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Constitution of Nepal: How long will it last?

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credit: www.constitutionnet.org

by Dinesh Gautam

Recently, Nepal adopted its seventh Constitution in 67 years. This exercise of forming the Constitution took two Constituent Assemblies, seven years of time and 150 billion from Nepali exchequers. Out of a total of 610 representatives of the Assembly, 85 per cent voted in its favour.

credit: www.sausociology.wordpress.com
credit: www.sausociology.wordpress.com

However, 60 representatives belonging to Nepali tribal population or Madhesis rejected the process. They had issues with the seven states coming to life after the Constitution is adopted. Earlier, there was a proposal of forming 14 states as against the current seven.

Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav, repeatedly, asked three main parties of the nation, namely, Nepali Congress Party, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), and Unified Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist, to not to overlook the concerns of the Madhesi leaders on the issue of formation of states. But, his words were not given any attention. The happiness for adopting the Constitution was missing from the face of the President when it was being announced.

India’s hand in bringing the Nepali Maoists to the mainstream, in 2006, under the 14-point agreement can’t be ignored. Another fact is that India is Nepal’s second largest neighbour that it shares a long and open international border with.

This is the reason why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to Nepali Parliament, requested them to include the concerns of all sections of the society. In the same regard, to reiterate India’s stand, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jayshankar met with Nepali PM and the President before the announcement of the new Constitution.

It was a reason for astonishment when leaders like Koirala, Prachand or KP Oli didn’t care for India’s concerns on the matter. The result came in the form of Constitution– opposing violent rebellions that took the lives of 43. How many breaths could this seventh constitution take is a question with little answers!

For a peace-loving and helping neighbour like India, this is a cause of concern. India’s low-spirited stance was evident from the statement: “We are looking at the process of Nepal’s adoption of its Constitution. India’s absence from the celebrations in Nepal as well as no functions at the Nepali Embassy, said more about the low key response from the neighbours in this regard.

Apparently, there are several challenges in front of Nepal, and India’s challenge is to help Nepal by being in its diplomatic limits.

The author is the Deputy Editor/Senior Anchor with Sahara Samay.

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Imposition of 10% Custom Duty on Book Import Impact Nepal’s Booksellers, Students

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. "Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports"

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nepal, duty on books
With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students. Wikimedia Commons

Even as Indian publishers are grappling with a budget proposal of 5 per cent customs duty on imported books, in close neighbour Nepal, a 10 per cent duty on books has left publishers and booksellers reeling, with students hit badly as Kathmandu imports over 80 per cent of its books from India.

A few days after the Nepal government on May 29 announced a 10 per cent duty on imported books, publishers stopped picking up books at the Nepal customs point in protest and have demanded roll back of the move. With no text books coming in to Nepal, the student community has been affected the most, say publishers.

“Around 80-90 per cent of books in Nepal are imported, and most of it from India. Now the students, including those in Classes 10 and 11, are not getting text books on time. The National Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of Nepal (NBPAN) has decided not to import any books in protest. We import 90-95 per cent of academic and text books from India,” a noted book seller in Kathmandu told IANS on phone, declining to be named.

According to Madhab Maharjan, Advisor NBPAN and owner of Mandala Book Point in Kathmandu, the 10 per cent customs duty will attract other taxes, like the cost, insurance and freight tax and other charges, further pushing up the price of imported books.

nepal, duty on books
According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”. Wikimedia Commons

“Books all over the world are sold at the printed price. With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students,” Maharjan told IANS over phone from Kathmandu.

He said they have requested the KP Sharma Oli government to remove the tax. “We have a long tradition of importing books from India. Religious books were imported from Benaras in the 20th century. Now the import of books is restricted to New Delhi,” said Maharjan, adding that scholars, academics and experts are raising their voices in protest against the move through the print and social media.

The 10 per cent tax will hamper the free flow of books and also affect the reading habit of students, says Maharjan. According to him, a Nepali journalist in an article in a local daily asked Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is a PhD in economics, whether it was a theory of economics to impose the customs duty on books when the need was to improve the reading habits and culture of the people.

The reason for stopping the books at the customs point was because “as soon as we import we will have to increase the price, and secondly the old stocks have to be sold at the old price”.

“Thus there will be two prices of the book in one book store. This will create misunderstanding with students, readers, scholars, researchers and academics at large with whom we have to deal with everyday,” Maharjan said.

nepal, duty on books
Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. Wikimedia Commons

He added: “We do not want any one taking undue advantage of the situation, including politically motivating the students. Thus we have opted for this move not to import books till we come to a final decision.” According to him, the onset of the digital era has hit book sellers and publishers. “There are not many book shops left, and with moves like this book sellers may not survive for long.”

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. The earlier system was better to protect the local industry,” Maharjan said.

ALSO READ: Is Budget 2019-20 a Hope for India’s Development?

The number of students pursuing higher education in Nepal under Management, Humanities, Science and Education stands at around 400,000, and they would be directly hit by the duty on books imported from India. According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”.

K.P.R. Nair, Managing Director Konark Publishers in Delhi, said Indian publishers are aware of the situation in Nepal and are trying to help. “They have asked for our help, and we are going to help them,” Nair, a veteran in the publishing industry, told IANS. (IANS)