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Nepal after quakes: Still grappling with jolts of catastrophe

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credit: www.cnn.com

By Manas Dwivedi

It has been nearly four months since Nepal was hit with a series of high scale earthquakes. The devastating calamity killed around 9,000 people and made lakhs of residents homeless. While the natives of the Himalayan country are fighting hard to get their lives back to normal, the authority in Nepal seems to be rather nonchalant about the agony faced by the people.

It is really tough when a country is badly thrashed by nature’s call, and it becomes even more painful when the government doesn’t seem to understand the need of the hour. After the massive round of earthquakes rocked Nepal, the whole world extended its support to the nation to fight and overcome the disaster. But unfortunately, major benefits are yet to reach the victims and aid the public.

source: jewishnews.co.uk
source: jewishnews.co.uk

Many foreign countries and agencies including the World Bank extended financial help to Nepal. Around $4.1 billion was announced; but so far, the government has been unable to make any arrangement to receive the amount and neither has it invested any money in reconstruction.

The recently drafted National Reconstruction Authority states that the government wanted to start the rebuilding in early October, but the delay in approval of plans has further extended the work. Chief executive officer of the authority, Govind Raj Pokharel also accepts that their response has been slow.

According to Pokharel, the major reason behind not spending any money on rebuilding and distribution could be the government’s unpopular attempt to pass a contentious constitution. He said, “The new political system will divide the country into new regions. It caused deadly clashes and hauled the development tasks.” He further added, “We would have liked it if the government had concentrated on reconstruction first rather than anything else.”

Victims too stated their miseries with a heavy heart. Maili Pariyar, a local crafter exclaimed, “We have lost everything. We are desperate! For how long will we wait for help?” Pariyar explained of having received only tent material and food from relief camps. She said the government has not provided anything yet.

Nepal is receiving strong criticism around the globe for their phlegmatic style of response. The country was already under-prepared to face the earthquakes and later, it is showing lapses in relief aid as well.

credit: www.theatlantic.com
credit: www.theatlantic.com

A recent United Nation’s report reveals that nearly 3 million survivors are still in need of urgent help. Many have lost their homes, and a number of institutions –mainly buildings, offices and monuments– are badly destroyed. Another government-led assessment shows that around a million people in the worst affected district may go down to the international poverty line of US$1.25 in coming times.

The post-quake devastation has a left number of children facing different health hazards. More than 10,000 kids are severely malnourished, among which, over 900 are acutely affected. Hundred of kids in the country have lost their parents, whereas schools and classrooms are still under debris.

Another high-risk factor for Nepali’s is the threat of flood and landslide due to the intense monsoon season. Access to these areas is increasingly becoming difficult. Although the humanitarian situation around the area has improved, education, health and sanitation condition will still take long to improve.

Relief camp near Kathmandu Credit: www.theatlantic.com
Relief camp near Kathmandu
Credit: www.theatlantic.com

While millions of people are begging to get adequate food, water and shelter, the government is still making plans for reconstructing the nation. The next major challenge for the government would be to safeguard refugees from biting winters. They must ensure adequate measures for those living in tents.

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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)