Instead of showing feelings of hatred, the Bhaktapur locals can set an example of humanity by welcoming the China evacuees
“Right to life is the right of all citizens. Beware Nepal government! Treatment of coronavirus disease should not be carried out in human settlements; do not play with the health of locals; withdraw the government decision to set up a treatment centre at Kharipati Training Centre; the local people should not be displaced on the pretext of (coronavirus) treatment”. A black banner, symbolising a protest, has been put up by the locals outside the NEA Training Centre, Bhaktapur, which has been vacated for quarantining Nepalis returning from China’s Hubei province, hit hard by the virus that has already claimed the lives of more than 800 people. The training centre is one of the several facilities identified by the government to quarantine the Nepali evacuees, who will be spending there around two weeks before they are allowed to meet with their families back home. The government has no option other than to keep them, most of them students, in the government buildings, where they can be provided with healthcare and other support round the clock. Since the government cannot build a separate hospital for them in weeks’ time, what the government has decided is a welcome move, which should be backed by people from all walks of life, including the Bhaktapur locals.
It is mean-mindedness on the part of the Bhaktapur locals to oppose the government’s plan to house the Nepali returnees from China under a two-week quarantine when the entire world is frantically grappling with the “global health emergency” as described by the World Health Organisation weeks ago. Obviously, the locals did not resort to protesting the plan on their own. It is the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, led by none other than the seasoned politician, Narayanman Bijuckchhe, who provoked the locals to take to the streets to protest the plan a couple of days ago. Rather than showing utmost sympathy and goodwill toward the affected Nepalis, Bijuckchhe, his party and the locals are treating them as if they were aliens and not fellow brethren who need our support in this time of crisis.
It is the duty of all responsible citizens to show sympathy and extend cooperation to the extent possible whenever people from any part of the country suffer from natural disasters like an earthquake, outbreak of an epidemic, a flood or a landslide. As a nation, we have also extended help to the people the world over when they suffered from such calamities beyond human control. The locals of Bhaktapur must understand that the China evacuees will be kept in isolation from them at least for two weeks to see to it that they are fully immune to the virus. The government decided to evacuate the Nepalis after it found their life in Hubei was “unfavourable”, as stated by the National Human Rights Commission. The government had a plan to evacuate 180 Nepalis from February 3. But it could not do so due to lack of enough preparations at home and other logistics, and also diplomatic arrangements needed to be fulfilled with the Chinese government. Instead of showing a feeling of hatred with the evacuees, the Bhaktapur locals can set an example of humanity by heartily welcoming them from outside the centre.
Despite the enthusiasm in the country, the Visit Nepal 2020 did not start on an auspicious note. It definitely wasn’t the most appropriate time to sell Nepal in Australia, where a raging bush fire in Sydney was usurping all the attention of its government and the people. And then came the novel coronavirus in China, which has put a ban on outbound travel for its people. With the Chinese making up the second largest number of tourists to Nepal, it is no surprise that overall visitor arrivals dropped by 33 per cent in January compared to the previous year. Other unpleasant incidents such as the avalanche in the Annapurna region and the death of eight Indian tourists in a resort have only added to Nepal’s woes.
It’s pretty evident that the corornavirus scare will keep Chinese tourists away for some more months, and maybe even visitors from traditional markets in Europe and America. To make up for the loss, vigorous marketing to lure tourists from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is suggested. Bangladesh’s economy is seeing an upswing in recent years, and it could be a major generator of visitors. Selective marketing in a few potential countries could do wonders than trying to reach out to the whole world.
A version of this article appears in print on February 11, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.