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Mind Matters | Communication challenges

Throughout my life, I’ve faced challenges in communicating with others. I’ve often found myself selectively mute, feeling comfortable speaking only to those I’ve developed close bonds with, while remaining silent around others. This silence isn’t by choice, rather, I struggle to initiate conversations and engage in meaningful dialogue. This pattern has been a co…

Ways to end child labor

The World Day Against Child Labor aims to bring attention to the issue of making laborers out of children. To end child labor, the World Day Against Child Labor prioritizes education, develops economic options, upholds the law, offers social support, and raises awareness. Aaradhana Shrestha from ApEx spoke to three people to find out what communities and individuals can do to …

ICC T20 World Cup: Nepal to play against Bangladesh

Nepal are scheduled to play the 'Group D' final match against Bangladesh in the ICC T20 World Cup on Monday. The match will begin at 5:15 am (Nepali time) in the Ornos Vale stadium of St Vincent, the West Indies. As Nepal failed to advance to the quarter finals, the match did not count for the score. It is, however, considered significant for Bangladesh. South Africa clinched top…

CPPCC Vice Chairman Bater calls on PM Dahal

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Vice Chairman Bater met with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the latter's office in Singhadurbar on Sunday. During the meeting, issues of bilateral relations, mutual cooperation and implementation of the bilateral agreements and consensus were discussed. On the occasion, Prime Minister Dahal expressed pleasure at th…

Teen siblings conquer EBC

Vyom Tulsyan (16) and Ved Tulsyan (14) of India, along with Aaryam Murarka (10) of the United States, are three siblings who completed the Everest Base Camp expedition as teenagers. They describe their journey as an invaluable life lesson. The teenage brothers embarked on this mission to raise awareness about financial literacy. “The trek to the Everest Base Camp was a journey of discove…

Lawmaker Wagle advises government to implement economic reform plan

Lawmaker Dr Swarnim Wagle has advised the government to implement its announcement to initiate a new phase of economic reforms. In deliberations on the Appropriation Bill-2081 BS in a meeting of the lower house today, the lawmaker and economist suggested the government to focus on credibility and capacity enhancement, regulation of capital expenditure, and escalation of the size of the economy…

Budget-making process should be revised: Bhattarai

CPN-UML lawmaker Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai has emphasized on policy and structural change in the budget-making process. Participating in the discussion on the allocation of various ministries under the Appropriation Bill, 2081 BS in today's meeting of the House of Representatives, Bhattarai complained that the budget book was filled up with 'small pocket' projects. Urging to improv…

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Opinion

A wake-up call for the BJP

The 2024 Indian general elections have concluded with unexpected results, prompting a re-evaluation of the political landscape. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), secured a majority in parliament, marking Narendra Modi’s third term as Prime Minister. However, the BJP did not achieve a majority on its own, revealing a shift in voter sentiment. In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, and in 2019, it increased its tally to 303 seats, both times securing a clear majority on its own. However, in 2024, the BJP’s seat count dropped to 240, falling short of the 272 seats needed for a majority, which necessitated reliance on its allies within the NDA to form the government. Since 2014, the BJP has dominated Indian politics, winning commanding majorities in the 2014 and 2019 elections under Modi’s leadership. This period saw significant policies and reforms aimed at economic growth, national security and cultural resurgence. However, the 2024 election results reveal a more complex narrative. Public perception of BJP leadership, especially Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, significantly influenced the 2024 results. Critics have often pointed to their approach toward the opposition, characterized by a lack of tolerance for dissent, suppression and the use of pressure tactics. Many voters expressed dissatisfaction with this attitude, feeling it undermined the democratic fabric of the country. The electorate seemed eager to curb this perceived authoritarian streak, signaling a desire for a more inclusive and accommodative leadership style. The Muslim community notably voiced its discontent, feeling marginalized and oppressed under BJP’s rule. High-profile projects like the Ram Mandir construction and consecration only deepened these concerns, further alienating this significant voter base. Even in the Ram Mandir area, the BJP didn’t win. Modi’s government faced criticism for its SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) policy, which some analysts believe neglected regional cooperation and damaged relationships with neighboring countries, contrary to its ‘neighborhood first’ policy. This aspect may have also contributed to the dip in voter support, as citizens recognized the importance of strong regional ties for national stability and growth. The decrease in voter support for the BJP in 2024 should be a wake-up call for the party. Despite Modi being hailed as one of India’s most impactful leaders since Jawaharlal Nehru, and his commendable performance on the global stage, the electorate’s diminishing enthusiasm suggests a need for introspection. The Indian populace seems to be advocating for a diversification in leadership to prevent the stagnation of Modi’s image and to ensure a dynamic governance model. The current political landscape reveals a fragile NDA, with allies like Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu failing to inspire confidence due to their history of shifting alliances. This uncertainty paves the way for potential shifts in power, with the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) emerging as a possible alternative. The INDIA alliance, comprising several opposition parties, won 210 seats in the 2024 elections. While still behind the NDA, their growing influence suggests they could be a formidable contender in the near future if power dynamics change. However, the specter of a midterm election also looms large, which could have detrimental effects on India’s economy and its standing on the global stage. Despite these challenges, ministers like Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar have demonstrated exceptional competence. Sitharaman’s economic policies have strengthened India’s financial position, while Jaishankar’s diplomatic efforts have bolstered India’s global image. Retaining them in their respective ministries is crucial for maintaining continuity and progress in these areas. The coming days are fraught with challenges for India. Internal power struggles, developmental hurdles, economic uncertainties, and maintaining global and regional presence will test the resilience of Modi’s government. The electorate’s message is clear: The BJP must adapt, evolve, and embrace a more inclusive and democratic approach to governance. Only then can Modi hope to lead India effectively through the complexities of contemporary geopolitics and domestic affairs. As India stands at a crossroads, the hope is that Modi and his government will heed these lessons, striving for a more inclusive, democratic and progressive India. The nation's future hinges on their response to this electoral wake-up call. The author, a member of the Supreme Court Bar, has been practicing corporate law for around three decades  

Opinion

Cybersecurity: Threats and safety measures

Information Technology is rapidly transforming toward a digital era. With huge paces toward broadband internet through wireless and wireline technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine (M2M) learning, internet of things (IoT), etc, cybersecurity in networks has taken over all discussions across industries, like never before. Cybersecurity has been a widespread priority since the latter half of the ‘90s, when the dot-com boom brought the world online. More than 20 years later, we have witnessed an explosion in the number and severity of cybercrime over the course of just a few years. We’re likely to see security threats become more sophisticated and therefore more expensive over time. Experts predict that the global cost of cybercrime will reach $10.5trn by 2025, substantially up from $3trn in 2015. Nepal’s context Cybersecurity attacks in Nepal reached its peak in 2017 when 58 different governmental sites were hacked by a group of hackers. They leaked the customer’s information and citizen’s information creating a threat to the public as well as governmental organizations. Around a year back, Nepal government’s main server again faced cyberattacks causing the shutdown of a large number of government official websites. More than 400 Nepal government websites went down for hours, disrupting services and inconveniencing thousands of passengers at Kathmandu airport, exposing the vulnerability to hacking of the gov.np domain. Hackers appear to have targeted the government’s only central data bank at the Government Integrated Data Center (GIDC) with a ‘Distributed-Denial of Service’ attack, possibly from abroad, and knocked out most government ministry websites, including the database of the Department of Immigration as well as Passports. Likewise, we often come to know about hacking of Facebook, Instagram, bank accounts, etc where hackers have benefited with personal information and money in some cases. Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police is looking after cybersecurity-related crimes and is overburdened by an increased number of cases day by day. Cybersecurity threats Human interaction through email by cybercriminals remains the most dangerous hacking technique, largely because it relies on human error rather than technical vulnerabilities. It’s a lot easier to trick a human than it is to breach a security system. A study report by PwC UK revealed that over 75 percent of targeted cyberattacks start with an email. Phishing is one of the top causes of data breaches, followed by the use of stolen credentials and ransomware. Phishing and email impersonation continue to evolve to incorporate new trends, technologies and tactics. Hackers try to decoy individuals with an unbelievable amount of prize, lottery, gifts and influence for leaking the secured data and hack the bank account or ask to deposit cash at the intended bank account and later on, they fly away in no time. For organizations or companies, in some cases, hackers are not motivated by money. They simply want to make a point—social, economic, political, religious, or ethical. They leverage website defacements, ransomware, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, leaking confidential information, etc. Hackers just need data, no matter what the source may be. It’s not specific to government sites. They keep on looking for vulnerabilities, and they steal data wherever found. Cybercriminals can get around security systems by hacking less-protected networks belonging to third parties that have privileged access to the hacker’s primary target. One major example of a third-party breach occurred at the beginning of 2021 when hackers leaked personal data from over 214m Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts. The hackers were able to access the data by breaching a third-party contractor that was employed by all three companies and had privileged access to their networks. Most of us might think the Cloud would become more secure over time, but chances are that this may not happen. As per a recent IBM study report, Cloud Vulnerabilities have increased with a high stake of 150 percent in the last five years. According to Gartner, a renowned management consulting company, Cloud security is currently the fastest-growing cybersecurity market segment due to the rapid increase in use of Cloud-based services. Large-scale adoption of mobile wallets and touchless payment technology presents a target for cybercriminals. Financial and other prominent data may be under the control of cybercriminals due to mobile device vulnerabilities that have been impaired by the increase in remote work. Regular habits and practices regarding the use of technology, like using unprotected WiFi networks and failing to implement safeguards like a VPN or multi-factor authentication is another threat for cybersecurity.     Safety measures The future of cybersecurity is like a journey into the digital world, where there are both challenges and new ideas. As we rely more on technology and everything gets connected, it’s super important to keep our digital stuff safe. Here, we talk about what’s coming up in cybersecurity, like new threats and cool technology, and how we can protect ourselves online. At a time when hackers are getting smarter, knowing about cybersecurity is crucial for everyone, whether you’re a person, a business, or a government. As an individual, the most important security measures are keeping your own passwords and other information secured, avoid using unprotected hotspots or wifi networks, don’t believe on unexpected gifts and prizes for which you never have approached and use anti-virus or a comprehensive internet security solution to protect your system from attacks.    For organizations and governments, one of the big things in the future of cybersecurity is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology. These smart algorithms can look at lots of data and find patterns or strange things that might mean there’s a cyberthreat. This helps organizations find and stop cyber-attacks fast, so they don’t do too much damage. Another thing we’ll see more of in the future of cybersecurity is blockchain technology. Blockchain is like a super secure way to store and move information because it’s not controlled by one central authority. This makes it really tough for cyber bad guys to mess with it. That’s why blockchain is getting more popular, especially in industries like finance, healthcare and government, where keeping data safe is super important and any breach can cause a huge problem. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also going to be a big deal in the future of cybersecurity. IoT means lots of everyday things are connected to the internet, like smart thermostats or security cameras. So, organizations and governments will have to step up their security game to defend against cyberthreats related to IoT. The author is a telecom expert and former Managing Director of Nepal Telecom

Beneath Nepal’s surface: Tapping into the potential of underground spaces

The utilization of underground space has emerged as a crucial aspect of modern urban development, offering innovative solutions to address the challenges of population growth, urbanization, and infrastructure demands. This essay explores the global practices and prospects of underground space utilization, with a specific focus on Nepal's unique context and potential. Underground space in construction The utilization of underground space encompasses a wide range of construction methods and techniques, each tailored to specific project requirements and geological conditions. Open excavation, involving cutting the ground deeper than the existing ground level to create basements, trenches, or open pits, is a common method used for various infrastructure installations. Conversely, fully underground techniques entail excavating space within bedrock or soil cover to construct structures like caverns or tunnels. These methods have evolved, with advancements in technology and engineering enabling more efficient and cost-effective construction processes. The utilization of underground space is multifaceted, encompassing various functions such as transportation, storage, shelter and utilities. Open-cut methods, including open-pit mining and trench systems, are often employed for infrastructure installations such as water and drainage pipes, cable ducts, and utility networks. These methods offer advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness, ease of construction and minimal disruption to surface activities. Whereas tunneling involves creating underground passages through rock and soil formations, serving as vital transportation arteries and facilitating the movement of water, goods and people between different regions. Pros and cons Underground space utilization offers myriad benefits, including land conservation, enhanced environmental sustainability, and improved infrastructure resilience. By relocating infrastructure and utilities underground, cities can preserve valuable surface land for parks and green spaces, thereby enhancing the quality of urban life and promoting environmental sustainability. Moreover, underground facilities protect against natural disasters and extreme weather events, ensuring the safety of critical infrastructure and inhabitants. Additionally, underground transportation systems offer cleaner and more efficient alternatives to surface roads, reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. These advantages contribute to a more sustainable and resilient built environment, supporting long-term urban development and growth. However, despite its numerous benefits, underground space utilization also presents challenges and drawbacks that must be addressed. One significant challenge is the high initial cost associated with underground construction projects, including excavation, reinforcement and structural support systems. Geological uncertainties and risks, such as ground subsidence and water ingress, can lead to delays, cost overruns and safety hazards. Additionally, public opposition and regulatory hurdles may arise due to concerns about safety, environmental impact and community disruption. Robust maintenance and monitoring programs are required to ensure the long-term reliability and safety of underground facilities, posing logistical and financial challenges for project developers and operators. Despite these challenges, with proper planning and execution, underground space utilization can play a crucial role in shaping sustainable and resilient cities for the future. Global case studies Global case studies showcase the diverse applications and success stories of underground space utilization, offering valuable insights and lessons for urban planners and policymakers worldwide. One prominent example is the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, the world’s longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel, spanning over 57 kilometers beneath the Swiss Alps. This groundbreaking project revolutionized transportation infrastructure, significantly reducing travel times and enhancing connectivity across Europe. The Laerdal Tunnel in Norway, with its impressive length of 24.5 kilometers, exemplifies the effective use of underground space to overcome geographical barriers and optimize transport routes. In densely-populated Asian cities like Tokyo and Shanghai, underground space has become a vital component of urban development strategies. Japan’s extensive subway network, comprising approximately 1.6m kilometers of tunnels, underscores the importance of underground transportation in alleviating congestion and promoting sustainable mobility. China's rapid urbanization has spurred the construction of utility tunnels in major cities, providing essential services while minimizing surface disruption and environmental impact. European cities like Paris and Stockholm have embraced underground space utilization to preserve historical heritage and address modern urban challenges. The Paris Underground Road, an innovative double-deck tunnel system, effectively manages traffic flow while preserving the city's architectural integrity. In Stockholm, the Swedish Royal Library and Le Grand Louvre Museum demonstrate how underground facilities can seamlessly integrate with surface structures, optimizing space utilization and enhancing cultural heritage preservation. Tunneling situation in Nepal Transitioning from global case studies to the local context, Nepal’s rich history of tunneling and underground construction highlights the country’s potential for leveraging underground space in various sectors. From ancient irrigation tunnels in Palpa to modern hydropower projects like the Khimti Hydroelectric Power Plant, Nepal has a legacy of harnessing its rugged terrain for infrastructure development. Recent initiatives such as the Nagdhunga-Naubise underground tunnel road and the Melamchi Diversion Scheme underscore Nepal’s commitment to modernizing its transportation and water management systems through underground infrastructure. By studying these global and local case studies, urban planners and policymakers in Nepal can gain valuable insights into the diverse applications and benefits of underground space utilization. From enhancing transportation networks and preserving cultural heritage to mitigating environmental impact and promoting sustainable development, underground infrastructure offers a versatile and effective solution to the complex challenges facing modern cities. Nepal is currently witnessing a surge in tunneling projects across various sectors, showcasing a strategic shift toward subterranean solutions to address pressing societal needs. These initiatives encompass a wide spectrum, from the Melamchi Diversion Scheme, designed to enhance water security by channeling 170m liters per day from the Melamchi River to the Kathmandu Valley through a 26-kilometer tunnel network, to the Tarai Madhes Fast Track project, aimed at improving connectivity with a 6.5-kilometer tunnel road section. Additionally, infrastructure initiatives like the Nagdhunga-Naubise underground tunnel road, spanning 2.68 kilometers, promise to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance road connectivity between Kathmandu and the western region of Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal’s tunneling endeavors extend to the hydropower sector, with projects such as the Khimti-I Hydropower Plant featuring tunnels of significant lengths. Ongoing feasibility studies for road and railway tunnels underscore Nepal's commitment to exploring innovative solutions for connectivity and economic growth. As Nepal continues its infrastructural development journey, the strategic use of tunneling technology holds immense promise for overcoming key challenges and unlocking new avenues for progress, contributing to a more resilient and prosperous future. Challenges for Nepal In Nepal, harnessing underground space for infrastructure presents multifaceted challenges, stemming from the country’s diverse geological landscape. The Himalayan region is marked by complex geological conditions, including varied rock types, discontinuities and high groundwater levels, complicating tunneling and excavation efforts. These geological uncertainties lead to discrepancies between anticipated and actual instabilities during construction, highlighting the need for comprehensive geological surveys and risk assessments to inform project planning and mitigate unforeseen challenges. Moreover, Nepal’s susceptibility to tectonic activities and intense monsoon rains further exacerbate geological risks, emphasizing the importance of robust engineering practices and risk management strategies in underground infrastructure development. Beyond geological complexities, Nepal faces significant non-geological challenges in its pursuit of underground space utilization. Limited technical expertise and specialized equipment hinder the effective execution of tunneling projects, contributing to delays, cost overruns and suboptimal outcomes. The scarcity of skilled professionals and inadequate investment in capacity-building initiatives underscore the urgency of bolstering the country’s engineering workforce and fostering knowledge transfer partnerships with international experts. Additionally, the absence of clear regulatory frameworks and guidelines for underground construction complicates project approval processes and regulatory compliance, creating uncertainty for investors and developers. Addressing these challenges requires a holistic approach that integrates geological, technical, regulatory and institutional considerations to promote sustainable and resilient underground infrastructure development in Nepal. Strengthening technical capacity through targeted training programs and knowledge-sharing initiatives can enhance the country’s engineering capabilities and foster innovation in tunneling and excavation techniques. Furthermore, establishing clear regulatory frameworks and standards for underground space utilization can provide certainty and clarity for stakeholders while safeguarding environmental and safety concerns. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, private sector entities, academic institutions and international partners are essential for overcoming these challenges and unlocking the full potential of underground space in Nepal's infrastructure landscape. Conclusion In summary, Nepal is at a crucial juncture in its development trajectory, poised to leverage the untapped potential of underground space amid a myriad of challenges. Despite a historical focus on tunneling, particularly in hydropower projects, the nation faces complex geological dynamics and regulatory uncertainties that necessitate a strategic approach to subterranean development. By investing in geological surveys, adopting cutting-edge engineering practices and fostering regulatory clarity, Nepal can navigate the complexities of tunneling projects while harnessing the transformative benefits of underground infrastructure. Moreover, by fostering collaboration, promoting public-private partnerships and prioritizing sustainability, Nepal can position itself as a leader in underground infrastructure development. From alleviating urban congestion and enhancing disaster resilience to preserving cultural heritage and mitigating environmental impact, the potential of subterranean space is vast. With concerted efforts to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities, Nepal can chart a path toward a more resilient, sustainable and prosperous future through the strategic utilization of underground infrastructure.

Opinion

The coop scam probe panel should not fail the depositor

There was a huge hue and cry and hot debates as well as sharp allegations and counter-allegations among the political parties with regard to the huge fund embezzlement through different co-operatives for the personal gain of some swindlers. Thousands of Nepali citizens had deposited their hard-earned money in different cooperatives for rainy days. But when they knew that their deposits were embezzled, they hit the streets demanding the return of their deposits and legal action against the culprits. Some culprits have been caught, some have been absconding, while some others have been walking freely by misusing the state power. Who raised the issue? The Nepali Congress, with support from some other parties, strongly raised this issue in the parliament and on the streets. For almost three months, they obstructed the parliament demanding the formation of a broad-based parliamentary committee to probe the scam and suggest ways to recoup the deposits, recommend action against the culprits and resolve the crisis facing the co-operatives. Probe panel After long and painful days, obstructions and scuffles, verbal allegations and counter-allegations between the ruling and opposition parties, a seven-member parliamentary investigation committee (PIC) took shape with a concrete Terms of Reference (ToR). The committee will recommend ways to improve the overall condition of the cooperatives by conducting an in-depth study, focusing particularly on 20 crisis-ridden cooperatives, list those cooperatives, which financed the Gorkha Private Media Network using the depositors’ hard-earned savings, apart from the individuals, including the office-bearers, responsible for the scam. Let us hope that this committee delivers. Political strategy But this is only one side of the coin. The other vital and interesting side is the role and the strategy of the three big parties in this whole gamut. The main political strategy of the Nepali Congress was to win the depositors’ minds and support by raising and supporting their issues on the one hand, and weakening and—if possible—to break the coalition government and topple it. Whereas the desired end of the CPN-UML’s strategy was to drag the country toward mid-term polls by keeping the ruling coalition intact.  For this, the strategy intended to bring the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) to its fold, create a rift between the NC and the ruling CPN (Maoist Center) as well as between the NC and the RSP.   The strategy of the Prime Minister in particular and his party—the CPN (Maoist Center)—in general was to create an environment of mistrust between the NC and the UML, and position himself  as a mediator between the two big parties. Who gained, who lost? Let us re-examine the strategies. The NC made a compromise and moved one step back, making it partially successful with the realization of its core demand—the formation of a parliamentary investigation committee. On the downside, the party could neither make mention of Rabi Lamichhane in the TOR nor could it break the ruling coalition. The UML is happy as the party managed to get the support of Lamichhane, the chair of the fourth largest party in the parliament, and keep the ruling coalition intact. The Prime Minister is happy and satisfied as he proved himself to be a successful mediator, saved his government and widened the rift between the NC and the UML. All in all, it was a win-win scenario for all principal actors. Merits of TOR Now, let us talk about the TOR of the PIC. The TOR is generally good and positive as it is touching upon the core issues, problems and challenges facing the cooperatives. There is sufficient ground to believe that it will be able to drag out the crisis-ridden cooperatives from the vicious circle of mismanagement and mis-appropriation. For this to happen, though, the PIC should work independently and fairly on the basis of facts and figures. It should rise above a partisan outlook and work in the best interest of the country and the people by giving concrete recommendations vis-a-vis the crises-ridden cooperatives. The core issue is the depositors’ funds siphoned off to Gorkha Media Network and its embezzlement. What amount went to the network, who all are the cooperatives and individuals involved in this scam and what is the current status of this scam? The committee should bring out the facts without fear or partiality. The probe committee should keep in mind that the whole country is following the developments very seriously and carefully. The cooperatives’ victims are even more careful and alert, so the relevant actors should be honest, performance-oriented and accountable to the people. Duty of stakeholders Media outlets, intellectuals, opinion-makers and even politicians should provide their full and unconditional support to the investigation process. The PIC must complete its task within the given timeframe as any delay in the probe process is likely to invite conflict and confrontation with the victims staging street-based protests, giving rise to law and order issues and contributing further to political instability. Duty of PIC The onus is on the PIC to understand and internalize the gravity and dynamics of the issue. The political parties and the government should also take this issue very seriously because innocent Nepali citizens are furious after losing savings totaling billions of rupees. It is a genuine issue of the people and all relevant quarters should address it properly and steadfastly.  [email protected]

Opinion

Glorification of rape and the face of Nepali society

Despite knowing rape is a serious crime, it is often normalized in Nepali society. Influential figures show no sympathy for the victim while attempting to glorify the perpetrator and trivialize the crime. This trend is evident in recent incidents where society appears chaotic, tolerating such acts in the name of celebrity. It seems that efforts are being made to manipulate the law in favor of perpetrators, using various temptations to weaken the victim's outlook. Despite recognizing rape as a horrible crime, why does our society ruthlessly condone it under the costume of power and fame? This is a pressing and thought-provoking issue. Rape involves the non-consensual penetration of the body, typically through sexual intercourse or other forms of penetration, achieved by force, coercion, or manipulation. It represents a profound violation of an individual’s autonomy, dignity, and bodily integrity and is universally condemned as a criminal offense. Nevertheless, instances of rape persist across both developed and developing nations, with women and children often bearing the brunt of such assaults. Specifically, children may struggle to comprehend the nature of the attack and often feel apprehensive about reporting it. Perpetrators may exploit fear and control tactics to silence victims, thus evading accountability in society. Despite rape's designation as a serious crime, societal shortcomings frequently impede impartial investigations and the pursuit of justice for survivors. In Nepali society, incidents of rape and sexual assault rarely come to light or reach the police for investigation. Instead of conducting thorough investigations, the police and local government often attempt to mediate between the perpetrator and the victim. Power and money frequently play a significant role in silencing the victim. In recent high-profile rape cases in Nepal, perpetrators have used their influence and emotional manipulation to evade the law. While we must respect court decisions, it is crucial to discuss the issues and challenges surrounding these cases. Our primary problem is unethical leadership in both the political and social spheres. Many incidents of sexual assault and rape do not come to light due to the abuse of power by political figures. Political leaders involved in sexual misconduct often escape justice and are even rewarded with greater responsibilities within their parties and the government. Political parties and their members lack clarity and ethical standards on issues like sexual assault and rape. Moral dilemmas are pervasive among them. For the advancement of democracy, political parties and their leaders must be disciplined. However, all political parties in Nepal, both new and traditional, have failed to demonstrate ethical integrity. If political leaders do not grasp the seriousness of sexual assault and rape, a disciplined society is unattainable. Recently, Maoist leader Janardhan Sharma posted on social media about a high-profile rape case involving cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane, saying, “Congratulations to cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane for getting justice, thanks to the court. Nepali cricket will reach new heights.” Remarks like these from high-ranking politicians are deeply disappointing. The district court initially convicted Lamichhane, and although the high court overturned this decision, the victim can still appeal to the Supreme Court. When political leaders publicly side with perpetrators, it undermines public trust in their leadership. It’s crucial to understand that emotion should not play a key role when dealing with criminal matters. For instance, some argue that Lamichhane, as a national figure who has made Nepal proud, deserves leniency. However, we must remember that a national figure should exemplify moral and ethical integrity.  Moreover, Nepali society is shifting toward a crowd-based justice system. When perpetrators or convicted criminals are released from jail, people cheer and welcome them. What kind of example does this set? In a democratic society, the rule of law must be upheld, and institutions should operate independently on the basis of laws and regulations. Think about our daughters, children, or relatives, who have suffered from sexual assault. What comes to mind? Can we accept the norm that celebrities can do anything they want? The answer is no. We all have a responsibility to build a support system for rape victims and advocate for independent investigations and justice. High-profile sexual assault cases can be overlooked by society; therefore, citizens must remain vigilant in this matter. The Harvey Weinstein rape case is a prominent example of sexual assault allegations leading to significant legal and social consequences in the United States. Weinstein, a powerful film producer, was accused by numerous women of sexual assault and rape, with allegations spanning several decades. In 2018, he was arrested, and in 2020, he was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. His conviction marked a significant victory for survivors of sexual assault and set a precedent for holding powerful individuals accountable for their actions. This landmark case encouraged other victims to come forward and seek justice. The revelations about Weinstein sparked the worldwide #MeToo movement, encouraging sexual assault victims to share their experiences. This case illustrates that even in developed societies, survivors of rape or sexual assault often struggle to come forward. One can imagine how much more difficult it is for victims in societies like Nepal, where trust in the judicial system is low, and sexual assault survivors face many challenges. The recent rape cases involving Lamichhane and Paul Shah have been highly controversial due to their nature and the information released to the public. News reports revealed that the sexual assault survivor was demoralized by Lamichhane through phone calls and messages. He attempted to silence the survivor using temptation and fear. It is troubling that a perpetrator was able to contact the survivor while the case was still in court. If Lamichhane was innocent, why did he try to persuade the survivor in his favor? Some people have irrationally blamed the victim's character, which is outrageous. Both Shah and Lamichhane are public figures, and people want to be close to them. That does not permit celebrities to be involved in sexual misconduct. Celebrities should act responsibly as they are role models for many. Even a celebrity or a national figure has no right to commit a crime. Therefore, citizens and society must raise their voices for justice for rape and sexual assault victims. To prevent sexual violence and support those affected by it, society must promote a culture of respect and accountability, establish strong support systems for survivors, and hold perpetrators accountable.

A sick South Asia: The price of corruption

Forget stock markets and GDP trends; there’s another annual report that genuinely reveals the health of a nation: Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). This year, the news for South Asia isn’t pretty. While the numbers don't directly measure coughs or broken bones, they paint a chilling picture of a region struggling with a disease that eats away at its very well-being—corruption. Across the board, South Asia scores below the global average, like a student consistently failing basic integrity tests. Only Bhutan and the Maldives show signs of improvement, but what about the rest? Stagnant or slipping backwards. Afghanistan languishes at the bottom, Sri Lanka takes a worrying dip, and even giants like India and Pakistan fail to impress. But why should we care about greased palms and shady deals when discussing health? Because corruption is a silent killer. It diverts lifesaving funds from hospitals, fuels the spread of counterfeit drugs, and silences voices that could expose public health failures. The lower the CPI score, the harder it becomes to guarantee equal access to quality healthcare, a fundamental human right that shouldn’t be a luxury. The CPI is a wake-up call that the fight for a healthier South Asia starts with tackling the rot at its core.  Consider how public health budgets for lifesaving medications and equipment are diverted to enrich corrupt individuals, a harsh reality in many South Asian countries. In 2022, Pakistan’s Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) registered a Rs 800m embezzlement case against seven doctors and four other officials of the Mayo Hospital for a nefarious scheme, purchasing substandard items at inflated prices, effectively playing with people's lives. Meanwhile, a few days ago, in India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested two of its own officers investigating alleged irregularities in Madhya Pradesh nursing colleges. These officers face charges of setting up a cartel that would collect bribes from college officials in exchange for overlooking issues and granting clean chits. The fake nursing college scandal undermines public health by potentially graduating unqualified nurses, who could put patients at risk, raising concerns about the broader prevalence of such institutions nationwide. When Covid-19 first made inroads into Bangladesh, doctors worried about the inadequate quality of personal protective equipment. There have also been instances of healthcare establishments providing fraudulent Covid-19 test results at a hefty cost. They went even further, charging a premium for Covid-19 treatment, which the hospital should have provided for free and reimbursed by the government. Instead, it did both. Transparency International’s 2020 report on Pakistan paints a grim picture, highlighting the widespread practice of bribery for essential services like prenatal care and surgery. In this environment, the poor and marginalized, who are already struggling to make ends meet, are often left with no choice but to forego treatment, perpetuating a vicious cycle of illness and despair. The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) arrested Sri Lanka’s former health minister and current environment minister in Feb 2024 for spending $465,00 on lifesaving medications that failed quality tests. Sri Lanka's National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) claimed that falsified paperwork was utilized to get this batch of low-quality human immunoglobulin, a lifesaving treatment for severe antibody deficiency. In the middle of last year, hospitals complained about patients’ drug reactions. The ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’ health insurance scheme, a source of hope for India’s low-income families, was rocked by allegations in 2021. Private hospitals entrusted with critical care have been accused of inflating bills, performing unnecessary surgeries and even refusing to treat those who are eligible. This breach of trust may have diverted significant funds to provide a lifeline for the underprivileged. While investigations continue, the possibility of large-scale corruption casts a cloud of suspicion over this critical program. Nepal’s Omni scandal during Covid-19 starkly illustrates the insidious reach of corruption in South Asian healthcare. Amidst the pandemic’s urgency, a dubious contract inflated prices and awarded medical supply procurement to a politically-connected company (OBCI) lacking relevant experience. This case exposes the nexus between politics, business and bureaucrats, where public health takes a backseat to self-interest, jeopardizing lives during a crisis. Looking beyond our immediate borders, the Maldives, despite its idyllic image, is not immune to healthcare corruption. A 2019 Transparency Maldives report found evidence of bribery in procuring medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, raising concerns about the quality and accessibility of care. Myanmar also faces significant challenges. A United Nations report in 2021 highlighted inadequate healthcare infrastructure and a shortage of qualified personnel, exacerbated by potential systemic corruption. In Ghana, over 80 children tragically lost their lives after consuming cough syrup imported from India, a grim result of systemic regulatory failures and corruption. This incident underscores the severe consequences of compromised safety standards in pharmaceutical exports, driven by the prioritization of profit over human lives. The Ghana scandal highlights global ramifications of health sector corruption, demonstrating that lapses in regulatory oversight can have deadly international repercussions. This discussion paints a bleak picture of how deeply corruption pervades South Asia’s health systems, with disastrous consequences for public health. This begs the question: Can we remain silent in the face of such widespread suffering? Given the lackluster and haphazard efforts of governments in this region to address corruption in meaningful ways, two key actors have a moral obligation to raise their voices and help tackle this issue head-on: WHO and other UN agencies. As the world’s leading authority on public health, the World Health Organization (WHO) cannot ignore the insidious link between corruption and poor health outcomes. Its regional and country offices must become vocal supporters of clean and transparent healthcare systems. Issuing strong statements is a powerful way to effect change. The WHO director-general and regional directors should publicly condemn corruption in health, emphasizing its negative impact on populations. They can set the tone for prioritizing integrity and accountability in healthcare systems by stating their position clearly. Since WHO leadership now makes statements on ongoing wars and conflicts, corruption should no longer be taboo.  WHO’s ambivalence on corruption and reluctance to highlight how privatization of health services harms public health outcomes has not helped either. The evidence for this correlation has long been available, but there has been no effective advocacy by the global custodian of health. Many of South Asia’s lawmakers and their families own private hospitals, medical colleges, nursing homes and schools. It is clear where they would stand in the privatization of health debate. WHO should advocate, in particular, with those international finance institutions constantly pushing for lower public-sector health spending and see privatization as the first line of treatment for failing healthcare systems. WHO enters into three to five-year country cooperation agreements with host governments to outline the agreed-upon work plan. Corruption in the healthcare sector should be a vital component of this agreement with allocated funds. Without this, the WHO becomes an accomplice to local politicians, who steal donated money. Thorough country-focused research and reports showing the quantifiable effects of corruption on health outcomes are another essential strategy for fighting health corruption. Data encourages decision-makers to act, especially when it comes to citizen health. Rather than adding to its already overburdened issue list, the WHO should work closely with organizations like Transparency International and the Boston University School of Public Health, which have specialized expertise and credibility in this field. In such partnerships, the WHO can help develop clear policies, implement effective oversight mechanisms, and promote transparency in health procurement and resource allocation. Supporting whistleblower protection within WHO, specifically its regional and country offices worldwide, is a critical aspect of combating corruption in health. WHO employees and collaborators who witness corruption firsthand should have safe and confidential channels to report it without fear of retaliation. The WHO can help expose corruption, hold wrongdoers accountable and improve healthcare delivery by creating an environment where whistleblowers feel empowered and protected.  Development agencies, the United Nations and international donors are critical players because they provide the financial and technical support required to drive country-level development efforts.  However, due to the pervasive influence of corruption, these organizations frequently face obstacles in their efforts. To effectively address this issue, they must take proactive measures and make more intentional decisions. First, they should include corruption assessments in their country reports. This allows them to better understand the scope and nature of corruption in each country, which is critical when developing effective anti-corruption strategies. Recent UN country reports rarely mention the words ‘corruption’ and ‘misgovernance’. Second, donors should tie aid to demonstrable anti-corruption efforts. Third, they should help civil society organizations (CSOs) combat corruption. CSOs play an essential role in holding governments and other institutions accountable, and they require financial and technical resources to do so effectively. Corruption is a human invention; it can be dealt with, even in South Asia!

politics

CPPCC Vice Chairman Bater calls on PM Dahal

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Vice Chairman Bater met with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the latter's…

Three-tier collaboration vital for Chure conservation: PM Dahal

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal advocated for collaboration and cooperation among the three-tier government, local communities, and authorities in …

President Paudel in Germany

President Ram Chandra Paudel reached Berlin on Saturday.  He paid an official visit to Germany at the cordial invitation of President of the Fed…

PM Dahal asked to brief House about his India visit

Nepali Congress Chief Whip Ramesh Lekhak has demanded Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to brief the House about his recent India visit. Speaking …

apEx pioneers

Harry Bhandari: An inspiring tale of Nepali immigrant in the US

Quick facts Born on 1 Oct 1977 in Parbat Went to Tribhuvan Secondary School, Parbat Graduated in PN Campus, Pokhara; post-grad in English literature from Tribhuvan University First elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018 and has been a member of the House since Jan 2019 PhD from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Husband to Sangita Baruwal Father to Ronix Bhandari and Salona Bhandari I began my early education at a public school establishe…

Baburam Bhattarai: An analysis on Nepal’s underdevelopment

Quick facts Born on 18 June 1954 in Gorkha Went to Amarjyoti Janata High School, Gorkha Graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh, Post-grad from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi PhD in Regional development planning from Jawaharlal Nehru University Published doctoral thesis ‘The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis’ in 2003 Husband of Hisila Yami Father to Manushi Yami Bhattarai I went to India in…

Sunil Babu Pant: A guardian of LGBTIQA+ community

Quick facts Born on June 1972 in Gorkha  Went to Laxmi Secondary School, Gorkha  Graduated in Computer Science from Ukraine and Belarus  Became the member of first constituent assembly in 2008  Partner to Peter Neil  I saw the oppression of gay men during my time in Minsk, Belarus, where I was studying for my master’s degree in computer science. The queer bashing, the poster…

Usha Nepal: An inspiration to every working woman

Quick facts Born in Mahottari, Nepal Went to Balika Secondary School, Biratnagar Received a Bachelor’s in Arts from Banaras Hindu University, India Received a Master’s degree through Colombo Plan Scholarship in Patna, India  Studies Law from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu Became the first female CDO in 1989 Being the first female Chief District Officer (CDO), whi…

Anupama Khunjeli: A trailblazer banker

Quick facts Born on 14 Nov 1970 in Kathmandu  Went to St Mary’s High School, Lalitpur  Graduated from Shanker Dev Campus; post-grad from Ace Institute of Management  Joined banking sector in 1991 as a teller  Wife of Dr Rabindra Khunjeli  Mother to Swastika Khunjeli  I have always had a competitive streak in me. I was into sports from a young age and I wanted to be an ath…

Capt Siddartha Jang Gurung: Aviation rescue specialist

Quick facts Born on 20 April 1975 in Lalitpur  Went to Alperton High School, London, UK Completed flight course from Florida Flight Academy, US Started rescue flights from 1995  Husband of Sraddha Gurung Father to Devanshi Gurung and Shlok Jung Gurung  I have been flying helicopters for 27 years now, and have a long experience of flying in the mountainous terrain of Nepal…

Bhuwan Chand: Born to perform

Quick facts Born on 14 June 1949, Kathmandu Went to Ratna Rajyalaxmi Campus, Pradashani Marg, Kathmandu  Took a leading role in the first Nepali feature film ‘Aama’ in 1964 Wife to Michael Chand Mother to Sheela Chand, Sheetal Chand, and Shirush Chand  I started my career in acting when I was merely four-five years old. Back then, we had no such thing as film acting. Nepal s…

editorial

working together is no longer optional-it is a matter of compulsion

Annapurna Media Network has announced the Unity for Sustainability campaign which comes into force from January 1, 2022. The main aim of this campaign is to 'lead the climate change dialogue' working closely with all the stakeholders on sustainable development mode, particulary focusing on climate-change issues.