Monday, August 8, 2022

Hundreds of youths protest in Nepal against government’s response to COVID-19

They did not chant slogans, maintained distance and sat on the side of the road with placards demanding that the government properly handle the coronavirus crisis. Various groups of youngsters have continued to demonstrate in Kathmandu and across the country demanding that the government be more accountable about measures to contain the pandemic which has infected over 5,000 people in the Himalayan nation.

They have been demanding PCR tests, putting an end to RDT, implementing four-tier triage approach for all at risk, protecting frontline health care and hospital workers, providing legally-binding protection against stigma and discrimination in suspected or positive COVID-19 cases. They are also demanding dignity and relief measures for daily-wage workers, returnee migrants, the poor and marginalized communities and a commitment to transparency and accountability by sharing all COVID-management details including budget allocation and expenditure.

“There are so many migrant workers coming in from the border side from India to Nepal. I would not like to call them the migrant worker because they are Nepali, they didn’t get a job in Nepal that’s why they went to India to work and they are coming back home and I think it’s government duty to look after them,” Nagma Shrestha, Miss Nepal Earth of 2017 who was also coordinating silent demonstration at Maitighar Mandala, told ANI.  She said local people were looking after them right now.

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The protestors are also demanding that the government be more transparent in expenses incurred in attempts to control the pandemic. “We want transparency from the government. There are claims that they are spending a lot of money for management of this crisis but they are not showing the account statement of where the money has gone. So we as taxpayers, we as the aware youngsters of the country, we want to ask the government for accountability, about the money basically,” said Suraj Raj Pandey, another participant in the demonstration.

Nepal’s Minister of Health and Population had claimed earlier this week that 10 billion Nepali rupees have been spent to reduce the effect of COVID-19 pandemic. The protestors are also asking the government to bring plans for the post-pandemic era.  “After COVID-19 lockdown or crisis, I am pretty sure that there is going be a big economic recession. The government is not showing any interest in bringing out any plans and policies for it. We just want the government, we love our government, we love whatever they are doing for the country but we want our government to be more responsible and accountable towards us,” Pandey added.
In the last four days, independent protests have been organized in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Chitwan, Surkhet, Birgunj, Dhankuta, Bhaktapur, Butwal, Dang, Palpa, Hetauda, Lalitpur among other places.

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The police had earlier dispersed people using batons and water cannons for violating lockdown norms. Meanwhile, seven foreign nationals were arrested from the area which includes three Chinese, an Australian, a Canadian and two American citizens and taken into custody, police said. Three Nepali citizens have also been arrested from the same area.

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