Monday, October 23, 2006

Sherchan for recognising Nepal Sambat

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 22:
Thousands of activists, mostly Newars, have been making a hue and cry since the past 26 years calling governments to recognise the cultural identity of the Nepal Sambat (Era) and announce it as the national calendar by replacing the existing Bikram Sambat, but nothing to this effect has happened yet.
Deputy PM Amik Sherchan today said he would table a proposal on recognising Nepal Sambat as the country’s national calendar in the Thursday’s cabinet meeting and also sought an application from the activists as a proposal to the government.
“I only need a letter from some coordinating organisation as a proposal to the government. I also want to see Nepal Sambat recognised,” he said addressing a programme of Jyapu Samaj, orgnised on the eve of Nepal Sambat 1127 New Year.
This statement, however, has not come as an encouraging development to the people who have been rallying across the Kathmandu Valley to observe the native Nepali Sambat New Year.
Chairman of Newa Day Daboo, the national forum of the Newars, [Malla K Sundar] said: “It is customary for all political leaders to deliver encouraging speeches to the audience, whom they consider a vote bank, but do almost nothing when it is time to make a ground-breaking change.”
“Since long, we have been hearing prime ministers and other prominent leaders highlighting the significance of the Nepal Sambat. But, unfortunately, our demand of having it recognised it still a distant dream,” he said.
“It is strange that the governments are indifferent to Nepal Sambat. Recognition to the Nepal Sambat will establish Nepal as the only country in the world with its native calendar and pave way to use the international Gregorian calendar for day-to-day affairs,” said Prof Prem Shanti Tuladhar, the chairperson to New Year Celebration Committee.
Since the calendar was formulated 1,126 years ago, it was the only Nepali official calendar in historic times. Still, people either turn their back to it or incorrectly claim that it only belongs to the Newars,” she said. Human Rights activist and chairman of Nepal Bhasha Mankaa Khala, Padma Ratna Tuladhar said the government must make a clear policy on why to choose a certain calendar and which one to choose rather than blindly following the one handpicked by Chandra Sumshere Rana.
“It is sympathetic that we don’t have a policy on following a specific calendar. We need a clear policy, in the constitution, to decide which calendar should be followed and why. After going through the big change on monarchy, we must ask why we cannot discard the Bikram Sambat which is related with a legendary monarch and why we cannot accept a citizen’s legacy,” he said.
History has it that a commoner Sankhadhar Sakhwa introduced the Nepal Sambat after donating all his wealth to free Nepalis from debt during the reign of King Raghavdev on October 20, 897. The Nepal Sambat is based on lunar movements and is followed to observe all Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nepali simians ‘soft target’ for export to US

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 21[2006]:
With slack legal provisions and loopholes, Nepal can become the next target for those willing to import monkeys of different types to the US for conducting biomedical researches, fears a conservationist.
The United States, the home to proponents of animal rights, alone imports over 26,000 monkeys of different types from all over the world for conducting biomedical researches, the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), a US-based primate conservation body states in a report.
“Nepal has not figured in the list, but we cannot rule out the possibility of illegal export of Nepal’s wild life for similar purposes, thanks to loopholes and slack legal provisions,” Mangal Man Shakya, chairman of the Wildlife Watch Group, says.
“The trend of importing monkeys is dangerous for countries like Nepal. Monkeys can easily be exported illegally as Nepal has been infamous in the world for illegal wildlife trade. Noting that India had banned such exports, Shakya fears Nepal could be a new target for US researchers.
“A strong lobbying is necessary to prevent Nepal from becoming the target of US researchers”.
According to the report, 33 research centres and zoos imported 26,319 monkeys from 18 countries last year. The number is growing by 7,000 per year.
“The IPPL may also put our country in its list because a channel is being developed to export Nepali red monkeys to conduct experiments on them in US laboratories,” says Shakya.
It was recently revealed that a controversial testing of monkeys three years ago in the capital was done with the objective of helping US primatologists develop HIV vaccines.
Out of 14,319 monkeys imported for commercial purposes last year, 10,608 were imported for biomedical researches and 1,359 for scientific purposes. Eighteen monkeys were subjected to experiments for breeding in captivity or artificial propagation. Only 12 out of the total monkeys landed in zoos, while three were used for circuses and travelling exhibitions.
Covance Research, the largest importer of monkeys, brought in 12,549 in the US in 2005. Charles River imported 3,818 monkeys, Primate Products imported 2,340, Rhenos LLC imported 2,760 and SNBL USA imported 1,672 monkeys the same year. Zoos turned to be nominal importers – Cincinati Zoo imported one, Houston Zoo imported four and Philadelphia Zoo imported two monkeys that year. A San Diego Zoo imported 33 monkeys from South Africa recently, which had imported them from the Democratic Republic of Congo at a cost of over $12,000 per monkey, the IPPL states in another report. The largest exporter of monkeys to the US is China, from where 13,106 simians were sent in 2005 alone. Other major exporters are Mauritius, Vietnam and Indonesia, from where 4,606, 4,360 and 2,677 monkeys were exported. Cambodia, the Philippines, Guyana, Nevis and Brazil are among exporters.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spanish woman elated after adopting Nepali ‘orphan’ child

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 18[2006]:

Paca Tomas, a Spanish woman in her forties, is elated, for her dream of adopting a Nepali child has turned into reality after three-and-a-half years.
“It was like being on top of Everest. Everybody knows it is difficult, but you can imagine the pleasure of being there only when you are finally there,” she said today, relating her feeling after she got the approval from the government to adopt the girl-child.
It was almost four years ago when Tomas, an official at the International Oxfam, dreamt of adopting a child. “Now that Subhechha has come to my life, my professional life is a second priority,” says the unmarried professional from Barcelona.
Tomas first filed an application at the Ministry of Welfare Family and Adoption in Spain and followed an eight-month hectic process of giving interviews to the ministry officials, child psychologists, social assistants and padagogists.
“It is a long story. They used to come to my home any time and asked any question they had in their mind. They sought my permanent work contract, bank accounts, health certificate and what not. But I was not tired. Then I felt how strongly I wanted to adopt a child,” she said.
After getting an approval from the Spanish government, she decided to adopt a Nepali girl. And the Honorary Consular of Nepal, Lluis Belvis, helped her a lot in contacting orphan homes and translating her Spanish documents into English and correspond with the orphanage from where she was to adopt the girl.
“I came to Nepal in March to see my child. When I saw Subhechha in the orphanage, my heart told me she is the girl I love,” she said. As the process of approving the adoption here was very long, she had to come here again in October to complete the “whole thing”. Thereafter, she had to wait for two more weeks to get the paper signed by the secretary at the Minister for Women Children and Social Welfare.
Meanwhile, she also found that the child, presented as an orphan by the orphanage, actually had parents and she also managed to meet them. “It was shocking. I felt sorry when I knew that Subhechha had parents but I could also understand that they might prefer her to be adopted due to poverty,” she said, adding that she would be in contact with them. However, she refused to give the name of the orphanage, which gave her the “orphan”.
Tomas may have to face more bureaucratic hassles. The officials can refuse to sign papers without giving reasons. “The process is problematic and needs improvements,” she said, smiling. According to the District Administration Office, there are over 600 orphanages in the capital city alone. Thanks to the conflict, many children are left without parents and some orphanages here are found showcasing children with parents as orphans to have them adopted by foreigners.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Top leaders scent success

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, October 12[2006]:

Today’s talks between top leaders of the seven-party alliance and the CPN-Maoist have been identified as a “successful round” although much of what has been decided among them will be known only by Sunday afternoon when they meet once again.
The fact that the talks have ended on positive note becomes clear from what even Maoist talk team coordinator, Krishna Bahadur Mahara said while fielding reporters’ questions at a press conference after the talks today.
“Talks have ended on a constructive note and the participants are all moving ahead for an overall and significant conclusion,” Sitaula said at a press conference after the talks indicating at the possibility of having the Maoists agree to a ceremonial role for monarchy in the interim phase.
He said that another date for the next round of the talks was fixed just because it is not possible to come to a conclusion in a hurry.
“The team wants to assure the people that the talks were going on according to the wishes of the entire people,” Home Minister said emphatically.
He added, “No decision on any particular agenda was made because we did want to make partial decisions and thus we waited for one more day to make a ‘wholesome decision.”
Coordinator of Maoist talks team Mahara said that the talks were taking time “because it is moving ahead for a “historic” decision as the government side also showed some progressive mood.”
“We are coming to a historic decision and the process is very complicated. It is taking some more days. But it is for sure, we are very near to a concrete decision,” he said.
Saying that some issues were not addressed properly on earlier occasions, Mahara said that the Maoists and the alliance alike were “very much conscious that no such mistakes be repeated”
Mahara said that the talks so far have brought the two sides much closer something which is the result of serious homework and commitment shown by the leaders. Sitaula left the room, saying, “Everything will be clear on Sunday.”
The nagging issues which were debated today were role of monarchy in the interim phase, interim constitution, arms management and interim legislature, amid claims that Maoists could settle for “king without power” if the alliance grants them their other demands as part of a package.
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Govt not doing enough for Kumaris' upkeep?

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, September 30 [2006]:

The Living Goddess Kumari, who is adorned by the head of the state himself and poses as an attraction for millions of people, tourists and media gets hardly more than an office boy's salary in the government's pay scale, for sacrificing her juvenile years, and for her "divine powers".
"The Kathmandu Kumari is given Rs 6,000 per month as livelihood allowance and Rs 1,000 per month as scholarship," states a report of Kaushi Toshkhana Office, an outlet of Ministry of Finance for Cultural Expenditures, sent to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation recently. She started getting scholarship only last year.
The government had to disclose the details of the Living Goddess's entitlement only after it became a legal issue, when an advocate, Pundevi Maharjan Sujana, filed a case against the government, seeking rights and facilities to the girl child last year. The government had to produce a report of what Kumari has been getting, as per the order of the Supreme Court.
According to the report, the Kumari is also given a pension of Rs 3,000 per month after she ceases to be Kumari. Apart from the cash, every month the office also sends two kilos of rice, two kilos of beaten rice, 1.7 litres of oil, 100 grams of red vermilion, 75 grams of barley, and certain other commodities for carrying out rituals to the caretaker of the Living Goddess, who lives in the Kumari House at Basantapur.
The report adds that the Kumari of Kathmandu also receives Sripad allowance, allowance from the Royal Palace and expenses for marriage. The report is mum on the details of such allowances and says nothing on when she is provided with the same.
Cultural expert Kashi Nath Tamoth said the government's financial support is far from sufficient when compared to what the state seeks from the girl as the source of divine feminine power.
He believes if the government plays fair, she won't need even a penny from others. "The Kumari used to own hundreds of ropanis of land. The income from that land would have been more than enough to support her. But Singha Durbar and Putali Sadak Road have come up on part of that property, while the rest has been taken over by the government," he said. However, another cultural expert, Satya Mohan Joshi, begs to differ. He says the contribution of the Living Goddess and the honour she earns from the public and the state should not be weighed in rupees.
According to the report, the Kumaris of Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Nuwakot also get nominal monthly allowance of Rs 1,500 each from the government. The ex-Kumaris of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur get a monthly pension of Rs 1,000 while there is no provision of pension
for ex-Kumaris of Nuwakot. In addition, all of them receive monthly allowance of Rs 200 each for schooling.
[September 31,2006, Kathmandu]