Nepal PM ready for junket as nation reels under power crisisDecember 19th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Dec 19 (IANS) As Nepal reels under its worst-ever power crisis with the government imposing a nine-hour outage daily and readying to declare an energy emergency, Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is poised to trigger a fresh controversy with plans to go on a foreign junket.Prachanda had created a controversy soon after assuming office in August when he ignored the havoc created by floods in south Nepal to go on a junket to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Now he will be heading for Norway, Finland and Denmark, Nepal’s official media said Friday.
“The premier is visiting the three countries to study their power situation,” the state media said.
This will be the Maoist chief’s fifth foreign trip in almost as many months. Besides China, he has been to India twice and to the US in September to attend the UN General Assembly.
Like the China visit, the US trip also came for stinging criticism as Prachanda took his wife and son along with him and used the occasion to also visit Germany, apparently to visit Karl Marx’s birthplace.
Nepal has a power minister, who has been mandated to resolve the power crisis. However, for a long time, the key ministry has been headed by political appointees who have no knowledge of power issues.
Though the Maoists, who came to power after the April election, pledged to slash junkets and irrelevant public programmes, the Prachanda government has seen the maximum junkets and cases of ministers chairing book launches and other social functions in its short span.
Besides the power crisis that has caused dozens of industries to close, the government is yet to begin the major task of merging the Maoist guerrilla army with the state army. The rebel combatants of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been languishing in prison-like cantonments for almost two years now with little facilities.
Reports Thursday said the PLA camps have an outbreak of hepatitis while the child soldiers recruited during the 10-year armed revolt in violation of international norma are yet to be discharged.
There is also growing violence in the Terai plains in south Nepal with murders, kidnaps and extortion occurring every day. The Prachanda government has failed to begin dialogue with the major armed groups active in the Terai though a high-level ministerial team was formed almost two months ago.