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Hunger strike over politician's perks

New allowances will cost the state millions, say critics

  • Chirendra Satyal, Kathmandu
  • Nepal
  • July 27, 2012
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A group of eight men, including former state officials, are staging a  hunger strike in protest at a decision to offer perks to former government members.

Former government secretary Khem Raj Regmi joined other members of Civil Society Nepal (CSN) in the 72-hour relay strike in Kathmandu yesterday. They say the move to give allowances to former presidents, prime ministers, speakers of the house and home ministers will cost the state about 500 million rupees (US$5.6 million) a year.

“These are unjust allowances that have to be stopped,” Regmi said.

CSN claims the decision, although approved by the president, is a misuse of state power in the absence of a parliament. The constituent assembly was dissolved at the end of May by Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.

Former prime ministers, of which there have been four in the past four years, would receive 50,000 rupees per month for housing, a vehicle worth five million rupees, a further 50,000 rupees per year for fuel and car maintenance, 40,000 rupees annually for hospitality and funding for private secretariats.

Former presidents and vice-presidents would receive the same perks.

The decision comes in the wake of a corruption scandal that has engulfed the leaders of the ruling Maoist party, after soldiers called for an investigation into millions of missing rupees earmarked for a welfare fund.

Growing criticism of the politicians’ lavish lifestyles has prompted a string of leading figures - including Maoist leaders, a former prime minister and vice-president - to return their vehicles this month.

Dr Rabindra Khanal, a lecturer in political science at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University, said this month’s newly announced allowances meant that the state’s financial commitments were becoming extravagant as they still fund the former king, who was removed from power in 2008.

“At a time when state allowances for the former king [Gyanendra Shah] are coming under question, it is ridiculous that the state is providing so much money and dozens of security guards for each ex-minister of that bygone era,” he said.

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