Gradually, but certainly Nepali Congress (NC) is intensifying internal discussions on how to get the peace process moving. The NC has always been for the rehabilitation and integration of the former Maoist combatants before the promulgation of the new constitution. As of today, both the peace process and the statute-drafting task have almost come to a standstill. It is all the more frustrating to see the Jhala Nath Khanal-led government dragging its feet on almost every front. The most glaring is the tussle with the UCPN (M) that wants the Home portfolio at any cost. On this score, Prime Minister Khanal is under immense pressure both within the UML party ranks and from the other stakeholders not to give the Home Ministry to the Maoists. He has also gone on record to say that the contested portfolio will remain with him as long as consensus is not arrived at for doing so. At the moment, nothing substantial has materialised despite the election of the prime minister over two months ago. The allusion is, of course, not to the prime minister only but to the UCPN (M) that seems to have made the issue of the Home Ministry of the biggest significance. As the crisis of confidence continues, it is but fitting that the PM keeps the portfolio with himself, as allotting it to the Maoists has imminent negative repercussions. If this had not been the case, the Maoists would not have put the expansion of the cabinet to hold for so long. The Maoists are neither allowing the peace process to move forward, nor working wholeheartedly for completing the draft of the statute for promulgation, for which a mere 40 days remain.
The hurdle in getting the peace process really moving is to manage the Maoist combatants. The Maoists by standing rigidly to their stance of statute first, then combatant management is only a ploy to have the backing of their fighters even when the new constitution is promulgated.
This is going to cost the nation dearly, with the Maoists getting their moves ready for what they term the ‘decisive struggle'. The new Maoist sister organisation that they have come up with recently, in addition to the already existing YCL, has created doubts as to the intentions of the UCPN (M). Instead of allaying fears, it is adding fuel to the fire by
exposing its violent intentions. With these acts, the country is suffering in that the statute may yet be delayed and the peace process stuck up for want of sincerity from the Maoists.
However, it is worth noting that the proposal for the creation of a new force under the Nepal Army is finding positive response among certain quarters, including the NC. For UCPN(M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to think positively of the proposal augurs well in as far as it shows a room for negotiation. Nepali Congress, after unveiling its six-point action plan, is heavily resting on the fact that the possibility of promulgating the constitution before the rehabilitation and integration of the Maoist combatants is not possible. Now, it seems that political parties are converging, but the fear is that they might turn out to be mere illusions.
Do not delay
Sexual harassment at the workplace is widespread as revealed by a research carried out in Nepal in 2004, which revealed that 48.4 per cent working women faced such abuses. This can be a traumatic experience for women folks and many of them falling victims to sexual harassment undergo emotional stress, humiliation, anxiety and also suffer from physical ailments. The working women should be able to work in an environment free from such harassment. Thus, it is high time that the “Sexual Harassment at the Workplace” Bill was approved. This Bill had been proposed by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare ten months ago, but it has yet to be approved by the parliament.
More women are now taking jobs, and many of them face sexual harassment and the perpetrators of such despicable acts are able to go away scot free in the absence of a relevant Act and other provisions that would penalize them and discourage them from carrying out such nefarious acts. Given that many working women are facing sexual harassment, it would only be fitting to approve the Bill without delay for there is no reason to dilly-dally on this.