Monday, September 30, 2019

Nepali mountaineer Nirmal Purja to receive special Chinese permit to climb Shishapangma

Photo: Project Possible

Kathmandu, October 1

China and Tibet Mountaineering Association has reportedly agreed to grant Nepali mountaineer Nimral Purja Magar (Nims dai) permit to summit Shishapangama this autumn. According to Italian website Montagna Magica, China agreed to grant Magar a special permit to climb Shishapangma, the last mountain on the list of Magar, who aims to summit all 14 peaks in the world higher than 8,000m.

Chinese authority had closed the Tibetan peak, the only remaining 8,000’er on Magar’s list this season amid safety concerns.

Dawa Sherpa, Managing Director at Climbalaya Treks said that the Chinese authority was considering giving Magar a permit for climbing Shishapangma. “We’ve initiated the process and the Chinese authorities have said that they will help Magar get the permit. However, as the Chinese embassy is closed till October 7 for the country’s national day, it is unlikely that Magar will get his permit before soon. But it is highly likely that he will get the permit for his record-breaking climb,” Sherpa said.


In other news, Polish skier Andrzej Bargiel has returned to Kathmandu after abandoning his attempt to climb the world’s highest peak in the autumn season and ski from its summit. According to Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering, Bargiel and his team decided to call off this rare attempt due to risk of avalanches in the icefall area. Bargiel had created history by skiing down from K2 last year.

Madison’s team, however, is still at Everest Base Camp awaiting good weather. “We’re still assessing things. The weather isn’t great however, we are willing to wait for a few more weeks to see if it gets better. Hopefully, it will,” Madison told Onlinekhabar.

Madison added that there were a few seracs along the climbing route which was posing a great risk to climbers. “Until those come down, we’re not sending anyone up.” Alpinist Kilian Jornet from Spain is also at Everest and is assessing situations along with Madison. Jornet, however, has not disclosed the details of his climbing plan yet.


Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks says that teams have fixed ropes in Mount Dhaulagiri up to Camp III. “The teams are rotating camps. The summit push is likely to be around October 7 if weather permits,” he said.

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Speaker Mahara likely to step down amid allegations of sexual misconduct

File: Krishna Bahadur Mahara

Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara is likely to tender his resignation from the post hours after a Parliament staffer accused him of sexual misconduct.

Mahara, who was elected to Parliament under the then UML-Maoist Centre ticket from his Dang-2 constituency, is learnt to have consulted Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and other senior leaders of his party on Tuesday following the incident.

The women accuses Mahara of assaulting her at her apartment in Tinkune. Mahara denies the allegations.

Mahara, who was elected Speaker of Parliament in March last year, has been criticised by the opposition for favouring the ruling party during House proceedings. According to sources, Mahara is likely to face an impeachment motion if he decides to stay on. Although the opposition Nepali Congress does not have the numbers to get the impeachment motion endorsed by a two-third majority, the motion would not send a positive message to the public about the party, NCP leaders say.

Meanwhile, the NCPL secretariat is to meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

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Nepal-Australia sign air service agreement

Kathmandu, October 1

Nepal and Australia have signed an air service agreement in Canada on Monday. The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation Assembly being held in Montreal.

Suresh Acharya, Secretary at Nepal’s Ministry for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) and Jim Holf, Executive Director of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport, Urban and Regional, Australia signed the deal. As per the new agreement, airlines from both countries get to conduct seven flights a week. Australia is the 40th country to sign an air service agreement with Nepal.

Nepali Airlines can now fly to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Similarly, Australian airlines can fly seven flights a week to Kathmandu.

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Morning Starter: Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Good morning!

Here’s a quick summary of important, ignored and interesting reports from Monday to kick-start your day:


File: Krishna Bahadur Mahara

Speaker accused of sexual misconduct

A woman has accused Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara of sexual misconduct. The woman, an employee at the Parliament Secretariat, accused Speaker Mahara of assaulting her at her room in Tinkune on Sunday evening under the influence of alcohol.

The woman said that she knew Speaker Mahara through her husband and he used to frequently visit her. She said she called the police after the incident, adding that Speaker Mahara left before police arrived. The woman, however, has not lodged a written complaint.

Speaker Mahara’s Secretariat refuted the allegation, adding that an official statement will be made soon. Speaker Mahara, however, said that the accusation was made against him to vent anger; he refuted the allegation.

Six Nepalis killed in a car accident in Dubai

Eight people, including six Nepalis, were killed and six others injured in a road crash involving a minibus and a heavy goods vehicle in Dubai. According to Nepali Embassy in Dubai, the deceased are: Ramesh Chaudhary, Dan Bahadur Satyal, Krishna Bahadur Pun, Narayan Prasad Pokharel, Deepak BK and Nayaram Saud.

The minibus driver and seven passengers were declared dead on the spot. Two passengers were seriously hurt and four others sustained moderate injuries.


File: Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)

Sub-inspector arrested with a bribe of Rs 15,000

A policeman has been arrested with a bribe of Rs 15,000. CIAA Butwal arrested sub-inspector of police Khim Bahadur GC with the bribe. The anti-graft body arrested GC after receiving complaints that he had been asking for bribes from locals. Further investigation into the case was underway, CIAA said.

Chitwan Medical College students stall protest 

Agitating students of Chitwan Medical College have called off their protest until after Dashain. They stalled their protest as a lot of students had to go home to celebrate Dashain with their families. The students on Sunday had given the college a 24 hours ultimatum to refund them the excess amount taken by the colleges by Monday.


File: Gyanendra Shahi

Police forms committee to investigate Shahi incident

District Police Office Chitwan has formed a five-member committee to investigate the attack on campaigner Gyanendra Shahi. According to SP Daan Bahadur Malla, there has been no complaint from Shahi’s side. After the police did not receive any formal complaint, it has formed a committee to investigate the incident. The committee has been given three days to submit its report.

President to visit Japan and Myanmar post-Dashain

President Bidya Devi Bhandari will visit Myanmar and Japan after Dashain. According to a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Bhandari will first visit Myanmar after which she will head to Japan.

President Bhandari is visiting Myanmar upon the invitation of its president Win Myint. She is due to visit Myanmar on the third week of October after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Bhandari will then visit Japan to take part in the coronation of Emperor Nurihito.

The dates, however, will be finalised after the visit of the Chinese president.

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Questions About 529s, Smart Watches, Coursera, Windfalls, Outdoor Exercise, and More!

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Is 529 a scam?
2. 529 or private school?
3. Pay bump worth it?
4. Why get a smart watch?
5. Windfall needed to immediately retire
6. Labeling frozen items in freezer
7. Safety concerns about outdoor exercise
8. Financial state before marriage important?
9. Community college advantages and disadvantages
10. Any value to Coursera?
11. Updates to backpack recommendations?
12. Good but inexpensive notebooks

During September, there’s always this weekend when you suddenly realize that the days are shorter and the weather is getting cooler and that leaves are starting to change color and that fall is here. That was this past weekend for me. I pulled out a hoodie for the first time in months because there was a nice evening chill and I was almost shocked that it was getting dark at about 7 PM. Fall is here. Winter is coming. The cycle continues.

On with the questions.

Q1: Is 529 a scam?

Saved money for years in my daughters 529 and just learned that it is going to reduce her financial aid making it harder for her to go to college. Absolutely sad that I can save for years and years and all it does is mean that some other family that didn’t bother to save gets lots of free aid and we get nothing. Scam!
– Anthony

The money saved in a 529 plan by a student or their guardians reduces their need-based financial aid by 5.64%. So, if you saved $10,000 for your daughter, her need-based financial aid is reduced by $564. That’s it.

Money in a 529 plan owned by another relative or friend with that same student as a beneficiary doesn’t count at all, but any money withdrawn and used counts toward the next year’s financial aid (because it basically counts like a cash gift from an outside source). So, that money should be held onto until the student’s last year in college.

That’s really not that much of an impact and it shouldn’t disrupt anyone’s savings plans for their children. It’s a giant stretch to refer to a 529 plan as a “scam” because students with no savings at all get a little over $500 in additional financial aid versus a student with $10,000 in savings. I’d agree with you if $10,000 in 529 savings meant a $10,000 reduction in financial aid, but that’s nowhere near the case.

Another reader had an interesting, somewhat related question.

Q2: 529 or private school?

If you have several thousand a year to put aside for your child’s education, would you use it to send that child to a private school or to save in a 529 college savings account? We’re trying to figure out how to get the most bang for our educational buck.
– Adam

It really depends on where you live and the relative quality of public and private schools in your area. If you live in a state with good public schooling and your public schools are above average for your state, the gap in quality between public and private schooling isn’t going to be that big. If you live in a state with poor public schooling and the schools in your area are below average, then the gap between public and private schooling is going to be much larger.

I would start by doing research into the quality of public schools in your area compared to the rest of the state, and in your state compared to the rest of the country. My general feeling is that if your state is average and your local school is above the state average, or if your state is above average and your local school is near the state average or above, then the gap between public and private school won’t be enormous and you’re probably better putting money in a 529.

On the other hand, if your state is below average or your local district is below average, I’d look seriously at private schools in your area and evaluate their costs and how they compare to nearby public school.

Not all public schools are the same. There is an enormous variance in public school quality in America, largely related to the funding that schools receive from local taxpayers. Some areas are very education focused, fund their local districts well, and thus those districts have much better teacher-to-classroom ratios and are able to attract and retain top quality teachers. Other areas have poor taxpayer support of schools and that often results in much worse teacher-to-classroom ratios and the schools have a harder time retaining good teachers. That’s simply the reality of public schools in America – there are a lot of good teachers, but they’re naturally going to be attracted to districts that pay well, support them well, and have reasonable teacher-to-student ratios.

Q3: Pay bump worth it?

I’ve been internally recommended for a promotion that will increase my salary by about 60%, but I am very wary of what the job entails. I will be moving from a job where I mostly repaired computer systems to a job where I will be managing a group of people doing repairs and jumping in to fill gaps as needed. My understanding in talking to others is that this job varies in stress depending on who the people are you’re working with – if you get good people, it’s actually way easier, but if you get idiots or [bad workers] it can be a nightmare. The idea of trying to manage a zoo makes me want to quit just thinking about it but the pay increase would get rid of all my student loans ASAP.
– Adam

Do you really love what you’re doing right now? I don’t just mean the specific job, but the full situation. Are you happy with most of your coworkers and have good relationships with them? Or is it a situation where things are good enough but not great?

If you really, really love everything about your current position, stick with it. If it’s just “pretty good” or “good enough,” step up to the new challenge.

Why? You have less to lose and more to gain if you’re not over the moon with your current position. If you end up taking the new job and decide later that it’s not for you, you can always move on without feeling like you lost something special. However, if your current job is truly great, then adding some more pay for something that could be a nightmare for you is not worth it.

Q4: Why get a smart watch?

I see a lot of people wearing smart watches lately and I don’t get the point. Why would I want to pay $500 to get texts on my wrist instead of the phone in my pocket? Seems like a waste.
– Bill

Smart watches have a lot of features beyond “receiving a text on your wrist.” My issue is whether any of them are really essential or valuable.

They do work well as an activity monitor and step counter, features you can get with a much less expensive device (like a $100 Fitbit or an even less expensive pedometer). As you mentioned, it’s good at receiving texts and other notifications, which you can read at a glance. It’s also pretty useful at creating quick reminders. It’s a pretty nifty timer that’s always available.

The issue is that the handful of features a smart watch provides are kind of neat and sort of useful, but they don’t really add up to $500. The “killer feature” of fitness tracking is handled by a $100 Fitbit, and it can let you read texts, too.

It’d be a fun toy. I’d probably enjoy one if I was gifted one, but there’s nothing about it that says “Essential!” I’d rather have $500 in a retirement account.

Q5: Windfall needed to immediately retire

How big of a windfall would a person need to immediately retire in their 30s or 40s? How big of a windfall would you need?
– Abraham

You can figure this out by looking at your spending. How much do you spend in a year, including the cost of health insurance? Take that and multiply it by 40 and you have the number I’d want before I’d retire in my 30s and 40s.

Multiplying that number by 40 implies a 2.5% withdrawal rate from your investments for the rest of your life, which is a small enough rate that you have essentially zero chance of your investments running out if they’re sufficiently invested (in a largely aggressive set of index funds).

So, let’s say you calculated that you needed $100,000 a year in today’s dollars to live on for the rest of your life. You’d need a $4 million windfall – or enough to add to your already existing investments – to retire and continue to live on that same $100,000 a year without worry of running out.

The closer you get to the end of your life, the higher that percentage withdrawal rate can be. I usually use the average life span plus about ten years when figuring this for myself, so somewhere around 85 years old. So, if I’m 65, my withdrawal rate could be somewhere around 4% or even 5% for the rest of my life.

It’s a bad idea to completely drain your retirement account because you don’t know for sure when you will pass on. I’d far rather leave some money behind for my kids and for some charities than to run myself dry five years before the end of my life.

Q6: Labeling frozen items in freezer

What is the best method for labeling reusable containers in the freezer? Single-use containers can just be written on with marker obviously but what about containers you want to reuse? Do you use labels?
– Aaron

I just have a giant roll of masking tape. I make sure the surface is dry before I put the tape on and then I write whatever it is on the masking tape with marker. This works pretty well and almost never peels off unless you buy super-cheap masking tape – this is a product I usually don’t buy in store brand form because there’s often inadequate adhesive on cheap masking tape.

When I pull the item out of the freezer, I just peel the tape off and discard it. Then, the next time I use the container, I apply a new piece. I usually write what is in there and the current date. That way, if I go through the freezer, I can tell pretty quickly if the stuff is getting “old” and needs to be used soon.

Scotch does sell a type of masking tape that’s supposedly designed specifically for freezers and it does work like a charm, but it’s a little more expensive than normal masking tape, and the normal tape seems to work well for my use.

Q7: Safety concerns about outdoor exercise

Not really a question, just a comment about your recent answer to a question about exercising outdoors in public. I can relate to this, but in another way. I used to love to walk, run and bike on the trails in central Iowa, but now I’m afraid to go out by myself for safety reasons. As many women can relate to, I’m tired of getting honked at, whistled at, stared at, heckled — you name it — whenever I try to enjoy some time on the trail by myself. Now I try to take group exercise classes at my gym at work. Yes, I’m very fortunate to have a fitness facility where I work, and it’s free for use. But I know there are other low-cost indoor exercise options: community centers & gyms, the Y, churches, for those of us who want to exercise safely indoors on a budget.
– Connie

It’s sad that anyone has to feel this way in modern society. The thing is, although crime does still exist, it’s actually far safer to exercise outside today than it was in the 1970s and 1980s – the difference is the prevalence of 24 hour media which gives far more coverage to these types of incidents. In the past, individual incidents were relegated to a report in a local newspaper or a local television station, so they seemed rarer. If it didn’t happen in your local area, you likely never heard about it. Now, such incidents are blasted nationwide on tons of flavors of media. If you had 50 incidents nationwide in the past, you might hear of the one or two in your area. Today, if there are ten incidents nationwide, media makes sure you hear about all of them, so it feels like there’s more crime even when there’s less. And that’s enough media criticism for today.

If you’re looking to mostly go on long walks, any sufficiently large indoor place will work well for this. Just Google “places to walk indoors near me” and see what pops up.

If you have other exercise needs and feel unsafe exercising outdoors, you’re going to be shopping around for a gym if you don’t have room at home to do them.

Q8: Financial state before marriage important?

How important do you think it is that your partner be in a good financial state before you get married? My husband-to-be has more than $50K in student loans and a car loan and I am worried about being tied to a lot of debt. I have worked really hard to get through college and have a car and not have any debt.
– Shelley

I would look more at his day to day behavior rather than the amount of debt he has. I don’t think a car loan or some student loans is a sign of egregiously bad financial behavior (a bunch of credit cards might be different).

Does he seem to spend a lot on unnecessary things? Don’t focus on things like going out to dinner with you, but rather on things like having a bunch of expensive but unnecessary stuff around his dwelling or constantly having the latest and greatest phone or other gadgets. Does he eat out a lot when he’s by himself or does he prep food at home?

What you’re really looking for is consistent behavior that points in a good financial direction. That would be a bigger sign for me than the presence of student loans or a car loan in someone in their twenties. If you see him spending money wildly, that means he won’t be paying off those debts soon and probably doesn’t have any tendencies toward saving for the future. At the very least, this kind of difference in perspective would be something you need to carefully talk through before getting married.

Q9: Community college advantages and disadvantages

Why would a person not just get their degree for cheap from a community college instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars at a four year?
– Marianne

There are certainly situations where a degree from a community college fits the bill, but there are a lot of advantages to a four year college that a community college usually can’t match.

One big one is the networking. A big school usually affords an opportunity to build connections with a lot of people entering your career path at once. Most four year schools have extracurricular groups and study groups oriented toward forming those kinds of deep relationships. They’re extremely rare at the community college level.

Another advantage is internship opportunities. Those tend to go heavily toward people at established four year universities with good programs in that field because those companies want (perceived) skilled interns.

Another advantage is, whether it’s perceived or not, that more challenging four year schools offer more rigorous classwork, thus students earning a degree from those schools are simply more prepared for the job. The harder classes will also force you to learn a lot more.

If you go to a four year school, put in the effort to get involved with the other people in your area of study, build a study group where everyone’s motivated and you push each other, get some internships, and aim for great grades, you’ll get a lot more value out of a four year school than a community college. It boils down to networking, building relationships, internships, and academic rigor.

Q10: Any value to Coursera?

Is there any value to Coursera without paying money for certificates? Listing completed Coursera classes on a resume doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea.
– Dalton

The value in Coursera is that it provides an organized way to learn about a particular topic, either for personal interest or for professional advancement, for free. I’ve gone through several Coursera courses (and courses on similar sites) in the past just to learn about the subject matter, and they’re universally well done.

The question is whether you value lifetime learning on principle or not. Lifetime learning means you’re engaged in learning even if it doesn’t directly lead to an item on your resume. You learn for the sake of self-improvement and for the sake of sharpening your ability to quickly learn information. Coursera is great for both of those skills, but there are many other sources, too.

Rather than specifically saying Coursera is great, I’m much more inclined to say that lifetime learning is great and Coursera is a good tool for that.

Q11: Updates to backpack recommendations?

I bought a backpack for college last August and it’s already falling apart. Shouldn’t have bought a cheap one. Found your old recommendation of either using a North Face Surge or a Goruck. Do you still recommend those for backpacks?
– Adam

If you’re buying a backpack that you intend to use for many years after college, then I still stand by those two. I have one of each – the North Face Surge II is kind of a “portable office” with all of my work stuff permanently in it, whereas the Goruck GR1 is what I grab whenever I need a bag for non-work things, like hiking or weekend trips or anything like that. They’re both in great shape after many years of use – I’ve probably had the North Face for ten years of multiple-times-a-week use and the Goruck for many trips and probably twice-weekly use besides that.

The thing is, I don’t know if I would recommend a really high end backpack for anyone who may not use one again after college. If your goal is to get through college with it and then you’ll scarcely need one, I’d buy another cheap one at the store.

I chose to buy those long lasting backpacks because my bag from high school and college finally started to fail along the bottom a few years into my professional life and I realized that I really liked carrying a backpack a lot of places, particularly when I started working as a writer. I then found that I didn’t like completely dumping out my “portable office” a few times a week so I could use it for non-work purposes, so I gout a second bag with a somewhat different design.

I think if you want a bag for hiking and weekend trips, a Goruck is a really great choice. For a “portable office,” I’ve really found a lot of value with my North Face Surge II. I would probably investigate other backpacks at this point but, honestly, I don’t have a reason to invest my money in a high end backpack. I have had many readers and friends recommend the Tom Bihn Synapse 25, the 30 liter Peak Design Everyday Backpack, and a few others, but I wouldn’t buy those unless a backpack is an every single day item for you.

If I were to recommend one daily use backpack in terms of bang for the buck, I’d probably point to the North Face Surge II. You can often find it on sale well below $100 and it has worked well for me for many years as a “working backpack.”

Q12: Good but inexpensive notebooks

I am looking for good but inexpensive notebooks for a research project. The standard notebooks people use in our field tend to fall apart in field use but everyone keeps suggesting the same stuff or suggests using a tablet and stylus. I prefer paper but want a notebook that doesn’t fall apart easy without paying $20 for something stitched. I’ve looked but haven’t found anything. You seem to have your finger on the pulse of this.
– Mary

It depends on your price threshold.

The best notebook for under $1 I’ve found in terms of sturdiness is a plain composition book from any office supply or department store. If you’re going cheap, these seem to always hold up better over a long period than spiral-bound notebooks if you’re never wanting to remove any pages from the notebook.

If your budget is $5 or under… man, I’d probably still just get composition notebooks, but perhaps somewhat nicer ones. I have had a lot of issues with spiral bound notebooks lasting in the past. If I were to recommend a spiral bound notebook, I’d probably point toward Oxford single subject notebooks.

If your budget is $10 or under, my recommendation is the Minimalism Art notebook, which is very similar to a Moleskine but at a much better price. If you fill up a lot of notebooks quickly and will be beating them around a lot, this is a good choice. The price is low enough that you won’t be devastated if you ruin one, but they’re sturdy enough that you can carry them a lot of places. The Amazon Basics classic lined notebook is really nice, too.

If your budget is $20 or under, you’re in the range of my favorite notebook I’ve ever used, the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 dotted notebook. It’s got a hard cover, paper that lets you write with all kinds of things without bleeding or smearing, a very sturdy binding… it’s just about perfect all around. It’s pricy, though.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Questions About 529s, Smart Watches, Coursera, Windfalls, Outdoor Exercise, and More! appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Poisonous mushroom leaves entire family ill in Sarlahi

Sarlahi, September 30

A total of 12 members from the same family were taken ill after eating poisonous mushroom curry at Ishworpur-11 in Sarlahi district on Sunday night.

All family members of Brij Kumar Majhi are sick, says Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Pratit Singh Rathor. DSP Rathor shares that Majhi’s wife Raj Kumari Majhi, 55, and their 32-year-old son Paltu Majhi, 28-year-old daughter-in-law Sabita Majhi, six-year-old granddaughter Rinku Majhi and four-year-old grandson Abinash Majhi are sick.

Similarly, those fallen ill include 31-year-old son Biltu Majhi, his wife 27-year-old Anju Dev Majhi, their 10-year-old son Amit Majhi, five-year-old and three-year-old daughters Priyanka Majhi and Menuka Majhi.

The family had brought the wild mushroom from a nearby forest. The head of the family Brij Kumar is receiving treatment at the local healthcare facility while the rest 11 have been sent to Janakpur for further treatment, according to police.


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Sajha Party’s youth wing protests assault on Gyanendra Shahi

File: Gyanendra Shahi

Kathmandu, September 30

The youth wing of Sajha Party has protested an assault on campaigner Gyanendra Shahi. Shahi, who runs a campaign demanding the reinstatement of monarchy and end to corruption, was reportedly attacked by cadres of the ruling Nepal Communist Party in Chitwan district on Saturday.

The organisation also expressed its concerns over obstruction of Nepali Congress leader Minendra Rijal in Rising village of Tanahun district on Sunday. Local NCP cadres were involved in the incident also.

The youth wing says such incidents would jeopardise democracy and create a sense of fear among the public. Sajha Youth Organisation’s general secretary Saroj Gautam’s statement also demands an independent probe and action against the involved.

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Shekhar Koirala demands NC hold general convention ASAP

Nepali Congress leader Shekhar Koirala

Chitwan, September 30

Nepali Congress leader Shekhar Koirala has said the party’s nationwide awareness campaign has boosted the energy among its cadres and the party should hold its general convention as soon as possible to take the level of energy to a new height.

Talking to journalists in Chitwan on Monday, he said the party would be in trouble if it failed to hold the general convention soon.

Koirala said, “The time demands the party to raise voices in favour of the people,” adding that time had come to hit the streets and Parliament also.

He said that the general conventions of the party’s student wing Nepal Students Union and other wings such as Tarun Dal, Women Association and Dalit Association needed to be held on time to make the party presence more effective. The party was not supposed to be in difficulty due to the leadership’s weakness, he added.

“Let’s elect the leadership on time,” he said, claiming that status quo could no more guide the party.


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Govt is doing good, but they are protesting over non-issues: PM

File: KP Sharma Oli

Kathmandu, September 30

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli says the government is doing good, but there are some forces which always protest the government. Oli says the opponents of the government do not have any issue now, but they are turning non-issues into issues and staging the protest.

Laying the foundation stone for new residential buildings for ministers in Bhainsepati of Lalitpur on Monday, Oli said the forces were trying to make the people hopeless, and that would not do any good. He maintained that the government would remain unaffected by such protests.

“There is freedom of speech in Nepal and you can use it,” he said, “Criticising someone healthily is a different issue, but here is a series of protests over non-issues. Let the series continue, but the government stands still on its mission.”

Oli claimed that the ambitious and long-delayed Melamchi Water Supply Project would not take one year to complete now.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Police raid Biplav Maoists’ Jhapa armoury

Explosives confiscated from an armoury of Biplav Maoists, in Jhapa, on Monday, September 30, 2019.

Jhapa, September 30

Police on Monday raided a store of arms and ammunition belonging to the Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplav’-led Maoist party in Arjundhara-1 of Jhapa district.

The government has banned activities of the party citing its activities promoted violence and terrorism.

During the raid, personnel deployed from the District Police Office and Anarmani Area Police Office confiscated 205 packets of a high explosive substance. DSP Mohan Kumar Thapa says the banned party’s Jhapa secretary Praveen Mishra aka Manish, in-charge Suman Singh Paudel, ‘people’s government’ chief Tika Pokharel and other leaders stored the arms there.

They were arrested around two weeks ago. In some recent operations, police had confiscated some important documents of the party.

In the past few months, the party was found to be involved in three explosion cases in the districts.

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Bir Hospital officials accused of recruiting nurses unlawfully

File: Bir Hospital

Kathmandu, September 30

Some staff of Bir Hospital have filed a complaint at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority claiming that top officials of the country’s oldest hospital have recruited 27 staff nurses breaching existing laws recently.

They have claimed that the hospital’s director Kedar Senchuri in cahoots with the National Academy of Medical Sciences vice-chancellor DN Shah and some other officials divided the vacant positions among themselves, ruling Nepal Communist Party, Health Minister Upendra Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and main opposition Nepali Congress and recruited the nurses without publishing an open notice calling for the applications.

An official of the hospital informs that the ruling NCP recommended six nurses whereas five others were recommended by Senchuri. VC Shah, Samajwadi Party and Nepali Congress recommended four, two and two respectively.

Others were recommended by the influential staff of the hospital including administration officer, registrar and account officer of the hospital.

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Naubise-Nagdhunga traffic jam under control, say police

Kathmandu, September 30

The traffic jam along Naubise-Nagdhunga road section of Tribhuvan Highway has subsided in the past few days after police deployed a team to manage the traffic, according to police.

According to Dhading District Police Office, its personnel have started managing the highway since Saturday, after which the traffic jam significantly decreased. The DPO says that there was no traffic jam on Monday and that vehicles were plying normally on the route.

The state of the national highway on the eve of Dashain is quite poor. Passengers had to wait for up to 12 hours along the stretch this past week. A patient had died inside a bus which was one its way to Kathmandu.

Since then, there has been an uproar in the valley. People have been criticising the government for not managing the highway before the Dashain festival. The Home Ministry had to give orders to stop obstructing the roads. Heavy loaded trucks had been initially barred from the Naubise-Nagdhunga road.

Operation team to curb traffic jam

Dhading police have deployed an operation team to ease the traffic jam. The DPO has deployed the team under the leadership of Inspector Bhola Man Singh Adhikari.

To ensure there are no problems on the highway, the team will be deployed 24 hours a day. “The team will solve any problem on the highway,” informs Inspector Adhikari.

Numbers you can call if you face problems:

Dhading police have asked travellers to call their control room if they face any problems on the roads.

Control room: 010-520199 and 9851283480.

Inspector Bhola Man Singh Adhikari: 9851255777

SP Raj Kumar Baidabar: 9851245555

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Australia’s temporary graduate visa attracts international students, but many find it hard to get work in their field

Out of the visa holders surveyed, 76% said access to the visa was an important factor in their decision to study in Australia. from

The number of international students who stay in Australia after graduating on the temporary graduate visa – often referred to as the 485 visa – is growing fast. There were nearly 92,000 temporary graduate visa holders in Australia as of June 2019. That’s up from around 71,000 in June 2018 – a 29% increase.

The 485 visa was introduced in 2008 and updated in 2013, taking on recommendations from the 2011 Knight Review, which recognised post-study work rights for international students as crucial for Australia to remain competitive in the education export market.

Under the visa, international recent graduates of a degree or qualification from an Australian institution can stay in Australia for two to four years, depending on the qualification. The government points to the visa as providing an opportunity for international students to remain in Australia for a limited period of time and gain international work experience.

In our recent study, we examined the effects of the 485 visa policy on international students in Australia and on the labour market.

Out of the visa holders we surveyed, 76% said access to the visa was an important factor in their decision to study in Australia. And the majority of the past (89%) and current (79%) 485 visa holders in Australia participated in the labour force. (Past holders of the visa refer to either those who have returned to their country or remained in Australia but moved on to another visa).

But many graduates did not work full-time, and they did not necessarily work in their field of study. A considerable number of graduates were employed in retail, hospitality or as cleaners.

The numbers

We collected data through an online survey from 1,156 international graduates, some of whom are in Australia and others back in their home countries. We also conducted in-depth interviews with students and other key stakeholders such as employers.

Our analysis included that of government figures and policy.

The top five citizenship countries of 485 visa holders in Australia (India, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam) have also been the top five source countries of international enrolments in Masters by coursework (China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam) programs since 2013.

Up to 56% of current visa holders either worked outside their field of study (35%) or were unemployed (21%), which puts these groups at risk of financial stress and vulnerability.

Australian government data shows occupations such as “sales assistants and salespersons” as well and “cleaners and laundry workers” are in the top three for 485 visa holders across all occupations.

Were visa holders satisfied?

We asked participants to rate how satisfied they were (on a five point scale form extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied) with their employment experience while on visa 485. There was an overall satisfaction rate of 66%.

Those who reported being dissatisfied did so for five main reasons:

  1. the two-year time limit was too short to give employers confidence, to help graduates gain membership with a professional body, and to build work experience and secure employment
  2. employers prefer applicants with permanent residency (PR) and lack understanding of the 485 visa
  3. there’s a lack of flexibility in extending or renewing the visa
  4. there’s a lack of support from related stakeholders (including continuing access to institutional career support services) and lack of advice around temporary graduate visa and post-graduation pathways
  5. the temporary graduate visa isn’t an easy pathway to permanent residency, even though many think it is.

One international graduate told us:

Most of the employers don’t know what post study work visa is […] when I was applying for a job […] the recruiter liked my profile but in the last stage, when I told them I am on temporary graduate visa, they don’t know what exactly is it and they don’t care for the explanation you give about the same […] 50% of the good jobs out there ask for PR and citizenship when the term they offer employment for only one year.

Stereotyping about international students such as that they are “mere PR hunters” is also a barrier to job seeking. The importance attached to being a good “cultural fit” or “best fit” in recruitment is a form for racism, disadvantaging international students and graduates in the Australian labour market.

It’s important to note, however, that the education department’s Graduate Outcomes Survey also indicates that since the Global Financial Crisis, domestic graduates have also taken longer to gain employment, especially in their area of expertise.

Some positives

Many international graduates identified a number of benefits to the 485 visa. Some saw the visa as a way to buy time in Australia to enhance their English language proficiency, acquire different forms of work experience and develop professional and social networks.

In other cases, international graduates were able to repay their study loans while working in jobs unrelated to their field of study.

Working in odd jobs also helped some international graduates improve their communication and soft skills. These are necessary for them to get their foot in the door and gain employment that’s more appropriate to their qualifications.

Our study also found 52% and 49% of those who graduated in 2015 and 2016 respectively reported they secured full-time jobs in their field of study in 2019. This indicates securing a full-time job in their field of study improved over time and specifically for those who were able to secure permanent residency.

It’s important to raise local businesses’ awareness of the temporary graduate visa, its purpose and scope to decrease stereotyping and give international graduates more of a chance to gain skills in their field.

It’s crucial for the international education sector, universities and related stakeholders to have specific campaigns, as well as flexible and practical approaches to align employers’ needs and international graduates’ strengths.

It’s important for the government to include an option to extend or renew the 485 visa for an additional one or two years for those who have been employed full or part-time in their field of study for at least six months, or those who have started their own business in or outside their field of study with a certain level of income.


Importantly, this option needs to be communicated clearly to employers to address their concerns and hesitations about the short-term nature of the temporary graduate visa.

It’s in Australia’s interest to ensure temporary graduates on 485 visas gain employment in their field. This will deliver benefits to local businesses, community and the economy. Positive employment outcomes will also enhance Australia’s reputation for international education globally.The Conversation

Ly Tran, ARC Future Fellow, Deakin University; George Tan, Adjunct Fellow, University of Adelaide, and Mark Rahimi, Postdoctoral Fellow, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Govt directs local health facilities to remain open during festival vacation

Kathmandu, September 30

The federal government has directed hospitals and health facilities to remain open throughout the festive holidays of Dashain and Tihar.

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has requested local governments to open the health facilities running under them during the festivals. The ministry has sent an 11-point circulation to the local units.

Earlier, the Ministry of Health and Population had requested the Ministry of Federal Affairs to make sure that the hospitals remain open during the vacation.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry also told the Federal Affairs Ministry to make sure that local district management committees are standby, all pharmacies and ambulance services are open 24 hours and health facilities near highways are more prepared to handle emergency cases.

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Nepal becoming the first open defecation-free country in South Asia today

File: A man pees in public at Purano Bus Park in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu, September 30

Nepal is being declared the open defecation-free (ODF) country on Monday. With the announcement, Nepal will be the first country in South Asia to be officially recognised ODF.

The announcement means all individual households in the country have access to the toilet. The government hopes that the announcement will be a milestone in its journey towards fulfilling various commitments made at international forums.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will make the announcement amidst a special function organised in Kathmandu this afternoon. The Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation says all preparations have been over for the function.

Chief ministers of all seven provinces and elected officials of local and district levels have been invited to the function.

The campaign of declaring various local units and districts had begun in 2011. A master plan had targeted declaring the country ODF in 2017, but it was delayed by two years due to various reasons.

National Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee’s member secretary Devendra Jha says the campaign built 5 million and 660,214 toilets across the country in past eight years.

Citizens themselves have invested Rs 75 billion in the campaign, according to him. “This is an exemplary programme with investment and involvement of the citizens,” he says.

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Morning Starter: Monday, September 30, 2019

Good morning!

Here’s a quick summary of important, ignored and interesting reports from Sunday to kick-start your day:


Nepali Congress leader Minendra Rijal

NCP carders obstruct Rijal from addressing programme in Tanahun

Cadres of ruling Nepal Communist Party have come under fire again, this time for blocking the road while Nepali Congress leader Minendra Rijal was on his way to address a programme in Rising rural municipality in Tanahun on Sunday.

According to NC senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, NCP cadres even tried to assault Rijal on the way. He said that a group of NCP cadres entered the scene in a disruptive manner with sticks and obstructed Rijal from reaching his destination.

Poudel dubbed the incident as ‘undemocratic’ warning that the party would be compelled to launch a movement to save democracy.

Govt turning fascist, says Thapa

Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa has said that the current government was slowly turning fascist. Citing the incident in Chitwan where campaigner Gyanendra Shahi was beaten up by NCP cadres, Thapa said that these were signs that fascism was spreading in the country. Thapa also condemned that the NCP cadres were misusing freedom of expression.


Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s daughter Renu Dahal

Bharatpur files complaint over social media posts on mayor

Bharatpur Metropolitan City has filed a complaint against those who put a derogatory status on their social media pages against its mayor Renu Dahal. The local government has registered its complaint at the Home Ministry and at Nepal Police’s cybercrime division. The city has accused some people of character assassination of mayor Dahal.

This comes after a few people blamed Dahal for the attack on campaigner Gyanendra Shahi. Many had created a fake account to write derogatory statements about Dahal.

Chitwan Medical College given 24 hours to refund fees

Students and guardians have given Chitwan Medical College a 24-hour ultimatum to refund the excess amount taken by the college. According to an agreement between the college and the students on September 21, the college should have refunded the amount by September 27. However, the students and guardians have said that none of their demands from September 21 had been met by the college. They have said they would start a fresh protest from Monday if the demand was not met.


Govt to give Sino Hydro one year to complete Melamchi project

The government has said it will give Chinese company Sino Hydro only one year to complete the tunnel works of Melamchi Water Supply Project. An agreement has been signed between the two parties on Sunday which states that Sino Hydro has to complete the tunnel within a year. If the Chinese company completes the work within a year, the government has promised them encouragement allowance of 0.015 per cent per day which will roughly amount to around Rs 1.3 million.

Goats arrive in Kathmandu

Goats which will be sold by the government for this Dashain have arrived in Kathmandu. Food Management and Trade Company’s General Manager Yogendra Gauchan says that only half of the ordered goats came to Kathmandu on Sunday.

Gauchan says that the price of the goats will be decided at a meeting of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies on Monday. The price of goats is varying from Rs 535 to Rs 700 per kg. The ministry says that it will sell the goats at a relatively reasonable price even if they have to incur a mild loss. The ministry has ordered the company to supply 3,000 goats in Kathmandu.

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Repairing Naubise-Nagdhunga road not easy, says official

Kathmandu, September 29

The Naubise-Nagdhunga road section along the Tribhuvan Highway is causing problem among people travelling to and from Kathmandu. The 12-kilometre road, currently being repaired, is causing traffic jams as long as 30 kilometres.

The Road Division Offices from Bharatpur and Kathmandu have been assigned to repair the roads. However, both have not been able to repair the roads on time.

Road Division Office, Bharatpur’s chief Krishna Raj Adhikari has said that working on the section hasn’t been easy. “I don’t understand. When we don’t repair the road we get questioned. Now when we are repairing, we are receiving questions again.”

Adhikari says that if they stop the flow of traffic for even 10 minutes, the traffic jam reaches as long as three kilometres. “The road section is a mere seven-metre wide and that hasn’t helped us either,” adds Adhikari, who says around 14,000 vehicles enter Kathmandu via the road daily.

A call for tenders was announced last year asking for bids for the development of the road section. However, there wasn’t a single bid last year. “The same happened this year. In response to our first tender notice, no one submitted a bid. A second tender notice will be sent soon,” Adhikari shares.

Adhikari says that contractors don’t want to work on the stretch because it is hard. This year the divisions had planned to repair the damages on the roads caused by heavy load vehicles. But engineer Hari Kumar Thakuri shares that they haven’t found it easy to work on the stretch due to constant flow of vehicles.


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Ruling party inviting 100,000 to Dashain tea party

Nepal Communist Party office in Dhumbarahi

Kathmandu, September 29

Like in past years, ruling Nepal Communist Party is preparing to host a tea party on the occasion of Dashain and other upcoming festivals such as Tihar, Chhath and Nepal Samvat New Year. The party has decided to extend invitations to around 100,00 people to attend the annual event.

The event will be held at Bhrikutimandap of Kathmandu on October 16.

A meeting of the preparation committee led by the party’s General Secretary Bishnu Paudel on Sunday decided to begin distributing the invitation cards from Monday. Representatives of diplomatic agencies in Kathmandu, industrialists and businesspersons, artists, officials of constitutional bodies, political leaders and members from various other sectors will be invited.

The main opposition party, Nepali Congress, will also host a similar event every year.

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Pokhara mayor wants metropolitan cities to be kept under Urban Development Ministry

File: Man Bahadur GC

Kathmandu, September 29

The mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City in Kaski district, Man Bahadur GC, has demanded that the metropolitan cities should be connected to the Ministry of Urban Development at the federal level. Currently, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration coordinates among all the local governments including the metropolitan cities.

In an interview with Onlinekhabar, GC says the federal government should have different strategies for the metropolitan cities and other local units; hence keeping the metropolises under the Urban Development Ministry would improve the performance of all local governments.

He demanded that the metropolitan cities be removed from the jurisdiction of the Local Government Operation Act and a new law be formulated to govern these bodies.

“A metropolitan city is the most distinguished among the local bodies. Its criteria are also distinguished and higher than other units,” he questions, “So how can a single law operate different bodies?”

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Himalaya Airlines to resume Malaysia flights

Officials of Himalaya Airlines at a press meet in Kathmandu on Sunday, September 29, 2019.

Kathmandu, September 29

Himalaya Airlines says it is preparing to resume its flights to Malaysia after the labour migration of Nepali workers to Malaysia has begun.

The company had been flying to Malaysia until the migration process virtually stopped last year. Now, the flights will resume shortly, the company’s vice-president Bijaya Shrestha informed amidst a press conference on Sunday.

Shrestha also informed that the company got a slot to conduct flights to the newly inaugurated Daxing International Airport in Beijing of China. The company says it will expand its flights to other major Chinese cities as well by the next year.

Currently, the Nepal-China joint venture flies to Abu Dhabi of UAE, Dammam of Saudi Arabia, Doha of Qatar and Dhaka of Bangladesh.

The company also made public its new logo on Sunday.

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Rai says Samajwadi Party will leave govt if no amendment

File: Ashok Rai

Butwal, September 29

A senior leader of the Samajwadi Party, Ashok Rai, says his party will leave the current government if it does not take any initiative to amend the constitution.

The party had joined the government after top leaders of the Nepal Communist Party had promised an amendment to address its concerns.

Speaking at a function organised in Butwal on Sunday, Rai expressed his dissatisfaction that the government was silent about the demands for amendment. He reiterated that amendments should be made to introduce the directly elected presidential system, federalism with identity among other issues.

In another context, he said the government was not operating as people wished. The citizens were hopeless as corruption and bribery increased, according to him.

Rai clarified that his party would continue protesting the government’s wrongdoings though it was also a part of the government.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Rato Tika Nidharma movie review: Forceful yoke of lame jokes and ‘progressive’ preaching

Ashok Sharma has failed again. After a remarkable career in the Nepali cinema industry and disappearing for a long time, the veteran actor-producer has been trying hard to make a comeback. While his Jai Bhole released around Dashain, last year, was accused of jeopardising the career of creative artist Khagendra Lamichhane, Sharma’s recent Rato Tika Nidharma is not much different. Besides the movie’s failure to appeal to the critics and the audience, the Nepali cinema history in the future will only remember this week’s release as Sharma’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce his son Ankit as a ‘hero’.

Lack of focus yet again

Sharma’s Jai Bhole was marred by its divided focus; the audience was left torn between a comic love story and a culture conservation campaign. One year after that, the director is in front of us again, ready to confuse as effectively as he did last year. He appeals to you to go watch the movie as the trailer shows the replay of the timeless Rato Tika Nidharma song accompanied by a dance. But, you will find yourself disappointed as soon as the movie begins.

Frankly, the first 30 minutes of the movie has a lot to confuse you. You see two wayward lovers, Aakash (Ankit) and Dristi (Samragyee Shah) accompanied by two middle-aged friends. They have their own jobs but are also involved in deceiving people (though the movie does not clearly tell you how the four collectively deceive people). On the other hand, you see a group of people, led by a leader (Raja Ram Paudel) staging a fast-unto-death. While the hunger strike scenes occupy around 10 minutes of the movie’s first half (remember 10 minutes mean a lot in a carefully planned movie), you will never know their purpose.

The movie strives to make the audience laugh, but that is more forceful than spontaneous. Between two friends of Aakash and Dristi, Mohit (Rabindra Jha) looks a bit human and realistic, but Ganesh (Buddhi Tamang) is totally a fictional character. He has a unique ‘ailment’: whenever he sneezes, he loses his memory and does not recognise anyone, including his wife and daughter. After a few minutes, he’s fine. Whereas human beings are prone to various mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia that could make them forget the reality, the characterisation of Ganesh ridicules this fragility of human nature and limits survivors of such diseases to mere laughing stocks. This is offensive and inhumane.

The movie has a lot of lame jokes. We have a minor character named Simple (Neeta Dhungana) who does not understand even simple things around her. On the day she elopes with Mohit, she feels nauseous and fears that she is pregnant. When Mohit tells her that they are just married, Simple in her fake innocence says, “No one has ever told me that you need to get married before you become pregnant.” We have yet another character who walks miles without realising where he is, just because a doctor prescribed him regular walks.

Artless moral preaching

A few minutes before the intermission, the movie evolves into a moral lesson and it continues throughout the movie. In fact, the comic and love story dimensions of the movie are overshadowed by the moral preaching in the second half.

To highlight the patriotic and progressive agenda that the youth should modernise agriculture in Nepal instead of going abroad, the movie turns the lovers into foes now; Dristi becomes an agriculture modernisation and women empowerment campaigner whereas Aakash becomes an agent of a foreign employment recruiter. To give more power to the conflict, the writer cum director Sharma does not only make Dristi marry a green card-holder guy, he kills her husband in the story and makes Dristi return home.

The way that Dristi and Aakash meet again is also equally dramatic. Before their meeting, you are not told that Dristi’s husband and Aakash belong to the same village. Hence, the movie’s moral preaching is also forceful and invented than spontaneous.

There is nothing wrong for an art project to teach moral lessons; a lot of fictions and films do that. In fact, almost all works of literature and art have some moral lessons; but they are all covert. Rato Tika Nidharma is problematic because the moral lesson it has is so overt that it subdues the artistic dimension of the movie. The movie, at the end, turns out to be an agenda-setting video work instead of a commercial movie.

Acting and cinematography

Mediocre acting and cinematography are okay because they frequently remind the audience that they should not expect much from the movie. Debutante Ankit Sharma needs a lot of training in acting and dialogue delivery if he really wants to develop a career in the industry. Shah does justice to the role of a widowed semi-rural woman. While her acting has significantly improved from her past appearances, her dialogue delivery, at times, sounds artificial. In her next productions, she needs to go the setting and get accustomed to the life of the character she plays so that she can do it as lively and naturally as possible.

It is worthless to comment on other actors because the story does not give them any significant role. However, Aruna Karki and Arjun Shrestha make an impression. Rabindra Jha, Buddhi Tamang, Jaya Nanda Lama and Raja Ram Paudel look boring as they do not offer anything new.

The camerawork is okay, but it does not have any close-up shot which could give different effects to the audience. Background sounds are loud and disturbing. Overall, the movie is poorly produced and edited. The Rato Tika Nidharma dance that is shown a few minutes before the curtains fall is a great relief that could help you forget all the gaps that you noticed in the movie.


Ashok Sharma has promised to release his next project ‘Allare 2’ around Dashain the next year. Before that, he needs to learn lessons from the responses he earned from Jai Bhole and Rato Tika Nidharma. In particular, the veteran director now needs to realise that a focus matters a lot in a commercial movie. After all, a single project cannot give everything from a moral lesson to love story and comedy.

Rato Tika Nidharma

Runtime: 115 minutes

Genre: Drama, comedy

Screenwriter/Director: Ashok Sharma

Cast: Ankit Sharma, Samragyee Shah, Neeta Dhungana, Buddhi Tamang, Rabindra Jha, Shiva Hari Poudel, Khusbu Khadka, Laxmi Giri, Aruna Karki, Basundhara Bhusal, Jaya Nanda Lama, Rajaram Poudel



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Nepal, UAE sign revised air service agreement

Kathmandu, September 29

Nepal has signed a revised air service agreement with the United Arab Emirates at ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium 2019 in Canada. The agreement was signed by Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai and UAE’s Finance Minister, Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori.

The two countries had agreed in principle to sign a new deal earlier this year. Tourism Ministry’s joint-secretary Suresh Archarya says that the new agreement would make it easier for Nepal to fly its aircraft to the UAE and would also be getting better services around airports in the UAE and vice versa.

Acharya further adds that the agreement has a provision which would give both the countries rebate on customs and other taxes.

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Gagan Thapa: Govt decision to fund Ram Baran Yadav’s treatment unlawful

Kathmandu, September 29

Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa has said that the government’s decision to fund former president Ram Baran Yadav’s treatment was unlawful.

A Cabinet meeting last week had decided to refund Yadav the bill amount of his treatment in India.

However, Thapa, a former health minister, has questioned the decision to do so. He says that the Cabinet made the decision going against the law.

“The law which we passed around a year ago is clear; Nepal government will not pay anyone who goes abroad for his/her treatment. The law is for everyone, whether it be a former president or current prime minister. If the law is clear, on what basis has the government decided to refund former president Yadav?” he says.

Yadav, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer three years ago, regularly visits the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh for general checkups.

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Weather to get better from Monday, says MFD

Kathmandu, September 29

The Meteorological Forecasting Division has said that the weather conditions should start to get better from Monday. Meteorologists say that people should not be worried about Dahsain being ruined by the rain.

“The rain should subside by Monday. The clouds are slowly heading east, which means we should get some sunshine from Monday onwards. It might rain in Kathmandu and eastern Nepal on Sunday, but the weather should get better on Monday,” shares Manju Basi from the MFD.

The MFD can only forecast weather up to three days, which is why weather forecasts for the time between Phulpati until Dashami are yet to come out. However, Basi says that rain is less likely as the weather system is shifting towards the east.

“We will get light showers throughout Dashain, but the manner in which it has been raining for the past few weeks will stop from Monday,” she adds.

Basi further states that the MFD had not seen an environment for the monsoon to completely subside immediately. She, however, confirms that there will not be many incidents of heavy rainfall from Monday onwards.

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‘Vulture restaurants’ provide lifeline for critically endangered species

>>After a crash in vulture populations in South Asia in the 1990s, several species are rebounding in Nepal thanks to a ban on the drug diclofenac along with community efforts.

>>“Vulture restaurants” have been opened to save the birds from extinction by providing them with safe food and building awareness of their imperilled status.

>>Conservationists say broader efforts, such as regular monitoring of the remaining population and conservation of their habitat, are needed to save vultures.

PITHAULI, Nepal — A quiet cattle grazing ground on the fringes of the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal suddenly burst into life. Tall trees wearing shades of green after overnight rain were abuzz with around 150 vultures of various species. And within a matter of minutes, almost all of them darted towards the ground to pounce on food literally laid on a platter.

Around half a dozen tourists, university students and local researchers watched in awe as one of nature’s most prolific ‘cleaners’ devoured a dead cow.

“The food we offer to them is free from diclofenac, and hence it is safe,” says Ankit Bilash Joshi, a field biologist. The drug diclofenac began killing vultures during the late 1990s. This drug relieved old or sick cattle of their discomfort, but it poisoned vultures.

“Once a cow died,” said ornithologist Hem Sagar Baral, who is now the Country Representative of ZSL in Nepal, “herders would dump them next to a river, and vultures would eat the carcass. Food was super-abundant for vultures back then.”

The introduction of diclofenac changed that. When an animal full of the pain-killing drug died, vultures fed on the carcass, ingesting the medicine, which remained in the body of cattle for up to a week.

The drug spikes uric acid levels in the blood and develops visceral gout in vultures, which prevents the kidney from filtering uric acid and kills the bird. According to Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), a contaminated carcass can kill around 350-800 individuals.

Until this period, vultures lacked protected status because they were relatively common. “Those days, we had a vulture crisis in South Asia, including Nepal,” remembers Baral, who worked on campaigns to rid the region of the drug. Of the around 1-1.6 million vultures that roamed the sky in Nepal, only 20,000 survive at present, according to Bird Conservation Nepal.


Vultures from surrounding areas, some of which are tagged, feed on a carcass provided at a vulture restaurant in southern Nepal.

Vultures typically lay just one egg every year, so their populations could not keep up with the rapid loss of adults.  “The population of vultures (mainly the white-rumped [Gyps bengalensis] and slender-billed [Gyps tenuirostris], two species now categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List) that remained was a decimated one,” Baral told Mongabay.

While international scientists suggested that a ban on the killer drug could help the population recover (the government did ban the drug in 2006), Baral, who has been studying vultures in Nepal for two decades, had a hunch that changing cattle rearing practices in the sub-continent could have contributed to the crisis in many ways. “First, cows native to Nepal and other parts of South Asia are very unproductive. People had to raise a lot of cows, for a few litres of milk.”

But as new hybrids were introduced, productivity shot up–one hybrid cow could produce more milk than 10 local cows. This led to a decline in the population of cattle, which had been a vital source of food for vultures, Baral explained. “To add to that, people started burying dead cattle because of changes in sanitary behaviour, which further decreased the vultures’ food supply.

A local solution

Baral, then CEO of BCN, wanted to provide safe food for vultures. He and DB Chaudhary, a local resident of Pithauli who was also monitoring vultures, came up with an idea that unwittingly resembled the ‘vulture restaurant’ model developed in Africa in the mid-1960s.

But there was a caveat. “Vultures in India and Nepal are more reliant on dead livestock than their cousins in Africa that get plenty of dead wild ungulates to feed on,” Baral said.

“The problem with cattle is that when they get old, they become a burden for farmers. They want to get rid of them, but due to religious reasons, they can’t do so—Hindus revere cows,” explained Chaudhary, who has been working in the field of conservation and biodiversity for over 25 years. “So we’d buy the old cattle from farmers and feed them to the vultures,” he added.

Members of the community prepare a carcass to feed the vultures. The community manages the restaurant.

With support from BCN, the idea finally broke ground and a ‘vulture feeding zone’ was established in 2006. Some of their early challenges included local perception of the project.

Word soon spread that Chaudhary was killing cows and feeding them to vultures. “Rumors had it that I slaughtered cows—doing so is illegal in Nepal—and fed them to the vultures,” Chaudhary said. “One day, top army and police officers from the area came to visit and asked me to explain what I was doing. Everyone in the community was certain that I would be arrested,” he added. But the security officers loved his idea and asked him if he needed any support. “We don’t kill cows, we look after them. We feed them well,” said Chaudhary, a proud founder of the Jatayu Vulture Restaurant. “And when they die due to old age, we feed them to the vultures, who don’t eat living beings,” said Baral.

There were sceptics who said that the feeding program would make vultures lazy and they would lose skills to look for food in the wild. Others argued that if vultures got better food in India, they would migrate south of the border and all activities designed around the restaurant would fail. “Fortunately, none of that has happened,” Chaudhary said. In fact, a satellite tagging project showed that vultures that ‘dined’ at the restaurant have travelled as far as Pakistan.

To start the restaurant, BCN teamed with the local community forest user group. “This helped the cause a lot as the local people took ownership of the project,” Baral said. “When we came up with the idea, I didn’t know that vulture restaurants were already popular in different parts of the world,” said Chaudhary. “Vulture restaurants were already in operation in various parts of Africa and Europe when we started it in Nepal. But what sets our restaurant apart is that the local community, not a business, manages it.”

Diclofenac poisoning killed thousands of vultures in South Asia in the late 1990s. A campaign to stop the use of the drug still goes on.

There were other factors that led BCN and Chaudhary to choose the village of Pithauli, Nawalparasi for the restaurant. “We decided to base the safe feeding zone, which we renamed as ‘restaurant’ because it sounded more trendy, because the area had a remnant colony that could be revived Baral said. “The bonus for us was that the area was close to Chitwan National Park, which welcomes thousands of tourists every year. We did not have to ‘create’ new tourists to come visit the restaurant.”

Baral and Chaudhary, along with the local community, decided to brand it as ‘Jatayu’, the most famous vulture in Hindu mythology. They also decided to build a shed from which tourists could watch the vultures safely and an information center where people could come to learn about vultures. Preparing funding proposal for the UNDP small grants program in 2007 helped them refine their idea.

While the grant and support from other organizations such as the International Trust for Nature Conservation and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds would help set up the basic infrastructure for the restaurant, the community would run the restaurant using revenue generated by various means, including selling cattle skin and excreta (for compost), and potentially, homestay units for tourists and scientists coming to the restaurant. The restaurant would be managed by a sub-committee of the local community forest user group.

Impacts of the program

Thirteen years after its establishment, the program exceeds expectations. While tourist numbers have been encouraging, selling of bones and hide has not yielded a lot of revenue as it takes time for the bones and the hide to pile up to a quantity that can be sold in bulk. A recent survey by BCN showed that 31 percent of the people in Pithauli agreed that ecotourism has brought changes to their economic status. Similarly, 83 percent of the respondents said their lives would be affected by a decline in vulture population. Around 97 percent agreed that use of chemical medicine for livestock treatment killed the vultures.

A red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), also a critically endangered species, is seen along with the white-rumped vultures feeding on a carcass at the vulture restaurant in Nawalpur.

“We saw that the restaurant’s location near the Chitwan National Park was critical, as it helped bring in tourists, who would not have otherwise gone there just for the restaurant,” said Baral. “Our experience has been similar in Ghachok, where we have established another vulture restaurant near the resort town of Pokhara,” he said. “Other vulture restaurants that lack the tourism angle have had limited success,” he explained.

Nevertheless, there are now more than half a dozen vulture restaurants around Nepal that run on similar models. Around Pithauli, the number of vulture nests has increased exponentially. Recent vulture population estimates in Nepal are around 80 percent of the population recorded in 2002.

A Google search of the term ‘vulture restaurant’ throws up results from more than 10 different countries where the idea is either being discussed or is already implemented. For example, the South Asia Vulture Recovery Action Plan (2006) stressed using vulture restaurants to provide safe food and augment existing food sources. In Cambodia, where diclofenac was banned only in July 2019, the Vulture Action Plan (2016-2025), recognizes the contribution of six vulture restaurants, first of which was established in 2004, and calls for sustainable finance to support such feeding sites.


Chaudhary and his community members face a host of challenges running the restaurant. “We wanted to run a homestay facility here, but that did not work out well” he said. “In addition to that, diclofenac is still in use in various parts of India, and vultures that get safe food in Nepal may die across the border.” He added, “after the recent local elections in Nepal after more than two decades, new representatives have taken office, and it is difficult to explain to them why what we are doing is important.”

But these are challenges that can be overcome with time, Chaudhary said. His advice for other projects looking to emulate the success of the restaurant: get the community on board. “The project would not have been this successful without community ownership,” he said. Linking conservation with means of livelihood (such as tourism) is important, added Baral because it gives people the incentive to conserve the species in question.

After the vultures are done eating, they visit a pond nearby to quench their thirst. They then bask in the sun to warm their feathers.

Meanwhile, the vultures finish their meal turn-by-turn. The ones that were satiated first return from a nearby lake, where they drink water and spread their wings in the sun. They don’t have to worry about food for at least a week.

But for conservationists like Baral, the vultures are not out of the woods yet. “Measures such as vulture restaurants only provide a shot in the arm for conservation efforts, broader efforts are needed to save vultures from extinction.” Monitoring of the population and detection of new threats (such as power transmission lines where they are electrocuted) along with conservation of their habitat is important, he adds.

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