Nepal’s new government began implementing a pact signed with agitating Madhes-based parties on Friday, announcing it will pay Rs 1 million to the next of kin of nearly 60 people who died in violent protests against the new Constitution last year.
In line with the agreement signed with the Madhesi Morcha, the cabinet decided during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” that the compensation would be paid within a week.
A total of 59 people, including security personnel, lost their lives and dozens more were injured during the nine-month protest by Madhes-based parties against provisions in the new Constitution.
The cabinet also decided to declare those who died in the protest as “martyrs” and to bear the cost of treating those who were injured.
The decisions came just a day after Prachanda was sworn in along with a small cabinet, and observers said it reflected the government’s intention of dealing with the demands of groups from the Madhes region bordering India.
The Morcha, which has refused to join Prachanda’s coalition government, described the initiative as a “good gesture”.
After the pact was signed on Wednesday, the Morcha agreed to vote for Prachanda in the election to choose the new premier. Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Prachanda, Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba and top Madeshi Morcha leaders met to discuss the implementation of the deal.
Officials briefed the leaders about the treatment of injured and pending cases against Madhesi leaders.
Differences between the Morcha and authorities over the number of deaths and injured people had held up the distribution of compensation and free treatment in the past. Under the agreement, the Morcha will provide details about deaths and injured people to the government.
Prachanda told the Madhesi leaders that a judicial commission will be formed soon to probe alleged atrocities by state agencies during last year’s protest. The government also decided to form a task force that will focus on demands to amend the new Constitution.
These demands include making the Constitution more inclusive, ensuring proportional representation for Madhesis and other marginalised groups in state organs, revising the boundary of seven provinces and formation of a commission to look into fixing the boundaries of local bodies on the basis of population and geography.
“The way the government took the lead in (addressing) our concerns, it is a good gesture,” Upendra Yadav, a prominent Madhesi leader, said after the meeting with Prachanda and Deuba.
“We hope that the rest of our demands will be addressed in the spirit shown by the government,” he said.
Raj Kishor Yadav, another Madhesi leader, said a “convincing foundation” had been created with Friday’s discussion but the groups “want to see more progress”.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, said the cabinet also decided to withdraw 14 ambassadors proposed by the former government led by KP Sharma Oli.
Prachanda became prime minister after Oli resigned when the opposition filed a no-confidence motion against him.