´s ignorance to develop the area few months ago now, says happily, “You will notice some changes every time you visit; the government is rapidly working to develop the temple area now.”

The authority first time paid attention to the place when the then Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire came here two years ago. Realizing the religious importance, Ghimire immediately coordinated with other government offices for overall development.

The initial research has shown that the temple was built in a pagoda style as the stone sculpture of the King Bhupatindra Malla recovered from the temple premises mentions so. The earthquake in 1933 BS destroyed the real structure and a small temple was built later.

Temple premises to get facelift

With the devotees increasing, the temple is also being gradually transformed. Several corporate houses have started working under the corporate social responsibility. A stone spout has been built at southern side of the temple managing the water for all the season from the nearest resources. The temple management authority cherish that the thousands of devotees offered worshipping without facing any difficulty.

Currently, the construction work is being done at an estimated cost of Rs 15 million, whereas an estimated cost of Rs 2.5 million each would be spent for erecting four other temples on the premises. The remaining amount would be spent for construction of a dharmashala, water and sanitation facilities for the visitors, among others. The temple conservation committee roughly estimates that it would cost around Rs 120 million to renovate the temple.

The committee is currently looking for the right place to build a bus stop and vehicle parking so that the area remains pollution free in the long run.

Land prices soar up

Unlike rest of the areas in the valley, Sipadole has seen an exceptional rise in the land price, the locals say. The locality where lands were purchased and sold at Rs 200,000 per ropani just a few years ago is seeing the prices soar to Rs 400,000 to 500,000 per ana recently, claimed Gyanendra Rajthala.

Published on 2014-03-02 06:36:11

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