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Nepal Govt. shifts position, moves to address Madhesi demands

A displaced earthquake victim carries a Nepalese national flag as he waits in a line to receive food and water at an open ground, in Kathmandu, Nepal May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTX1BG7D

Kathmandu : In a landmark decision, the Government of Nepal shifted its position and decided on Monday to move to address the demands of the agitating Madhesis with regard to the new Constitution.

According to report, the government of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has proposed that it will have a relook at clauses in the Constitution Amendment Bill related to proportional representation of women, Dalits, Janajatis and the Madhesi community in state bodies and electoral constituency delimitation based on the population by retaining at least one constituency for each of the 75 districts, besides the issue of redrawing of borders of federal provinces.

According to a report in the Kathmandu Post, the government has decided to form a high-level political mechanism to redraw the borders of federal provinces outlined by the newly adopted constitution as part of its bid to end the prolonged Terai crisis.

An emergency meeting of the Cabinet on Sunday evening decided to form the mechanism with a mandate to submit reports with acceptable recommendations for all sides within three months of its formation.

State delineation has become a major bone of contention between the agitating Madhes-centric parties and the government since the new constitution was adopted three months ago, the daily reported.

“An appropriate arrangement will be made regarding the federal boundaries considering the demands raised by the Madhes-based parties. And a mechanism will be constituted to seek political consensus,” the paper quoted Industry Minister Som Prasad Pandey, as saying while reading out the Cabinet decision.

According to sources in the Cabinet, the modality of the mechanism will be finalised after a discussion with key stakeholders.

The new constitution splits the plains into several provinces contrary to the Madhesi parties’ demand for only two provinces in the Terai.

The government had tabled a Constitution Amendment Bill with a view to taking the dissident parties into confidence.

Expressing their disagreement with the constitution amendment proposal as it exists today, disgruntled regional parties had returned to their constituencies with a warning to the government that they would intensify their protests if their demands were not met.

With the decision to set up the mechanism, the ruling parties have agreed to expedite the constitution amendment process in Parliament. They also reached an understanding to seek consensus on other disputed issues including citizenship through talks.

The government also decided to take legal action against those involved in mistreating President Bidhya Devi Bhandari while she was in Janakpur last week for the Bibaha Panchami ceremony at Janaki Temple.

Supporters of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha had hurdled stones at the carcade of President Bhandari.

Media also reported that the locals “purified” the temple premises with holy water and milk as the shrine had been “impure by the widow’s visit”.

Stressing that it has already expressed its firm commitment to resolving disagreements legally and politically, the government urged the agitating parties to ease the

supply of essentials, including fuel and medicines by ending the border obstruction.

Earlier, the nation’s main opposition Nepali Congress and an agitating group of Indian-origin Madhesis had reportedly reached an agreement to quickly resolve the current political crisis emerging out of the ongoing blockade of key border trade points with India.

The Nepali Congress (NC) and representatives of the United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF) met at NC President Sushil Koirala’s residence at Maharjgunj over the weekend to chalk out solutions to end the existing political and constitutional impasse.

During the meeting, they reportedly discussed all contemporary issues and the impact of the ongoing unrest in the Terai region, and agreed to resolve the current political crisis as soon as possible.

The NC urged the UMDF to support all moves to resolve the crisis through the Constitution amendment process, as a bill related to the same has been tabled in the Parliament.

The party also asked the UMDF to forge a consensus on the bill, as it could be revised by including the front’s demands.

In response, the UMDF reportedly asked for a clear road map of NC in revising the demarcation of provinces, citing that the bill could not address the delineation issues.

The Madhesis, the Indian-origin inhabitants of the Terai region, have been agitating over the new Constitution, demanding more representation.

They are also protesting against the division of their ancestral homeland under the seven-province structure and have led an ongoing blockade of key border trade points with India.

NC spokesperson Dilendra Badu and Terai-Madhes Democratic Party spokesperson Sarbendra Nath Shukla were quoted by media, as saying that their parties had held discussions on issues related to the amendment of the Constitution. (ANI with inputs)(ANI)