Health should not be for wealth


Binita Dahal

The putative putsch by the Nepali Congress this week to get the Maoists to abandon their alliance with the UML in the governing coalition has had far-reaching consequences.

It has brought fresh uncertainty about the new government, final fate of the Constitution, inclusion of dissatisfied Madhesi and Janajati elements into mainstream politics, endorsement of budget-related bills, long-delayed appointment of Supreme Court justices, ratification of ambassadorial appointees and, most urgently, meeting the demands of Govinda KC, the physician who has now been on a hunger strike for 13 days.

While the ruling and opposition parties are at loggerheads over whether to form a new government, the parties who are willing to do so are halting the process of the parliamentary hearing of the 11 justices nominated for Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will be a critical arena for writ petitions in the coming days since the rival parties are consulting legal experts about the constitutional crisis and the no-confidence motion in parliament. The Maoists and Nepali Congress do not want to start the hearing process of the 11 justices, since many of them are closer to the UML.

This delay also impacts on one of Govinda KC’s demands, which calls for the impeachment of Lokman Singh Karki, Chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Another contempt of court case against Karki is also sub judice in the Supreme Court, which has summoned him. If found guilty in the contempt case, Karki could even be suspended from his CIAA post.

Although assorted politicians, Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar and some members of Parliament’s Social Justice and Human Rights Committee visited the fasting doctor this week, the government has not bothered. Some of KC’s current demands persist from past hunger strikes, and include those that had been either ignored or only partially implemented.

On this eighth fast, some of KC’s demands are more serious and zero in directly on the source of interference and corruption in the medical education sector. KC has long known that Karki has a conflict of interest in medical education because of the involvement of his immediate family members in this lucrative sector. KC also knows full well that top politicians own or benefit monetarily from medical colleges, and they are beholden to Karki.

Hence, among his demands for health sector reform, KC is also asking for Karki’s impeachment. It is probably for this reason that parliament members and the government are not responding, because conceding to the impeachment process would invite Karki’s wrath. They also probably feel – rightly so – that cobbling together a two-thirds majority for impeachment is impossible in the current fractious climate.

Which is why the government finally formed a dialogue committee to mediate with KC on the eleventh day of his hunger strike. Headed by a bureaucrat, however, the committee has no power to address KC’s demands.

The popular young NC leader Gagan Thapa on Thursday filed a motion of urgent public importance to discuss KC’s demands in parliament. Nevertheless, his party has already decided to abstain from debating KC’s grievances. This is an indication of just how long a shadow Karki casts in the party.

Speaker Magar assured KC on Wednesday that she would take the initiative in parliament to address his demands. It is interesting that she had stopped by to meet Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and President Bidya Bhandari before seeing KC.

Govinda KC commands tremendous public respect and support for his selfless and lifelong devotion to healthcare for Nepal’s poor. The CIAA has used a pliant section of the media to publicise a counter-campaign by private hospital owners against KC’s demands, but the attempt to discredit him has come to naught.

As KC’s health deteriorates, a Health Bill that does not address any of his demands is awaiting ratification by parliament after the Cabinet passed it last week. Parliament needs to take a new look at the Bill and form a committee to investigate the abuse of authority by the CIAA Chief, in order to satisfy KC.

The new Constitution has a provision that one-fourth of the House of Representatives may table a motion to impeach the head of the CIAA for a serious violation of the Constitution, incompetence, misbehaviour or failure to discharge duties.

According to provision 101(3), a committee of 11 members can be formed in the House of Representatives to recommend charges of impeachment. For now, such a committee could easily be established.

KC’s past fasts have put pressure on stakeholders, but this time the government is wholly preoccupied with the formation of a new government. Public pressure on parliament is therefore important. We cannot afford to lose someone like Govinda KC, who has devoted his life to the health of the nation with no regard for his own.

Government officials and parliamentarians blame KC for getting the timing of his hunger strike wrong.

What is the right time to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all Nepalis, or to clean up the medical education sector?


This article was originally published in Nepali Times (,753)

The Holy Hike

This monsoon, combine a trek with a pilgrimage in the mystical dales of Khaptad National Park

Binita Dahal in KHAPTAD


If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and want a trek that detoxifies you both physically and spiritually, there is perhaps no destination more worthy than a holy hike to the Khaptad in the far-western mountains of Nepal.

In the past, Khaptad was just too remote: only the privileged — those with access to helicopters — and the really devout made it there. Now, with new roads, Khaptad National Park is surprisingly accessible and a fabulous way to see a part of Nepal that is literally off the beaten track.

About 100 trekkers visited Khaptad last year. The facilities are basic, but that is the whole point: to get away from it all, to a place with no mobile phones, no electricity, no concrete and no sound of the internal combustion engine.

No wonder Khaptad Baba, one of the most revered holy men in Nepal, lived here for 50 years of his life, meditating in an ashram in the forest. It is said he first settled on the banks of Rara Taal, but found the view there too distracting and came to Khaptad, drawn by its biodiversity and treasure of herbs.

Khaptad Baba was a healer and used medicinal plants to treat villagers from the surrounding districts of Doti, Bajhang, Achham and Bajura, who brought yoghurt and food in exchange.

King Birendra flew here frequently to seek Khaptad Baba’s blessings. Today the ashram itself is a shrine maintained by the Army, and serves almost as a museum of books and daily utensils used by Baba.

Khaptad soars above the surrounding districts, its thickly forested flanks bathed in clouds this time of year. The top is an undulating plateau of pine forests and meadows with crystal clear streams and ponds. During this season, the place is crowded with pilgrims, as well as livestock that are brought here to graze.

The easier trail is from Bajhang in the north, but one can also climb from Doti to the south. The rains have come after a long winter drought, and the submerged paddy terraces shine like mirrors. But soon, the trail climbs into the tree line. The forest is so thick that people have gotten lost here, so it is best to keep to the main trail.

There is none of the sophistication of Nepal’s more popular trekking routes; only basic tea and buckwheat pancakes with — if you are lucky — chutney made from the cannabis plant that grows wild here.

As the monsoon rains have started, the trails were slippery and leeches dropped from the canopy. Thousands of pilgrims from surrounding districts hike up to the plateau for the Ganga Dashara Mela to offer prayers at the Sahashra Linga, Nag Dhunga and Kedar Dhunga. They take a ritual dip in the Khaptad Daha and Triveni Dham.

Besides cleansing them of sins, the festival also traditionally serves as a gigantic match-making opportunity for young men and women. There is a lot of singing and deuda dancing, and love blossoms in the fields of flowers (known as patan) that characterise Khaptad in the rainy season.

Rich biodiversity — attributable to altitude variation — is one of the reasons Khaptad is a national park. It has 224 species of medicinal herbs, 266 bird species, and more than 20 species of mammals. From 3,200 m the terrain dips down to 300 m on the banks of the West Seti River down in Dipayal.

Getting there

Fly or take the night bus from Kathmandu to Dhangadi, then the bus to Lamatola of Bajhang which takes 12 hours. Return via Doti.


This article was originally published in Nepali Times (,3153)


विनिता दाहाल

मध्यरात छानाबाट चुहिएको शीतको थोपा निधारमा ठोक्किएपछि सानो छोरा झसंग ब्युँझियो। त्यहीबेलादेखि सीताका आँखा फेरि लाग्न पाएका छैनन्। छोरोलाई आफू सुतेको ठाउँपट्टि सारेर एकछिन दूध चुसाउँदै थुम्थुमाएपछि ऊ कोकोहोलिन पाएन। छोरोले निद्राकै सुरमा कोल्टे फेरेपछि सीता बाहिर निस्किई।

भूकम्प गएपछि सरकारले ओत लाग्न दिएको पालमा कहाँनेर प्वाल छ, उसले त्यसैबाट पूर्णिमाको उज्यालोमा टहराभित्रबाटै बाहिर छ्यांग देखिएको आकाश नियाली। शीतका थोपा चुहिएको रोक्न, वर्षामा रोपाइँ जाँदा ओढ्ने गरेको स्यारलेटले थपक्क छोपिदिई।

मध्यरात हुँदा बल्लबल्ल तातेका उसका हातखुट्टा फेरि उत्तरका हिमालबाट आएको स्याँठले हिउँ छोएर आएजस्तै चिसा भए। अघि छोरो सुतेकै ठाउँमा गएर निदाउन खोजी। थोपाथोपा शीत झरे पनि थाङ्नो भिजेर लफ्रकै भइसकेको रहेछ।

उसले छोराको अनुहारमा शीत परेपछि मात्रै थाहा पाएकी रहिछ। अब यो रात कसरी काट्ने होलारु कठ्यांग्रिदो जाडोले शरीर मात्रै होइन, केही दिनयता गाउँलेले काट्न थालेका कुराले उसको मन उत्तिकै चिसो भएको छ।

बारीको तल्लो पाटोमा अलिकति तरकारी लगाउनुपर्यो भनेर केही दिनअघि ऊ ढुंगेधारामा पानी भर्न गएकी थिई। गाउँकी एक जना जेठानी दिदीले बाटोमा भेटेर साउती गर्दै उसको कान भरिदिई, ‘अहिले ससुरा बुहारी एउटै ओछ्यान ला’एर सुत्छौ रे भनेर गामभरि मान्छे कुरा काट्न थालेका छन्। मैले हिजो हाम्रा घरकाले भनेपछि था’पाएँ। तिमी त्यस्ती छैनौ। तर होस् गरेस्, गामठाम यई हो।’

त्यति सुनेपछि उसको मनमा उकुसमुकुस हुने गरी कुरा खेल्न थालेका छन्। माइतीमा पनि यो कुरा पुर्याए होलारु अब कुन मुख लिएर गाउँमा मेलापात गर्न जाउँलारु भूकम्पले ओत लाग्ने छानोमात्रै छिनेन, आफ्नो अस्मिता माथि अरूलाई कुरा काट्ने ठाउँसमेत दिएको छ।

हुन त भूकम्पले गाउँभरिकै घर ढलेर सबैको टहराकै बास छ तर उनको जस्तै बाध्यतामा गाउँका अरू छैनन्।
ऊ मनमा अनेक कुरा खेलाइरहेकी थिई। पानी भर्न आएका गाउँका अरू महिलाले मुखामुख गर्दै पानी भरे। वर छँदा केही भनेनन्, पानीको गाग्री बोकेर अलि माथ्लापट्टि कान्लामा पुगेपछि धारे हात लगाउँदै भने, ‘भगवानको डरभर नभएपछि कसको के लाग्छरु’

सीतालाई मनमनै लाग्यो, सासू निकै जाति थिइन्, भूकम्पले छिट्टै लग्यो। भूकम्पमा नमरेकी भए अहिले गाउँलेका यस्ता कुरा सुन्नुपर्ने थिएन। भूकम्पले घर भत्काउँदा गोठमा भैंसीलाई कुँडो खुवाउन पुगेकी सासू गाईको किलोसँगै मरेकी भेटिइन्। त्यसैबेलादेखि ससुराको पनि सुर छैन।

भूकम्प नआउँदै आर्थिक जोहो गर्न भन्दै कतार पुगेका श्रीमानले छुट्टी मिलाएर घर फर्कन पाएका छैनन्। भूकम्पपछि के कस्तो भयो भनेर खबर गर्दा उनले रुँदै भनेका थिए, ‘आमाको काजक्रिया गर्न पनि नपाउने भएँ। बाँचेका बाको राम्रो हेरबिचार गर्नू।’

बिहान बेलुका नुनतेल गर्न दूध बेचेर पुग्ने भैंसी पनि गोठ भत्किएर दाम्लाको दाम्लै मर्यो। यो वर्ष दशा पनि सबै खुशी बढारेर लैजाने गरेर आएको रहेछ क्यारे।

उसलाई लागेको छ, अहिले मध्यरात १ बजेको हुनुपर्छ। सुत्न पुग्ने अरू ठाउँ यो सानो टहरामा अन्त छैन। राति जाडो नहोस् भनेर अगेनामा झोसेको एउटा मुडो पुतपुत धुवाइरहेको छ। ऊ चार जना छोराछोरीलाई भएका सिरक ढस्नाले गुम्म छोपिदिएर मजेत्रोको सप्को देब्रे काँधमा हालेर अगेनाछेउ सरी। अनुहारभरि मुझैमुझा परेका ससुरा त्यतै फर्किएर निदाइरहेको उसले आगोको थोरै उज्यालोमा देखी। भूकम्प गएपछि घर भन्नु टहराको यही एउटा खोपोजस्तो ठाउँ छ। जहाँ बीचमा एउटा अगेना छ। त्यसको देब्रेछेउ सीता आफ्ना साना छोराछोरी च्यापेर सुत्छे। दाहिनेछेउ अगेनाकै अढेश लागे जसरी ससुरा बुढा निदाउँछन्।

उनको अनुहार हेरेर उसलाई लाग्यो, बाको उमेर पुगेका यी बुढासँग गाउँलेले मेरो नाम जोडेर के पाप चिताएका होलान्रु श्रीमति मरेपछि ससुरा पनि दिनरात नभनी जाँडमात्रै खान्छन्। सुर गुमाएजस्ता भएका छन्। कहिले नातिनातिना, बुहारीले देख्छन् भन्ने पनि ख्याल नगरी टहराकै छेउतिर पिसाब फेर्न जान्छन्।

ऊ के के सोच्दै थिई, बुढा ख्वाकख्वाक गरेर अर्कोपट्टि कोल्टे फर्किए। घुँडामा दुवै हात बाँधेर दाहिनेपट्टिका ससुरालाई हेर्दा उसको देब्रे आँखाबाट तर्रर आँशु झर्यो। मनभित्र परेको गाँठो कहिलेकाहीँ त भल्भली बगेका आँशुले पनि फुक्दैनन्।

जेठानी दिदीको कुरा सुनेपछि भक्कानिएर श्रीमानसँग फोनमा कुरा गर्छु भनेर तल्ला घरे माइलामार्फत खबर पठाए पनि उनको फोन आएको छैन। काममा समय मिलाउन निकै गाह्रो पर्छ भन्थे। मिलेको भए त उनले पनि गरिहाल्थे।
भूकम्प नजाँदै, गाउँमा उब्जनी पनि हुन छाड्यो। वर्षैपिच्छे जन्मिएका छोराछोरीलाई पढाइलेखाइ गराउन गाह्रो हुने भयो भनेर रमेशले एक साँझ श्रीमतिलाई सोध्यो, ‘मेरो उमेर छँदैछ, तँ घर व्यवहार टार्छु भन्ने आँट गर्न सक्छेस् भने म विदेश गएर चार–पाँच वर्ष कमाएर आउँछु। तेरै दाइले पनि विदेश गएर अहिले गाउँमै लोभलाग्दो घर बनाए, छोराछोरीलाई राम्ररी पढाएका छन्। तैं भन्दैथिइस् भाउजुले नयाँ गहना पनि जोडिछन् भनेर। मिल्यो भने म पनि कुरा गरेर भएको अलिअलि पैसा खर्च गरेर विदेश जान्छु।’

श्रीमानले त्यति भनिरहँदा उसको कल्पना कतिबेला हो, चार–पाँच वर्षपछिका सुनौला दिनतर्फ पुगिसकेका थिए। फराकिलो आँगन भएको पक्की इटा र सिमेन्टको घर। वरिपरि बारीमा लहलहाउँदा तरकारी। गोठमा रहरलाग्दा गाईबाख्रा। हुर्किएका छोराछोरी, सुकिला लुगा लगाएर स्कुल जाँदै गरेका। पिँढीमा सासू–ससुरा तमाखु तान्दै गरेका। अनि आफ्नो गलामा झलक्क देखिने नौगेडी।
उसले यस्तै कल्पना गरेर भनेकी थिई, ‘आमाले घरको भातभान्छा गर्लिन्, म ज्याला गरेर पनि छोराछोरी पढाउँछु, घर खर्च टार्छु तपाईं जाने मन बनाउनुस्। अर्को वर्षदेखि त तपाईंले नै पनि त पैसा पठाउन थाल्नुहोला।’

सपनाले मान्छेलाई कति धेरै बल दिन्छ। संसारै जितौंला जस्तो। विपनाले त्यसैलाई एक निमेषमै खल्र्यामखुर्लुम्म झारिदिन्छ। भूकम्प गत वैशाखमा विपना बनेर आइदियो।

उसले सपना अझै देख्न छोडेकी छैन। मनमा कुरा खेलाउँदै थिई, माइलो छोरो सपनामै बर्बरायो– नयाँ स्वीटर नकिन्दिने भए म स्कुलै जान्न। ऊ जुरुक्क उठेर छोराको खुट्टा छुन गई। चिसोले फुटेर खस्रा भएका पैताला सुम्सुम्याउँदै थिई, दाहिने आँखाबाट फेरि तर्रर आँशु झर्यो। पोल्टाको थैली झिकेर हेरी। अस्ति माइती गएका बेला आमाले दिएको हजारको नोट अलि लेसिँदो भएछ। धेरैपटक खोतल्दैमा बढ्ने त होइन, तैपनि घरमा गाह्रोसाह्रो पर्नेबित्तिकै उ एकपटक त्यही नोटलाई चिहाउँछे।

सहरबाट आएकाहरूले अस्ति ओढ्नलाई नयाँ मन्डी ल्याइदिएका थिए। सीताको परिवारको भागमा दुईवटा परेको थियो। उनले एउटा ससुरालाई र एउटा आफूसहित छोराछोरीलाई ओढाउने गरेकी छन्। अस्ति त्यही मन्डीको छेउमा आगो सल्किएर झन्डै अनिष्ट नभएको।

पहिला त यो माइलो छोरो हजुरबासँग सुत्न भनेपछि हुरुक्कै हुन्थ्यो। आजकाल गनाउँछ सुत्दिन भन्छ। न्यानो बाँढ्न आउनेले सिरक मात्रै नभएर बालबच्चालाई हुने न्याना लुगा, पानी चुहिँदा छोप्न प्लास्टिक अनि टोहोरामा कोठा बार्न मिल्ने केही ल्याइदिए पनि त हुन्थ्यो भन्ने उनलाई आश लागेको थियो। फेरि त्यही आशले बाँच्न सिकाए पनि सीतालाई आफैंले कर्म गर्नुपर्छ भन्ने लाग्छ।

दुःखका पहाडै देखेकी उनकी आमाले सधैं उनलाई हाड खियाउनुपर्छ, पसिना बगाउनुपर्छ भनेर सिकाएकी थिइन्। सासूले रिस उठेका बेला दुई–चार बचन नराम्रो गरे पनि गाउँमा अन्य बुहारीले जस्तो उनले बर्तन खानुपरेको थिएन। अहिले तिनै सासू भएको भए गाउँलेका नानाथरी आरोप सहनुपर्दैनथ्यो भन्ने लागेको छ। आखिर गाउँलेले कुरा काट्न पाएका पनि यो टहरोमुनिको एउटै खोपामा हामी सबै परिवार सँगै सुत्छौं भनेर त हो। ससुराकी श्रीमति बितिन्, मेरा पति कतारमा छन्। यस्तै यस्तै कुरा खेलिरहँदा उनको कुनबेला आँखा लाग्यो।

सपनामा उनले आफूलाई गाउँले ससुरासँग सल्किएको भन्दै लखेटेको देखिन्। भीरैभीरको बाटो दगुरिरहँदा अगाडि एउटा साँढे आइपुग्यो। त्यही साँढे जसलाई सीताकी सासूले अघिल्लो वर्ष बारीको कोदो फाँड्यो भनेर लखेटेकी थिइन्। अगाडि जाउँ भने अजंगको साँढे अहिल्यै हानुँला भनेर बसेको थियो, फर्कौं भने गाउँलेहरू ‘यसलाई पापधर्मको ख्याल भएन’ भन्दै लखेट्दै आइरहेका थिए।

सीतालाई एक निमेष त यो प्राण यही गए पनि हुन्थ्यो भनेजस्तो लाग्यो। त्यत्तिकैमा निस्सासिएर सपनाबाट ब्युँझी। रातभर कठ्यांग्रिदो जाडो भए पनि सपनाबाट ब्युँझिदा उसको पूरै अनुहार पसिनाले भिजेको थियो। यस्तो सपनाले बिपनामा के अर्थ राख्ला ऊ सोच्दै थिई। उसले अगेना वरिपरि ससुराले नातिनातिना वरपर लिएर पानी तताइरहेको देखी। सपनाले आत्तिएर उठेकी बुहारीलाई ससुराले नजिकै आएर पानीको अंखरो दिए। उनलाई लाग्यो गाउँलेले जति कुरा काटे पनि होस् हुँदा, ससुरा आफ्नै बाउजत्तिकै जाति छन्।

ठाडो घाँटी लगाएर कलकल एक अंखरा पानी पिएपछि उनले ससुरालाई पोल्टोबाट त्यही एक हजार रुपैयाँ दिँदै भनिन्, ‘बा, यो कालेको स्कुलमा स्विटर छैन भनेर सरले गाली गरेको छ रे, गाउँमा कसैलाई भनेर यसलाई एउटा स्विटरचाहिँ ल्याइदिन पाए हुन्थ्यो।’

ससुरा आफ्नो काखका सानो नाति उसको काखमा राखिदिएर हिँडे। उसले अलि ठूलो स्वर गरेर फेरि भनी, ‘पैसा बच्यो भने छानामा हाल्ने पाल पनि ल्याइदिन भन्नू है।’

A kidney has no gender

But transplants are heavily skewed in favour of men


Binita Dahal

Lack of awareness about fluid intake and overwork has exposed many Nepalis to the risk of kidney failure, but a breakdown of kidney transplantsreflects a deep gender disparity.

After transplants were first performed in Nepal six years ago, nearly 400 patients have received kidneys from donors. But 90 percent of them are men, and 80 per cent of the donors are women.

The Human Organ Transplant Centre (HOTC) in Bhaktapur (pic, right) has performed 56 kidney transplants in the past year of which only eight are women.

One of them is Zarina Shrestha, 33, whose story is emblematic of the problems faced by female kidney patients needing transplants.

When her body started swelling a year ago, Zarina became a double victim: of the disease and her husband’s unkindness. When both her kidneys failed, she needed a transplant. On the way back from hospital, she remembers hoping that her husband could donate her one of his kidneys.

Zarina Shrestha

Instead, he got angry in the car and shouted at her for having contracted such an expensive disease. “I never thought my husband could say such harsh words when I needed his support the most, he screamed at me saying how unlucky he was to marry me and said he would marry another woman to help him with household work.”

Zarina sobbed as she related this from her hospital bed last week after finally receiving a kidney from her brother. She needs a dialysis twice a week and the procedures cost her Rs 35,000 each time besides the Rs 500,000 for the transplant operation itself.

“My father passed away when I was a toddler, so my brother took his place for me, he has been taking care of me since and came to my rescue,” she says, adding that her brother is also paying for all her expenses.

Zarina has a 12-year-old son who came forward to offer one of his kidneys when he found out his father refused. Zarina’s brother immediately said he would donate his kidney to his sister when he heard of her need.

The HOTC’s Pukar Chandra Shrestha says Zarina is the first woman who was offered kidney by her brother. He said it was rare for a male donor to come forward to help a female relative. There are only a few cases where a husband donates a kidney to the wife.

“I am ashamed to say that Nepali men are very selfish and don’t offer to save the lives of female family members, even when they know that the donor can live with one kidney,” Shrestha told us. “Mothers, sisters, wives come forward readily to donate their kidneys to ailing relatives, but not the husbands and brothers, that is the bitter truth.”

To address this gender disparity in kidney donation, HOTC and Aarogya Foundation have started giving Rs 50,000 to male donors. Zarina’s brother was the first donor to receive the incentive.

Every year, 3,000 Nepalis need kidney transplants and this number is growing with urbanisation andlack of awareness about precursor factors like dehydration, chronic infections and untreated hypertension. Only 10 per cent of kidney patients get proper treatment, and most patients can’t afford transplants.

“Dialysis is not a long-term solution, kidney patient must transplant to have a longer life,” Shrestha said, “but it is expensive, even I can’t afford the expenses if I got a transplant.”

Nepali law forbids kidney transplant outside immediate family members to control the illegal kidney trade, but experts say an amendment is needed to prevent people from going to India for transplant if a family member doesn’t agree to donate.

Zarina is grateful to her brother for saving her life, but many other female kidney patients in Nepal are not so lucky. For doctors like Shrestha this is a manifestation of patriarchy that they see every day in their kidney ward. He says: “I have seen parents pressuring their sons not to donate kidneys to their daughters-in-law, in most cases the feeling is if she dies he can always marry a healthy woman.”


This article was originally published in Nepali Times (,1901)

The law and the media


Binita Dahal

For the past year, the judiciary has often been mired in controversy. There was the decision in 2013 to appoint the Chief Justice as a caretaker prime minister to conduct elections, and the controversial move to appoint tainted judges to the Supreme Court.

Most of the criticism came from the legal fraternity and the media. But despite the hullabaloo, the appointments were approved by a parliamentary hearing. Stung by the uproar, the Supreme Court decided to strike back and make an example of Kantipur, Nepal’s widest circulated daily newspaper.

The parliamentary hearing of the Supreme Court judges recommended by the Judicial Council was sharply criticised by most media, starting with by the popular digital portal, Setopati. Kantipur then took up the subject by investigating the background of all the appointed justices. Even when the paper was slapped with a contempt of court against its group chairman, director, editor-in-chief and reporter, it continued its exposes.

During the first hearing of that case, Justice Cholendra Shamser Rana, who was one of the targets of the exposes, reviewed the sub-judice contempt case filed against Kantipur Group. In its second hearing Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli, whose past judgments and personal details were investigated by Kantipur, ordered publishers and editorial staff of Kantipur to appear in person to explain why they shouldn’t be convicted in contempt of court case.

Most rulings by the courts are not more than two pages, but Parajuli delivered a 11-page tome that tried to prove that Kantipur was on a deliberate crusade to tarnish the image of the independent judiciary.

It was apparent that the Supreme Court was flexing its muscles and warning all journalists by putting Nepal’s most powerful media on the dock. Kantipur itself used the occasion to project its own profile as a champion of press freedom. Last week, on the day of the hearing, it gathered 50 members of its staff, politicians and industrialists in the Supreme Court premises as a show of force.

It was as if the group wanted to influence the court decision by a demonstration of solidarity. It has now become a prestige issue for both the Supreme Court and Kantipur. The paper has reported the case against itself with prominence on the front pages, providing maximum national exposure of its own importance. The publication’s main argument was that the court started its final hearing with the same justices who had previously looked at the case.

Although the group’s lawyers were putting forward a valid legal point, this was a clear breach of provisions of coverage of cases that are subjudice. According to universal juridical principles, one should not try to influence the court directly or indirectly during the period that a case is being heard. The media’s role is to point out the wrongdoings of court, not to stage a demonstration in the court premises during a hearing.

Whatever the past wrongs of the court, the media should also be equally responsible not to undermine the dignity of the independent judiciary. The media cannot appear to be a law unto itself, and not required to abide by it. The aggressive and prominent reporting of the case against itself is also a misuse of media responsibility.

To be sure, the Judicial Committee bypassed candidates with integrity and proven track record for those with questionable pasts, to say the least, when appointing Supreme Court justices. The media did its job by exposing this, but to exact revenge through this contempt case the Supreme Court has gone after the largest target to threaten the rest of the media to behave itself.

It is hard to say which way the verdict will go next week. In the past, the Court has been liberal in contempt cases and journalists have just been slapped on the wrist and cautioned about the law on subjudice cases. This time, positions have hardened, and by its aggressive taunts Kantipur may have exceeded the media’s accepted behaviour in a country that is supposed to respect the rule of law.


This article was originally published in Nepali Times (,1685)

Wombs for rent

Commercial surrogate motherhood is moving to Nepal because of restrictions in India


Binita Dahal

After India tightened rules on commercial surrogacy two years ago, foreigners seeking such services have started trickling into Nepal where rules are murky and regulation weak.

Nepal’s cabinet decided recently to allow foreigners to have surrogate babies as long as the mother is also a foreigner, arguing that this would promote medical tourism in the country. Since then the Department of Immigration records show that many foreigners, including 20 Israelis, have had surrogate babies in private hospitals in Nepal.

Senior Advocate and Activist Sapana Pradhan Malla says many Nepali parents seek her legal advice on surrogacy. “I have no answer for them because there are no laws,” she told Nepali Times. “But I find it really suspicious that foreigners are allowed to have surrogate babies here when there is no provision for Nepalis.”

Activists are worried that in the absence of laws, the cabinet decision on surrogate babies can easily be circumvented. Nepali women could be exploited by unscrupulous middlemen and male relatives to carry and deliver babies for foreigners.

Compensated surrogacy is a process under which a woman rents her womb to another couple to have their baby delivered. There are two methods: one where the sperm is artificially inseminated into a surrogate mother, and in the other the sperm and egg from the parents first go through in-vitro fertilisation and the embryo is inserted into the uterus of the surrogate mother.

Doctors say both methods are done in fertility clinics in Nepal, but they don’t want to be quoted saying it. The lack of laws haven’t deterred many Nepali parents without children to secretly use surrogacy to have children in hospitals in Nepal and India, while Indian mothers routinely come to Nepal to give birth (see adjoining box).

After cases of fraud and exploitation, India’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is now in parliament and will allow surrogacy only for married, infertile and Indian Origin couples.

“Many people think the act of surrogacy involves sexual intercourse so they are hesitant to talk about it,” says advocate Sadeep Kharel. “Doctors and hospitals keep quiet because surrogacy is illegal for Nepalis.”

The cabinet decision makes it easy for foreigners to be surrogate parents by processing exit permits for their babies born in Nepal: the Health Ministry writes a recommendation based on the birth certificate with DNA proof issued by hospitals to apply for a passport at the resident embassy.

 According to sources, the cabinet hurriedly decided last year on a draft on surrogacy prepared by the Health Ministry. Cabinet decisions are supposed to be in the public domain, but lawyers say the Health Ministry is reluctant to divulge details and provide a copy of the decision.

Praveen Mishra was secretary at the Ministry of Health in the previous government when the draft first came up for debate, and remembers facing intense political pressure to pass it. Mishra and Minister Bidhyadhar Mallik stood their ground, but with the new government the cabinet quickly approved it last August.

Sources say surrogacy in India and Nepal are managed by middlemen working with political protection, and there is a nexus between them and private hospitals. It is a question of supply and demand: there is a demand in rich countries for babies, and there is a supply of poor families in developing countries willing, and sometimes forcing, their women to become surrogate mothers.

Many European countries have banned surrogacy and it is strictly regulated and expensive in the United States. While it can cost up to $150,000 to have a surrogate baby in the West, in India and Nepal it can cost as little at $6,000 with the surrogate mother often not getting the money that her husband is paid as fee.

Commercialisation of motherhood through surrogacy is lucrative, but raises cultural, social, economic and political questions which are probably why Nepal’s private hospitals and the government are so hush-hush about it. “We must be careful not to allow surrogate mothers to be exploited as baby producers,” Sapana Pradhan Malla warns, “there must be laws in case mothers don’t want to give babies to parents, if babies are disabled, and about the legal status of the baby.”

There is one case of surrogacy which is sub-judice in the Supreme Court in a dispute about whether the baby born from a Nepali surrogate mother will get the parent’s property or not. This could be a landmark case in which the Court may direct the government to pass a new law for Nepali surrogate mothers.

But till then it will be women who will be more vulnerable to exploitation.

“Surrogacy is needed,” says Renu Adhikari of WOREC (Women’s Rehabilitation Centre), “but in the absence of proper laws it can lead to trafficking and women can be forced to go through with it for the money.”

Nargis’ baby

Twenty-seven year old Nargis came to Nepal six months ago from the slums of Mumbai. Her husband had left her after she gave birth to their first child after which she moved in with her parents. After her father died, she had to take care of the whole family.

“We were so poor there was no money to even feed my baby,” Nargis remembers. One day, her mother told her that she could make money renting her womb for nine months. She was introduced to a middleman who assured her there was no sexual intercourse involved, and she would earn $6,000 carrying and giving birth to someone else’s baby.

After she was convinced to go through with the procedure, she stayed in a Mumbai hospital for a month for her insemination procedure, and was discharged after she got pregnant. She was paid INR 6,000 per month for the duration of the pregnancy.

Nargis came to Nepal in her fourth month of pregnancy along with her own first born. She stayed at a hotel in Thamel with other surrogates like her who had come to give birth in Nepal because of restrictions in India.

Their agent advised them not to get emotionally attached to their babies as they had to be given away. Nargis gave birth via caesarean in a private hospital in Kathmandu, and was paid only $3,000. Still, she told us she will go through it again so she can send her own child to school.

Middlemen look for women between 25-30 in Mumbai’s slums, and convince their families to go through with surrogacy. The Indian agents get a $1,000 fee for every successful birth in Nepal.

“I don’t care if surrogacy is legal or illegal in India, but it is easier for a woman like me to deliver a baby in Nepal so no one finds out in Mumbai,” Nargis admitted. “Sometimes when I am alone, I look at the baby’s picture that the agent gave me. I never had the chance to be with him or breastfeed him. Still, I have less of an attachment to this baby than my own first child.”

Nargis is a pseudonym.

This article was originally published in Nepali Times  (,1991)

Madam Chief Justice

Unlike the President and the Speaker of Parliament, Chief Justice Sushila Karki is not a political appointee


Binita Dahal

After the promulgation of the new Constitution in the Nepali year 2072 that just ended, the country made history with the first female President, first Speaker of Parliament. On Wednesday, the first day of 2073, we also got the first female Chief Justice.

However, President Bidya Bhandari’s selection was based on her proximity to the ruling UML party, and her being the widow of the late Madan Bhandari. The choice of Onsari Gharti Magar as Speaker had a lot to do with her being a former guerrilla married to former CPN(M) Secretary, Barshaman Pun.

In contrast, Chief Justice Sushila Karki was recommended by the Constitutional Council this week purely on merit and on the basis of seniority – it had nothing to do with political or personal favours. This is a recognition of her own struggle to overcome obstacles in a profession dominated by men. She served as a Supreme Court justice for the past eight years where she made some bold and independent decisions, even though the verdicts sometimes went against some political figures she was close to.

It is another irony that Karki’s recommendation has yet to be ratified by parliament because of the lack of consensus among political parties for a house hearing. Which is why she still has the prefix ‘acting’ in front of her Chief Justice title. This is the first time in history that a Chief Justice is acting, and is a damning indictment of the political paralysis in government to formally approve the country’s first female Chief Justice.

Karki is known for her diligence, integrity, a frugal lifestyle and a proven track record of zero tolerance for corruption. She lives in a rented room in her sister’s congested house in Dhapasi. She was born in Biratnagar, and her family was close to the Koirala clan. She used to be a member of the student union affiliated to the Nepali Congress during the Panchayat years.  Her husband also used to be active in the NC during the 1970s when the party was underground and was involved in the daring hijacking of a Royal Nepal Airlines flight in 1972.

Despite her party affiliation, Karki was known to be fair and independent in her judgements. She came into the limelight for the first time after her verdict against Minister Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta who served a jail sentence on corruption charges. She also revived the cases against Khum Bahadur Khadka and Govinda Raj Joshi, both of the NC.

Some have questioned Karki’s grasp of constitutional issues. Her predecessor, Kalyan Shrestha, who stepped down this week was embroiled in controversy over his decision as head of the Judicial Council to nominate 11 justices to Supreme Court. Karki was a member of the Council that took that decision.

Due to the provision of a high court in the new constitution the Appellate Court will soon be dissolved. The laws related to the high court are yet to be formed, and may take a few more months. As Chief Justice, Karki will have to twist some tails and she is going to face the pressure from inside the court and political parties. People close to her say that she will never base her decisions on pressure, but rely on her legal instincts and the strict merit of the case.

Former Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha who recommended Karki as justice, said he chose her not because she is a woman but because of her capability. Which is why she got handed the most sensitive political corruption cases. She even recommended the Judicial Council to investigate disputed judges of the Special Court who gave a clean chit in some high profile corruption cases like the one involving  Cholendra Shamsher, now a justice of the Supreme Court and next in the line for the post of Chief Justice.

This will also be another challenge for Karki, who will share the bench with Shamsher. Her other challenge will be to expedite some of the 23,000 pending cases in the Supreme Court. While we celebrate the appointment of Nepal’s first woman Chief Justice, we must admit she has her work cut out for her during her 14 month tenure.


This article was originally published in Nepali Times (,696)