Nepal Today

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NEA BOARD MEETING COMVENED TO DISCUSS TRISHULI UPGRADE Kathmandu, 12 June: Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has convened a meeting of the board. Wednesday. The meeting has been convened amid escalating pressure by NUE unions affiliated with political parties to overturn a decision to upgrade the capacity of Upper Trishuli A to90 from 60MW. The 60MW power project is being constructed by a Chinese company under contract.. Unions are pressing the NEA to overturn its decision. MMMM POOR SLC RESULTS A EIGHT-YEAR LOW Kathmandu, 12 June:- The success rate in the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations dropped to an eight-year low this time around, raising questions about the government’s hefty investment in the education sector, Binod Ghimere writesin TheKathmandu Post. . Though the budget the government allocates to the sector has more than doubled in the last five years—from Rs 27 billion in 2006-07 to Rs 63.91 billion in 2012-13—the SLC results have been discouraging by the year. The SLC result is the main indicator to gauge the outcome of the investments. This year’s pass percentage at 41.57 is the lowest after 38.72 in 2005. As the Office of the Controller of Examinations said 14,454 students cleared the exams after being given five grace marks each, the actual pass percentage this year is just around 38 percent. The slide downwards all began in 2009 when a record high number of students (68.47 percent) cleared the ‘iron gate’. In 2010, the success rate dropped to 64.95 percent, further shrinking to 55.95 percent in 2011. The rate in 2012 dropped to 47.16 percent. Education Ministry officials have attributed this slump to “strict measures” during the examinations and frequent strikes and protests in the education sector. However, education experts blame this failure on the country’s contemporary education system. “The changes in the question pattern, lack of teachers for technical subjects and inadequate budget have also contributed to the poor results,” Som Lal Subedi, secretary at the Ministry of Education, said. However, education experts don’t buy this argument. The drop in the SLC pass percentage by more than 25 percent in just five years is a failure of the entire ‘education mechanism,’ according to education expert Man Prasad Wagle. “The big drop in the pass percentage shows the education system is not functioning,” he said. “It will be too late if the government does not realise that the 70’s Education Act is not going to work now.” Wagle added that it is time to be serious and formulate a new education policy with consent from all stakeholders. He said around Rs 70 billion is being spent in the academic sector, including Rs 7 billion given by different NGO’s annually, but the results are still poor. Another expert Bidhya Nath Koirala blamed ‘teachers’ negligence’ for the degrading education system in the country. “Teachers have failed to deliver as per the students’ needs,” he said, adding that the situation will not improve unless teachers become responsible in their classrooms. According to Subedi, the ministry will form an experts’ team to evaluate the poor performance in the SLC exams and will adopt its suggestions. nnnn • THREAT TO CUT OFF POWER TO BALUWATAR Kathmandu, 12 June: After cutting off power supply for two hours to the ministers’ quarters in Pulchowk for three consecutive days, agitating Nepal Electricity Authority unions have announced that they will cut power to the official residence of the Chairman of the Interim Election Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi in Baluwatar for two hours on Friday, The Himalayan Times reports.. NEA employees’ unions are protesting the government decision to upgrade the 60-MW Upper Trishuli 3A by 30 megawatts. A joint press statement issued by four agitating trade unions today states that their plan to cut off power supply to ministers’ quarters will continue on Wednesday and Thursday as well. “If the decision to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A is not withdrawn by Friday, we’ll cut power supply to Singha Durbar, Baluwatar and Pulchowk-based ministerial quarters indefinitely,” NEA Board Chairman and Minister for Energy Umakant Jha lives in the ministers’ quarters. The protest includes complete pen down in all the offices of NEA nationwide, except at the NEA counter and No Light and Emergency sections. They have also announced to increase the blackout at the central office at Ratnapark from four to five hours during office hours. Meanwhile, the second round of talks held between trade unions and the NEA board ended inconclusively today. “Our only demand is to revoke the decision,” said Ram Prasad Rimal, chairman of NEA Employees Union. Rimal said they would not sit for talks and would continue the protest unless the government decides to revoke the decision. Board member Manoj Mishra stressed on further talks to resolve the issue and defended the decision to increase the capacity from 60 to 90 MW, saying it was taken by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai-led government and several study reports supported it. Asked why they were staging the protest, Laxmi Gautam, an employee at the central office of NEA, said they were not seeking salary hike or more facilities but were showing concern about the loss NEA would incur by increasing Upper Trishuli 3A capacity. As many as 17 trade unions and organisations have backed the NEA unions’ demand to revoke the controversial decision. NSU today met Regmi and submitted an 11-point memorandum that includes the demand to revoke the decision to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A hydropower project. Nnnn DONATIONDRIVE BRINGS BACK MEMORIEC OF INSURGENCY ERA Kathmandu, 12June: The Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist has sent letters to teachers, government employees and businesspersons in Udaypur demanding financial assistance for the party, Dilliram Khatiwada reports in The Kathmandu Post from Udaypur.. The individuals receiving the letters have said they are afraid that Maoist workers could attack them if they did not support the party financially. “It’s People’s War all over again,” a teacher from Gaighat said. “The Maoists are extorting the public.” Letters sent by the CPN-Maoist call for financial, physical and moral support to the party. The recipients, however, are sure that the party is asking for money. “During the insurgency, we used to pay a part of our salary to the Maoist party. Who knows the party is trying to pull off a similar act this time as well?” said another worried schoolteacher. Tilak Katuwal, chairman of a teachers’ union, said the Maoist demand for ‘donation’ had terrorised them. “The teachers are worried if the situation is going to be like before when the Maoist party was waging a war against the state.” Government workers and businesspersons in the district, meanwhile, are reluctant to speak about the letter lest there should be some bad consequences. Kajiman Tamang, executive secretary of the CPN-Maoist , said the party is seeking support for its struggle for national sovereignty. He said only those individuals engaged in dishonest activities are threatened by the party’s letter. “The party could take physical action against those who do not support us,” he warned. nnnn ROADS IN MYAGDI BLOCKED DISRUPTING TRAFFIC Kathmandu, 12 June:: Landslides triggered by heavy rains have blocked the Beni-Jomsom, Beni-Darbang, Beni-Pakhapani and a number of other road sections in Myagdi, The Himalayan Times reports from Myagdi/. With the roads blocked, many passengers have been stranded. Myagdi Bus and Jeep Operators Committee Secretary, Suman Shrestha said Beni-Jomsom road has been blocked by landslip at three different places. “After landslides blocked the road at Bhirkate, Tiblang and Kavre, a lot of passengers heading to their destinations have been left in the lurch,” said Shrestha. “Last year, flood in the Kali Gandaki River had washed away about 100 metres of the road stretch but the road department didn’t bother to repair it on time. Due to this, the situation has worsened this year. Although, we manage to drive vehicles in the winter, it has become impossible now as the entire road stretch is submerged in water,” he said. Over 100 buses and jeeps ply on the road daily. The Beni-Darbang road section has been obstructed after a landslide occurred at Phaparkhet yesterday night, cutting off thousands of residents of more than 15 villages in the west of the district. Vehicular movement has also been disrupted on the Beni-Pakhapani road section. “Vehicular movement on the road section was disrupted for almost one month after landslides at Jhin, Ghatan and other places,” said the committee office chief Devendra Poudel, adding, “Vehicles were plying inside Jhin VDC until lately but they too have stopped now after more landslides.” Meanwhile, other road sections like Barthunge-Pulachour, Beni-Bhagawati, Beni-Baranja, Beni-Bhakimli have also been obstructed by landslides. Nnnn FAMILY GATHER AROUND CRITICALLY ILL MANDELA Kathmandu, 12 June:: As Nelson Mandela battles in hospital against a potentially life-threatening lung infection, his kin -- no strangers to family feuds -- have come together to be by his bedside, AFP reports from Johannesburg. . With hospital visits restricted to close family to minimise the risk of infection, Mandela's daughters Makaziwe and Zindzi have since the weekend been spending several hours at the Pretoria hospital where he is receiving treatment. His former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, whom Mandela divorced in 1996, five years after his release from prison, has also been visiting the anti-apartheid icon. At least two grandchildren have been spotted entering the hospital. Mandela's current wife, Graca Machel, was last week forced to cancel an appearance at an international conference in London to be with her husband. Mandela's children, unlike those of some other prominent leaders of South Africa's fight against white-minority rule, have been largely absent from public life. But in recent months they have lurched into the limelight for the wrong reasons. A squabble over the Nobel peace laureate's wealth recently spewed into the public, incensing South Africans who hold the family in high esteem. Two of Mandela's daughters have gone to court to oust some of their father's trusted friends from the board of two companies that are managing his wealth. They filed the papers two days after Mandela was discharged from hospital following his last illness in April. The daughters, saying they are acting on behalf of Mandela's grandchildren, want to remove the 94-year-old's longtime friend and lawyer George Bizos and two others from the boards of trustees of the two companies. Bizos defended Mandela during the infamous Rivonia trial, in which he was condemned to life in prison 49 years ago. The $1.7-million companies were established nine years ago to channel the proceeds of Mandela's exclusive artworks for the benefit of his wife, children and grandchildren. Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla, said he was "shocked" that his grandfather's money matters were being discussed in public. The dispute over Mandela's funds may be signs of growing assertiveness coming with their father's waning influence. "First of all we need to remember that the Mandela family is a family like any family that has issues," said Johannesburg-based political analyst Muhamed-Nur Nordien. "When you bring someone as iconic as Nelson Mandela into the picture, without a shade of doubt, you definitely have something very very complex." Some of the former statesman's grandchildren, rallying behind their mothers, have rejected public accusations of money-grabbing amid Mandela's worsening health. The icon's current condition "creates a sense of urgency for many people with interest around him. There are many people with vested interests in the Mandela name, the Mandela brand," said Nordien. Makaziwe, Mandela's eldest daughter, was furious in April after the broadcast of images of the frail leader following a visit by top officials from the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid organisation that is now South Africa's ruling party. She accused party leaders of exploiting the 94-year-old to gain political mileage, saying "they should have had the sense to not publish those pictures." Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his fight against white oppression in South Africa. He was freed in 1990 and elected president four years later, then stepped down after a single term. Now on his third marriage, he has fathered six children and 17 grandchildren. Though the South African authorities reported Tuesday that Mandela's condition remains serious, none of his family members have shown signs of sadness when they emerge from the hospital. On Monday, Winnie was even seen laughing with some unidentified people outside. While his children have been largely absent from the South African political scene, President Jacob Zuma last year appointed one of his daughters, Zenani, to be South Africa's ambassador to Argentina. Known in the family as "Zeni", she stood next to her father at his historic inauguration in 1994. Now aged 53, she has flown back from Buenos Aires to be with him. nnnn


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