People will be closely watching to see if the lawmakers will allow the passage of the MCC compact in the House

The winter session of parliament, also known as the bills session, began on Tuesday, and three cabinet ministers tabled quite a few important ordinances and bills, amidst obstruction by the main opposition - CPN-UML. On Tuesday, six ordinances were presented, with Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand tabling the Social Security (First Amendment) Ordinance, Nepal Police and Provincial Police (Operation, Supervision and Coordination) Ordinance, and Acid and other Harmful Substances (Regulation) Ordinance in the House. Similarly, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Renu Yadav presented the Railway Ordinance, whereas Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Dilendra Badu tabled the Ordinance to Amend Some Criminal Offences and Procedure Acts and the Ordinance to Amend the Sexual Violence Act. A large number of bills –54 of them – are under consideration of the parliament, with bills related to citizenship and federalism's implementation requiring urgent passage. The budget session of the parliament had ended amidst continued obstruction by the opposition, the CPN- UML, which made it impossible to debate and pass any bill except the one related to the budget.

And the UML has hinted that it would continue to obstruct the House this time as well unless their concerns are looked into. The opposition has been accusing Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota of bias against it.

Speaker Sapkota is accused of not confirming the expulsion of 14 UML lawmakers of the Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal breakaway faction – which later formed a separate party – from the House of Representatives and party positions for defying the party whips on May 10 when the then Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, was seeking a vote of confidence. However, the Speaker had ruled on August 29 that the issue was under judicial consideration and, therefore, prohibited from public discussion elsewhere. The UML claims, as the 14 lawmakers expelled by the UML were no longer lawmakers, allowing non-lawmakers to sit in the House went against the HoR and National Assembly regulations.

People will be closely watching to see if the lawmakers will allow the passage of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has vowed to push through the parliament. A component of the coalition government – the CPN-MC – is opposed to passing the MCC compact as it is and wants some modification, which has been flatly refused by the MCC Board. Some parliamentarians in the UML are also dead set against ratifying the MCC agreement. In November, visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, during his meetings with officials and party leaders, had asked Nepal to make its stance clear on the MCC by December 14, failing which the U.S. would give the $500 million grant to other countries. Coincidentally, the winter session starts on the very day the MCC Board is meeting to discuss whether to scrap the deal. Time is running out, and it is uncertain if Deuba, who is contesting the election for the NC party chiar at the 14th general convention, can convince both the ruling parties and the opposition to vote for the MCC.

Missing people

It is disturbing to learn that many Nepalis who work in India as seasonal labourers go missing every year, and the trend is on the rise. A report from Doti states that as many as 165 people from four local levels of Sudurpaschim Province have gone missing or are out of contact with their families. Most Nepalis who work in Indian cities and factories work in difficult working condition, always putting their life at risk. The government does not have any up-to-date record of Nepalis engaged in the informal sector in India. They are compelled to go to India to take up hazardous jobs due to unavailability of job opportunities within the country, especially in Sudurpaschim, which lags behind the other provinces in human development.

The Nepali Embassy in New Delhi must do the needful to know whereabouts of those missing people in India. The officials should maintain a record of the Nepalis visiting India at all customs points. It would be easy for the embassy and the Nepal government to hold talks with the Indian officials to find the missing people if we maintain their personal records – name and address at home and name of the place they are visiting in India – at the point of departure.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.