Nepal Today

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DETAILS OF THURSDAY’S BANDH Kathmandu, 7 March: Thirty-three persons have been arrested since early morning from the capital during the bandh, the Manch said. The Manch ors a front is demanding an election government led by a neutral person while opposing a government headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi. The Yadav front is opposed to the domination of government and politics by the four major political forces in and out of government. Nnnn PROPOSED MEETING OF THE BIG FOUR AGAIN UNCERTAIN Kathmandu, 7 March: A meeting of the Big Four in and out of government Scheduled for Thursday morning to resolve differences on forming an election government by agreeing on a package is uncertain with Nepal bandh. NC Preesident Sushil Koirala is away in Jhapa. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday morning after an inconclusive meeting Wednesday Sushil Koirala ruled out formation of an election government and a second constituent assembly elections in June. Another opposition leader—General Secretary Ishwr Pokhrel of UML—also dismissed formation of a government led by Khil Raj Regmi. “Rest assured that the sitting chief justice will not be appointed as prime minister,” he said in Jhapa Wednesday. Two top opposition figures said this as a political aide of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said the incumbent government chief should continue. “If parties do not agree on the CJ-led government, the incumbent one should have the right tohold the election,” Devendra Pudel said. nnnn .. VANDALISM AT HOSPITALS INCREASING Kathmandu, 7 March: Nepal Medical Association (NMA) has recorded 61 major cases of vandalism, threats and physical assault on doctors and health institution in the last five years, The Himalayan Times reports.. Data for the study — ‘Violence in the health sector in Nepal: A retrospective analysis of the data of five years’ was collected from January 2007 to January 2012. All cases reported to NMA have been presented in the study. There are more than 500 cases that go unreported every year as hospitals seek to resolve them on their own, said the study. Dr Bhupendra Kumar Basnet, NMA general secretary, said physical attacks, vandalism and threats have increased to the extent that they have almost become a ‘culture’ in health service. He said physical assault, misbehaviour, damage to vehicles and abduction of health personnel were on the rise. The study showed that manhandling of health personnel was most common, followed by physical assault and damage to hospital property. Among the 61 cases, incidents of verbal spats with health personnel were the highest at 27, followed by 11 cases of physical assault on health personnel. There were eight incidents of infrastructure damage. Three incidents of damage to vehicles, and nine abductions of health personnel respectively. According to the report, most of the incidents took place at emergency wards and male health professionals were targeted. The perpetrators were mostly relatives of patients. Such incidents not only hamper health care delivery but also deprive patients of much needed services. These incidents mostly occur at public health institutions, said the report. The government had introduced a Health Professional Protection Act three years ago, but it still has not been implemented. “Very few of the perpetrators of violence in health set-ups were legally penalised for their actions,” said Basnet. According to the act, anyone involved in picketing, misbehaving or manhandling medical professionals is liable to pay a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000. Likewise, those involved in vandalism, arson and any other disruptive activity at health institutions are liable to pay up to Rs 300,000 fine or be slapped one-year jail sentence or both, depending on the nature of the offence. Basnet said NMA has been raising its voice for the protection of professional and personal rights of health practitioners. Nnnn NEPALI WORKERS FILTERING HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN Kathmandu, 7 March: Nepalis working in high security zones in Afghanistan have started returning home following preparations by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ( NATO ) allies to withdraw troops from the war-ravaged country by the end of 2014, Roshan Sedhai writes in The Kathmandu Post.. Workers in security camps said their companies had started relieving their colleagues of their jobs and preparing to gradually send back the workers to their countries. "Companies have already started sending back workers. Seven Nepali workers have already returned home from where I am working," Ram Giri, who is employed by Dyn Corps International, an American company in Afghanistan, told the Post over the telephone. "They have begun to release those working in low priority sectors. While some workers are likely to be relieved of their duties soon, others might continue working for some time, depending on the department they work for," he said. Since a majority of the Nepali workers enter Afghanistan through informal routes, neither the government nor foreign employment agencies have exact records. Workers claim that at least 30,000 Nepalis are currently employed in various security camps in Afghanistan. Most of them are employed as cooks, cleaners, gardeners, drivers, billeting officers and other non-combat jobs. The workers are first airlifted to Dubai and then brought back to Nepal by human smugglers, who charge exorbitant rates for their return, said workers. Workers expressed sadness at their dismissal, saying they will not be able to find such jobs again. "Although it's a war zone, we work inside heavily protected camps and the salary is very good," said a Nepali working for the Etco Company. He claimed to have saved at least Rs 200,000 a month. According to him, Nepalis earn as much as Rs 1 million a month. Unlike the workers, representatives of manpower agencies claimed that Nepalis will continue to get work in Afghanistan because of the investment made in the reconstruction of the country. "Many people are still entering Afghanistan every day. Since they are paid higher salaries due to the security risk, many others will still go in the coming days," said Bal Bahadur Tamang, chairman of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies. However, he criticised the government for its partial ban and restrictions on employment agencies from sending workers to Afghanistan. "By this, the government is promoting smuggling of these workers," he said. An official at the Ministry of Labour and Employment said they have been working to find if countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are safe to be re-opened to the labour market. On Tuesday, various MoLE officials, including Minister Post Bahadur Bogati, discussed the possibility of lifting the ban. Sources said the smuggling of thousands of workers despite the ban had compelled the government to discuss lifting the ban. In February this year, US President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of roughly half of the 66,000 US troops by early next year. Nepalis, who make their way to Afghanistan through illegal routes, mostly work for American companies. Despite potential security threats, Afghanistan has been one of the most sought-after labour destinations, given the lucrative salaries in security camps, foreign missions and various commissions. nnnn ACTION INITIATED AGAINST WATER BOTTLERS Kathmandu, 7 March:: The government has filed 33 cases against water bottling plants in the first four months of current fiscal year 2012-13. Bottled water is a major problem sector with regards to public health, said senior food officer of Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) Promod Koirala, The Himalayan Times reports.. DFTQC filed 25 cases and Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM) filed eight cases in the period. The regulators have taken action according to the Food Act and Consumer Protection Act, respectively. Bottled water is one of the major problem sectors, and there were lots of incidents of substandard water in the market. “We identified them and filed cases against them,” he said, adding that DFTQC filed cases at the District Administration Office according to the Food Act. DoCSM filed eight cases at the District Administration Court. DFTQC examined 79 samples of bottled water in fiscal year 2011-12, and found 52 samples contaminated with either fungi or coliform, a harmful bacteria. Similarly, pH value was also not maintained in bottled water. The best pH value is seven but drinking water can be between pH 6.5 and 9.5, according to World Health Organisation. According to clause 5 of the Food Act, bottling industries not meeting basic standards or ignoring consumer safety must be fined Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 or six months to one year imprisonment or both. However, the Consumer Protection Act has a more stringent fine and punishment provision. Clause 18 (c) of the law has a provision of up to Rs 50,000 fine or three years imprisonment or both. DFTQC has decided to introduce a provision of issuing a licence to only those water bottling plants that maintain basic standard. The department has drafted directives to enforce the provision in February. Unsafe drinking water is major cause of diseases among people living in urban areas. According to public health experts, about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of people living in cities suffer from water borne diseases. Therefore, controlling unsafe drinking water will not only help reduce public health risk but also save millions spent in treatment. nnnn


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