Should the talks between the govt and the Chand-led CPN be held in an amicable manner, it will be a victory for all

That both the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) led by Netra Bikram Chand 'Biplav' have formed their respective talks team shows the resolve to pave the way for the party to enter peaceful politics. Of course, the timing of the talks has raised a lot of speculation, as it comes at a time when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has lost moral ground to continue as the executive head of the country following the Supreme Court's verdict last week to reinstate the House of Representatives, which he had dissolved on December 20 to call for snap pools. The two-member government team is led by the Home Minister, Ram Bahadur Thapa, while Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma will lead the Chand-led group. The talks teams were formed on Tuesday to decide the fate of the criminal cases filed against the cadres of the Chand-led outfit and also the arms they possess. In the past two years, police have arrested almost 2100 CPN cadres and leaders and cases filed against them for indulging in criminal activities that include murder, organised crime and sedition. Just recently, a charge sheet was filed against 42 members of the party, including Chand, at the Morang District Court for the gruesome murder of a school principal on December 8 last year.

The new constitution of Nepal, written by a Constituent Assembly, was promulgated in 2015, to give space to all the political groups as well as fundamental rights to all regardless of caste, creed or gender.

But the Chand-led CPN refused to own it and join mainstream politics. It went on a crime spree, which continues to this day, engaging in murder, arson, vandalism of individual and corporate property, and extortion.

Following a series of explosions carried out at Ncell's telecommunication towers, the incumbent government had banned the party on March 12, 2019, a step that drew much flak from rights groups and political analysts. However, on February 21 this year, Chand pulled a surprise when, in a statement, he said that his party was positive for talks with the government and open for mainstream politics.

Chand's readiness to hold dialogue with the government came just a day after the Prime Minister had appealed to all the forces of the country to join peaceful politics. Why it has agreed to do so is hard to say, at a time when the government is being cornered from all sides and the PM is under pressure to step down. Yet there are speculations that the CPN might be thinking of joining hands with similar small communist groups to form a large revolutionary party.

The Chand-led party is the only group that continues to resort to violence to achieve what it calls total transformation of the country. Earlier, in March 2019, secessionist CK Raut, who had been demanding a separate state for the Madhesi people, had given up violence to join peaceful politics. Should the talks between the government and the Chand-led CPN be held in an amicable manner, it will be a victory for all those who want to see peace and law and order return to this country. But for this to happen, the CPN must hand over all weapons to the government as it cannot be joining mainstream politics and engaging in violence at the same time.

Birth defects

Eleven countries, including Nepal, in the South- East Asia Region have joined hands in the global efforts to prevent, detect and treat birth defects.

Globally, an estimated 8 million newborns are born with a birth defect every year, of which the region accounts for an estimated 90,000 deaths associated with birth defects annually. Birth defects are structural or functional anomalies that occur during intrauterine life, the most serious of which include heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. On the occasion of World Birth Defects Day, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, in a press release, has said progress has been made in line with the WHO's priority on accelerating reductions in maternal, newborn and child mortality.

In order to prevent birth defects, countries can close the remaining immunisation gap for women and girls and increase access to quality antenatal care. Healthy lifestyle counseling will help encourage all pregnant women to avoid harmful products, such as tobacco and alcohol. The countries can also increase access to screening technologies and services, including ultrasound and neonatal screening. Both are crucial for detecting major abnormalities.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 4, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.