Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I thought you might find some of the suggestions for dealing with load-shedding humorous...from the Himalayan Times.

Ten ways to lighten you up on stark, dark days

The new load-shedding schedule has caused much distress among people. Mindless timing schedule resulting in negative reactions from people is justifiable, though there are things, which we can to do to combat this dark vortex, which will only get worse with the passage of time.
We at The Himalayan Times have 10 suggestions to remain sane in the maelstrom we call “load-shedding”.
•Generation Y can spend quality and “quantity” time (12 hours of load-shedding) at home with family, as other places are sure to be enveloped in darkness.
•For the romantics, candle-lit settings are a perfect way to have dinner on nights when the
power is off from 8pm-2am (thrice a week).
•People can have a bon-fire on their terraces or lawns with a scrumptious barbeque to beat the load-shedding.
•Happier days ahead for husbands, as their wives will not be stuck in the routine saas-bahu rut. No hang-ups as to who will watch television when.
•Kids can get away with not doing their homework and have a plausible excuse not to study. Parents please note that it is imperative that you keep emergency lights at home if you want your children to study.
•With barely enough time to charge your mobile phones, you can watch movies at the cinema hall without your cellphone disturbing you in the middle of a racy scene.
•You can avoid a bath and get away with it. Others will smell just the same, if not worse.
•Married women can finally find time to catch up on their reading, order grub or make instant food. The mothers-in-law will definitely understand.
•You can sit out and gaze at stars, they are much more clearly visible in winters and if you are lucky you may see a few shooting stars. This can be immensely romantic.
•Last, but not the least, read The Himalayan Times back to back. We are really informative and entertaining.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Maoist-led government has declared a national power emergency and decided to set up diesel-operated power plants to help meet demand.

Load shedding, on Monday, increases to 12-16 hours per day.

Keep the people of Nepal in your thoughts at this time. It is now very cold there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In an attempt to censure those journalists and institutions not sympathetic to their platform and implementation strategies, Maoist-affliated union members have triggered strong responses by the international community against their tactics.

I predict that this, with the hindsight of the historical lens, will be a watershed moment in Nepal's history.

Here are a few of the responses:
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
"NHRC urges the Nepal government to make necessary arrangement to safeguard media institutions including Himalmedia and provide security to journalists," the Commission said.

OHCHR asked the Nepal Police to complete its investigation the incident as swiftly as possible so charges could be laid, urging state authorities to take all steps necessary to ensure that the media has a secure environment to work in.

Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON) said that although Maoists have attacked press freedom time and again, the government has not taken any action yet. The attack illustrates that the Maoists still do not believe in the principals of democracy.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Broadcasting Association of Nepal (BAN), Informal Sector Service Centre and Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) and even the pro-Maoist Revolutionary Journalists Association also condemned the attack and called for legal action against those involved.

The UML today boycotted a previously scheduled meeting with Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in protest at the Maoist vandalism at Himalmedia. "We wanted to register our strong condemnation against this attack on press freedom and the values of democracy by the ruling party," the UML's Madhab Kumar Nepal said.

European Union: "This aggression represents completely unacceptable behaviour within the framework of normal and democratic political life." "Press freedom is one of the most important components of democracy, and these renewed attempts to subjugate the independent media signals a very disturbing trend that must be stopped."

U.S. Embassy: "We condemn the violent attack on Himalmedia personnel and facilities on Sunday, December 21, as a blatant, illegal assault on freedom of the press in Nepal. It was a criminal act to invade the premises and physically assault the Himalmedia staff: The perpetrators of this assault must be held accountable."

"We encourage the police to complete the investigation of this latest incident of criminal violence against the media as soon as possible and press charges against the perpetrators. There is no justification for the use of violence and intimidation by any party or organization in an attempt to control the media or threaten freedom of the press in Nepal. The culture of impunity that has protected some criminals from prosecution for violent, illegal actions should end."

Reporters Without Borders: "We urge the government to take particular care to safeguard press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said. "After the recent wave of attacks on the media, the Maoist party took no steps to punish those responsible. The government must guarantee the right of every voice to be heard by punishing violators and by not allowing its supporters to act with the impunity."

The International Federation of Journalists: (IFJ) "This attack on Himalmedia is an attack on press freedom and has nothing to do with the defence of journalism or the public interest", said Jacqueline Park, director of the IFJ Asia-Pacific. "We call upon the political leadership in Nepal, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, to promptly denounce this act of vandalism and take personal responsibility for ensuring that the guilty are appropriately sanctioned", said Park.

Rock on journalistic freedom in Nepal! I think this is the coolest nonviolent social protest statement I have seen in a long time.

The Media Society and Editors' Alliance of Nepal, in a released statement, has strongly condemned the attack by Maoist workers on Himalmedia, and launched a protest program beginning with blank editorials in all member newspapers, television and radio news programs on Tuesday.

In a very public response to the Maoist-affiliated union member attacks on Himal Media offices and staff yesterday, the major newspapers published blank editorials as a symbol of the attempt to stamp out journalistic freedom.

The protest editorials appeared Tuesday in the Annapurna Post, The Himalayan Times, The Kathmandu Post, Kantipur, Nepal Samacharpatra, Rajdhani, Himalaya Times, Image Channel TV, Image News FM, Nepal, Kantipur TV, Kantipur FM, myrepublica.com, dainikee.com, e-Kantipur, Newsfront, Nepali Times and Himal Khabarpatrika.

The respondents issued a statement: "This is the first in a series of escalating protests that our media companies will launch if the current organised attacks on us by groups affiliated to the ruling party are not stopped immediately...We feel the attack on Himalmedia and other media houses represent a serious threat to press freedom, democracy and pluralism in this country, and it is ironical that it should be perpetrated by a group affiliated to a party that won the election and leads the government."

The raid on Himalmedia on Sunday, in which 12 people were injured, was the latest in a series of attacks and threats against newspapers, tv stations and radio all over the country in the past.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Over the weekend, at least 50 former rebels attacked staff and vandalized the offices of Himal Media, one of Nepal's biggest newspaper publishing houses.

The protesters alleged that the Nepali Times and other magazines carried articles critical of the communist party. They also expressed anger at the firing or relocating of employees affliated with the Maoist movement.

Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda has denied any role in the attack. He told Nepal media the attack was by "immoral agents" who had "infiltrated" the Maoists. He pledged an investigation into the incident.

"This is a direct attack on free press and democracy," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times, which is published by Himal Media.

Hundreds of journalists marched through the capital, Kathmandu, on Monday in protest at the attack.

I challenge you to contemplate - really stop and think for a moment - what your life would be like if you had to live 10 hours of each and every day without electricity.

I hadn't gotten an email from Sudip in a few days so yesterday I Skype-called him and he reported that load shedding is now up to 10 hours per day. The reason I hadn't heard from him is that he hadn't been able to get to a computer while the power was on.

Wikipedia defines it this way:
A rolling blackout, also referred to as load shedding, is an intentionally-engineered electrical power outage. These blackouts are normally in response to insufficient resources and inability to meet prevailing demand for electricity.
I define it another way: Load shedding = dark & cold & a barrier to communication, business, development and progress. It's an everpresent feature (or should I say an everabsent feature) of the daily lives of the people of Nepal.

Here I'm quoting fellow blogger Bibek Paudel because he says it so well: "People plan their days accordingly. They sleep and wake up accordingly. Businesses and office-goers, professionals try to adjust their work and daily routine in harmony with the load-shedding schedule published by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA, aptly called No Electricity Authority of Nepal). NEA is very good at doing it. It changes its schedule and duration time and again, citing different reasons. In summers, its usually because of the flooding at certain rivers that grains and rock try to disturb the hydro-power plants. In winters, its because most rivers originating in the mountains decrease in their volumes because the snow melts less. At other times, its because one or the other power plant needs to be closed because of technical difficulties. At no points do we learn about measures taken to forestall annual occurrences of such events."

In a country where the snow melt runoff from Mt. Everest and the rest of the Himalayan range produces a power potential equivalent to the combined installed hydroelectricity capacity of Canada, the United States and Mexico, this is ridiculous. Less than 1 percent of Nepal's power potential has been developed. Basically, Nepal has the potential to produce enough power for itself, India and other other South Asia countries, with the sale of the surplus power fueling economic development.

Some assert that this latest crisis is falsely generated for some political motive such as government officials who will benefit from the building of diesel-run power plants. Others say that the current power plants are in such terrible condition that they cannot handle the load. The rapid growth of the Kathmandu Valley population is also cited.

Whatever the real reason, its a great hardship for the people.

Friday, December 5, 2008

For the first time in 7 months the US Embassy has issues a new warning about travel to Nepal. While I don't know all of the particulars that prompted the Embassy to take this step I do believe it reflects the weakening of security and the progressive audacity of the youth leagues that are harassing the citizenry here.

The warning was written on November 21 but only emailed to us today.
I provide it, for the historical record, in it's entirety below.

I am not having any problems, personally, so don't worry about me. Just please do worry about all of my Nepali friends and the country as a whole.

November 21, 2008

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Nepal and urges caution when traveling in country. The Department of State remains concerned about the security situation in Nepal and urges American citizens to obtain updated security information before they travel and to be prepared to change their plans on short notice. This replaces the Travel Warning for Nepal dated May 7, 2008 and updates safety and security information following the formation of the coalition government in August, 2008.

Despite the recent smooth transition of government, some unrest remains. The Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist Party subgroup, continues to engage in extortion, abuse, and threats of violence, particularly in rural areas. Youth groups from the other two main political parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist-Leninist Party (UML), have also formed and clashes continue among these political rivals. Violent actions by multiple armed splinter groups in the Terai region along the southern border with India remain a significant concern.

While protests and pre-election localized bombing incidents have decreased, demonstrations and disruptions still occur. During demonstrations, protestors have used violence, including damaging vehicles, throwing rocks, and burning tires to block traffic. Given the nature, intensity, and unpredictability of disturbances, American citizens are urged to exercise special caution during times when demonstrations are announced, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, avoid road travel, and maintain a low profile. Curfews can be announced with little or no advance notice. American citizens are urged to consult media sources and to register with the Embassy (see instructions below) for current security information.

Crime in the Kathmandu Valley, including violent crime and harassment of women, continues to rise. Police resources to combat such crime are limited. Police have reported a number of robberies by armed gangs, sometimes resulting in injury to the victims. The U.S. Embassy reports an increase in crime in some popular tourist areas such as Pokhara and the Thamel area of Kathmandu. Visitors to Nepal should practice good personal security when moving about, especially at night, and avoid walking alone after dark, carrying large sums of cash, or wearing expensive jewelry. In several reported incidents tourists have had their belongings stolen from their rooms while they were asleep. Solo trekkers have been robbed by small groups of young men, even on some popular trails. Some Young Communist League members extort money from foreign tourists along some popular trekking routes, and have threatened physical violence to Nepalis and non-Nepalis alike for violating localized strikes.

Travel via road in areas outside of the Kathmandu Valley is hazardous due to erratic drivers and frequent road accidents. Public transportation, such as microbuses and tuk tuks, should be avoided because they are often overfilled, driven unsafely, and mechanically unsound. American citizens should use taxis with meters or negotiate a price with the taxi driver before starting a trip.

Most U.S. official travel outside the Kathmandu Valley, including by air, requires specific clearance by the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer. As a result, The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens may be limited. Active duty U.S. military and Department of Defense contractors must obtain a country clearance for official and personal travel to Nepal.

The U.S. Government’s designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization under Executive Order 13224 and its inclusion on the “Terrorist Exclusion List” pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act remain in effect. These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States without a waiver and bar U.S. citizens from transactions such as contribution of funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists.