Nepalese protest festival fund cut

Government decision to stop allowance for Hindu festival triggers unrest.

    Protesters burnt tyres and shops
    remained closed on Monday [EPA]

     

     

    Last week the Maoist government announced in its first budget that the allowance for a festival celebrating a "living Goddess" would be stopped.

    For centuries, Nepal's kings received blessings from the Kumari,
    a young girl from the Buddhist Newar community revered as a living
    incarnation of a Hindu goddess.

    "The Maoist government is trying to stamp out cultural and religious festivals,"  Rajan Maharajan, one of the officials that looks after the 11-year-old girl, who is largely confined to her ornate residence, said.

    "It's their first step towards a cultural revolution. Because of the money cutback, rituals cannot take place in the right manner."

    Ambitious budget

    Bhattarai in his budget announced plans to cancel loans given to small farmers, funnel between $20,000 to $40,000 into each of Nepal's 4,000 villages and increase social security spending by 440 per cent.

    At least $79m has been earmarked for agricultural reforms, a 70 per cent increase over last year for a sector that employs just over two-thirds of Nepal's 28 million people.

    To help fund these ambitious projects, Nepal plans to ask $877m from international donors and collect $1.9bn as revenue.

    But Tilak Rawal, a former governor of Nepal's national bank, said the budget's revenue-raising plan was unrealistic.

    "They have set near to impossible targets for revenue collection and double digit growth over the next three years," Rawal said.

    "Last year, revenue collection increased by just 13 per cent so it will be a huge challenge for them to collect such an increased amount with only the same resources available."

    "The budget is aimed at the grassroots level of people who have been isolated from the economic mainstream in the past," Prem Khanal, an economic columnist for the Kathmandu Post newspaper, said.

    "It has some challenging aims, but it has not spelled out a clear mechanism to achieve them," Khanal said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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