HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: In the wake of public outrage over the government decision to provide facilities to former bigwigs, former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and former speaker and home minister Ramchandra Paudel today returned the vehicles.
Members of the civil society, who have been staging a hunger strike at Shantibatika against the government decision, welcomed the move. In a statement, Nepal said he returned the vehicle numbered Ba 6 Cha 1030 that the Baburam Bhattarai-led coalition government had provided him through an ordinance. Paudel also returned the Scorpio numbered Ba 1 Jha 8510 to the Parliament Secretariat, according to his personnel assistant Chiranjivi Adhikary.
An ordinance re-issued on July 18 also stipulates providing Rs 50,000 as monthly house rent, Prado or Pajero worth Rs 10 million, 150 litres of petrol per month and expenses for four aides for a former PM.
It provisions facilities for former president, vice-president, prime minister, speaker, home minister and chief justice. Residential, fuel and other allowances and salaries for aides meant for six former prime ministers, four speakers, 17 home ministers and 17 chief justices, who were in office after the restoration of democracy in 1990, is estimated to cost the state a whopping Rs 500 million annually.
Nepal conceded that he decided to return the vehicle in the wake of public outrage against the government move meant to benefit former high officials, who were at the helm after 1990. The decision to provide vehicles to former high officials through ordinance will derail efforts aimed at building a national consensus, Nepal said in the statement, questioning whether the government wanted to prolong its tenure by diverting public attention from the main task at hand.
Former home secretary and member of civil society, Khem Raj Regmi, who staged a 72-hour relay hunger strike against the government move at Shantibatika, said the state cannot afford to pay for such luxuries meant for the former bigwigs, who were in office for a brief period.
Assistant professor Rabindra Nath Bhattarai, one of the participants at the strike, said politicians do not deserve such facilities.
Regmi said the ordinance issued in the absence of the Parliament smacks of misuse of authority. The government decided to provide such facilities to the former high-level officials after the Supreme Court, in its verdict responding to a PIL on December 8, 2011, asked the government to avail such facilities to those people, if need be, through law.
Earlier, the Home Ministry used to provide such facilities (vehicles, fuel, house rent and salary for bodyguards) to people on the basis of security threats.