Daily Briefs

Photo : The Kathmandu Post

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #11, 13 June 2023, Tuesday

Imposed VAT to protect local farmers, says FM Mahat

The Maldives: NIAS NR Daily Update on Political Instability


By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George and Lakshmi Parimala H


Imposed VAT to protect local farmers, says FM Mahat

On 13 June, The Kathmandu Post reported on the budgetary discussion over imposing VAT on food. The financial bill imposed a VAT of 13 per cent on imported onions, potatoes and several other fruits and vegetables. Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat stated that this would protect the local farmers and that the general public would not be affected as the tax is imposed on potatoes and onions sold at departmental stores. He further added that the government imposed VAT as higher taxes cannot be imposed because of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). However, this was condemned by MPs and traders, citing that it will cause food insecurity to low-income families. Additionally, they pointed out that Nepal is dependent on imports of onion, and the domestic production is low, thus making them expensive. As a result, the traders stopped importing onions and potatoes after the imposition of the tax. (Pawan Pandey, “VAT makes the poor food insecure, say experts,” The Kathmandu Post, 13 June 2023)

Nepal and India to sign the long-term energy deal

On 13 June, The Kathmandu Post reported that India and Nepal are set to sign the final agreement on energy. During PM Dahal's visit to India during 31 May- 3 June, New Delhi agreed to import 10,000 megawatts of electricity from Nepal in the next ten years. Along the same lines, an initial agreement was signed at the energy secretary level on 2 June. Both are set to sign a final agreement on 18 June, when the Energy Secretary Dinesh Kumar Ghimire visits India. (Anil Giri, "Nepal and India to ink long-term energy deal early next week," The Kathmandu Post, 13 June 2023)



New incentives to encourage the tourists to “Stay Longer”

On 12 June, Outlook India reported on Bhutan government’s new Sustainable Development Fee (SDF). According to it, the government will incentivise tourists to stay longer, allowing them to fully explore Bhutan. The 'Stay Longer' will allow the tourists to pay the SDF for four days and stay for additional four days without paying any tax. The incentives will be available between 1 June 2023 and 31 December 2023. The incentives aim to revive the pandemic-hit tourism sector. (Himakshi Panwar, "Bhutan's 'Stay Longer' Incentive: A Game-Changer for Travellers," Outlook India, 12 June 2023)



"UN should enhance the screening of all Bangladeshi troops" says HRW

On 12 June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested UN Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix, to raise concerns over the human rights violations by Bangladesh’s security forces. Lacroix is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in June. The HRW Chief Advocacy Officer, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, stated that he must emphasize the need for Bangladesh to follow the UN human rights screening policy, of all Bangladeshi troops irrespective of their position. ("Bangladeshi Peacekeepers: UN should enhance screening before appointing them," The Daily Star, 13 June 2023)

Dhaka tops the most polluted cities list worldwide

On 13 June, at 9:15 am, Dhaka's AQI reached 167,  making it at the top of the list of cities with the worst air quality worldwide. Delhi, Lahore, and Karachi occupied second, third and fourth spots with AQI of 162, 158 and 139, respectively. The Air Quality Index (AQI) measures the air pollution levels. In Bangladesh, the AQI considers five criteria of pollutants- particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. The AQI ranges from 0-500. A greater AQI value indicated a higher level of pollution. It is divided into six categories, each corresponding to different levels of health concern. The 151-200 range is marked as 'unhealthy', where Dhaka's AQI stands. ("Dhaka's air world's most polluted Tuesday morning," Dhaka Tribune, 13 June 2023)



Political prisoners are being tortured in the Myingyan Prison, says Irrawady

On 13 June, The Irrawaddy reported that the nearly seventy political prisoners in the Myingyan Prison in Mandalay are taken into the prison governor's office and been beaten up since 21 May. They have been tortured for minor infringements, 

standing up for their rights and protesting inside the prison. The prisoners are having cuts on their bodies, and their teeth were knocked out. They are neither given any treatments nor allowed their family members to send medicines or food. Monywa University of Economics Students Union chairperson and a member of the anti-coup protest committee for Monywa, Ko Shin Thant said: "We doubt the ICRC can do anything to stop torture and grave human rights violations in prisons. But the ICRC should do more to make the world aware that the regime has denied its request for prison visits, and also publicize what's happening inside Myanmar prisons. ICRC must increase the pressure [to halt the torture]." ("Myanmar Junta Turns Myingyan Prison into Torture Chamber for Political Detainees," The Irrawaddy, 13 June 2023)

Military burnt Salingyi township as a response to police station burning by resistance forces

On 12 June, The Irrawaddy reported that more than 3000 civilians fled from Salingyi Township after the Myanmar Junta troops burnt their homes after a 30-minute air strike using a Mi-35 helicopter. This was a response to the burning of the police station and the killing of a dozen regime forces by the Union Liberation Front and the Buffalo People's Defence Force fighter. According to the local youth charity Anyar Pyit Taking Htaung Lay Myar, civilians have been finding shelter in monasteries and with relatives in other villages. The spokesperson of the charity said: "Some of the children are sick, so urgent medical and food aid is needed." The Nyaung Pin Gyi village and Htan Taw village had been set on fire by the troops. ("Thousands of Civilians Flee Latest Wave of Arson Attacks by Myanmar Junta in Sagaing Region," The Irrawaddy, 12 June 2023)



Adani group to discuss the ongoing energy projects

On 12 June, the project management team from the Adani group arrived in Sri Lanka to assess the progress of the two large-scale renewable energy generation projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the Northern Province. Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said that Adani Green Energy is committed to completing the project by December 2024. ("Top Adani team here to assess ongoing projects," The Island, 13 June 2023)



The Maldives: NIAS NR Daily Update on Political Instability

On 13 June, the parliamentary session came to a halt with no one to preside over it, as the parliamentary speaker Mohamed Nasheed recused from presiding the floor until the parliament decides on his no-confidence motion. 

MP Rozaina Adam accused Mohamed Nasheed and Eva Abdulla of "hijacking" the parliament as they have contributed to the deadlock. Further, the absence of a presiding officer has made it difficult for the no-confidence motion against both the speaker and the deputy speaker to be taken forward. 

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) 's parliamentary group leader Mohamed Aslam accused Nasheed of behaving in an "extremely autocratic" causing the session to be cut short.

Joint Statement with the Seychellois President

On 12 June, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the President of Seychelles, Mr Wavel Ramkalawan delivered a joint statement following the latter's visit to Maldives. In the statement, both of them emphasized the commonalities shared by both countries. They expressed their commitment to enhancing bilateral relations and shared concerns about climate change effects. Both countries signed agreements on mutual exemption of visa requirements, development of the youth, cooperation on combatting transnational organized crime, and maritime and security safety threats. ("Pres Solih and Seychellois Pres Ramkalawan deliver joint statement," Avas, 12 June 2023)

'The Democrats' party office attacked with crude oil

On 12 June, a group of individuals threw crude oil on the main party center of 'The Democrats' amidst a meeting on the premise. The people who were present in the building were also attacked by the individuals. Former MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz contemned the incident and added that such acts would not mislead the party from undertaking its mission. So far, no arrests have been made in connection to the attack. ("Crude oil thrown at The Democrats' main party center," Avas, 13 June 2023 )



Foreign correspondents of FCC resign after the president's visit to Myanmar

On 12 June, The Wire reported that ten India-based foreign correspondents resigned from the Foreign Correspondents Club(FCC) of South Asia. This was a reaction to the president of the association, S Venkat Narayan's visit to Myanmar at the invitation of a state-run newspaper, and met ministers in the junta. In a circulated statement, the president stated that he visited as a guest of a newspaper, further condemning the attempts made to create the 'false impression' of his meeting with the junta. He further said that his meetings with some ministers were not connected to the FCC. (Devirupa Mitra, "Foreign Correspondents Club Members Resign After President Visits Myanmar, Meets Junta Ministers," The Wire, 12 June 2023)



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