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Kathmandu, Sunday December 21, 2003  Paush 06,  2060.

Surf Net, TV channels via single cable line

KATHMANDU, Dec 20 - Here’s some good news for Internet buffs and those hooked onto to TV channels.

The communications and information technology (ICT) sweeping the world is taking firm roots in Nepal too. Soon Kathmanduites can use Internet and watch TV channels through optical fibre cable that will make Internet service cheaper, faster and TV images cleaner.

Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the regulatory body of telecoms services, has already awarded licence to Subisu Cablenet Pvt Ltd to operate Internet service through optical fibre cable.

And two more companies - Space Time Internet Pvt Ltd and Pokhara Enet Pvt Ltd - are waiting in the queue. If they qualify in the ongoing technical evaluation, they will get the licence, said an NTA source.

Kailash Prasad Neupane, spokesman for NTA, informed The Kathmandu Post that the licencee should introduce service within three months of acquiring operating licence. Subisu Cablenet obtained the licence last Wednesday.

NTA has also fixed the maximum monthly charge of Rs 2,000, exclusive of value added tax, for unlimited Internet access.

Sudhir Parajuli, CEO of Subisu Cablenet, informed that his company plans to charge a monthly fee of Rs 2,500 for unlimited Internet access with 64 kilobytes per second (kbps) bandwidth plus quality cable service for watching television.

Additionally, a subscriber will have to pay Rs 2,000 in registration fee and Rs 8,000 for a modem in order to subscribe the service.

Parajuli also said that his company aims to distribute over 1,500 lines in the beginning.

The bandwidth of 64 kbps means the speed of Internet through optical fibre cable will be twice as fast compared to that of dial-up connection.

The price is also expected to go down as the new service providers join the race. In fact, one of the beauties of the IT revolution has been that the price has also fallen rapidly keeping pace with technological advancement.

In 1995, when Internet was introduced to Nepal, Mercantile Communications Pvt Ltd charged Rs 15 per minute.

Similarly, when unlimited Internet service was introduced in Nepal just five years ago it cost Rs 5,000 per month. Now it has come down to as low as Rs 1,000.

Even at the current monthly charge, users browsing Internet for more than an hour a day will find the Internet through optical fibre cable a cheaper option. Using telephone alone for an hour during prime time costs Rs 1,800 a month.

Another advantage, the cable line will offer is, it will free telephone line even when you are using the Internet.

If the technology takes root, all the Internet service providers (ISPs) would have to opt either for wireless or cable technology that will free a considerable number of basic telephone lines.

Commenting on the new development, Muni B Shakya, president of Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal (ISPAN), however, expressed confidence that Internet through optical fibre cable would not be a threat to ISPs.

Moreover, the high cost that the Network Service Providers (NSP) charge them would erode their competitiveness, he added.

But he said that Nepal Telecommunications Corporation should provide Asynchronous Digital Subscribers’ Line (ADSL) to the ISPs, which could help them enhance their quality of service.

An NSP charges about Rs 2.2 million to the cable operator for an Internet bandwidth of 1024 kbps.

Students’ stir continues
Anti-king remarks intolerable: Lohani

MANGLEBARE, MORANG, Dec 20 - Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani warned that the government would not spare anyone trying to slander the king and the institution of monarchy.

Addressing a function organised to lay the foundation stone of a primary health care centre here today he said that very stern action would be taken against those trying to drag the king into any controversy and disrupt national unity.

"It is not only illegal to pass a provocative remark against the king but it is also an act of precipitating national disintegration," he said.

Minister Lohani declined to name any culprit but hinted at the student leaders being detained in Kathmandu for making provocative remarks against the king.

He also blamed the political parties for encouraging their student cadres to pass such remarks and warned that it would only drag the country towards further chaos and instability.

Meanwhile, the alliance of seven different student organisations took out protest rallies in various part of the kingdom to protest the arrest of their leaders. They also burnt effigies of "regression" nation-wide demanding immediate release of their leaders who were arrested on Tuesday and subsequently charged with sedition.

President of the Nepali Congress-affiliated Nepal Students’ Union (NSU) Guru Raj Ghimire, its general secretary Gagan Thapa and a member of CPN-UML-affiliated All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (ANNFSU) Purusottam Acharya were detained on Tuesday night on charges of chanting provocative remarks against the king.

The rally from Ratna Park to Bhotahity in the capital was largely peaceful and only a student, supposedly belonging to Saraswati Campus, sustained minor injury when police lathicharged the demonstrators as the latter tried to burn an effigy at Bhotahity.

They finally dispersed at Ratna Park shouting slogans and burning the effigy of "regression".

The NSU, ANNFSU, ANNFSU (Unified), ANNFSU (ML), Nepal Progressive Students’ Union, Nepal Students’ Forum and the Nepal Revolutionary Students’ Union jointly organised the rally to pressurise the government to release the detained student leaders.

Five of the student organisations and five different youth organisations affiliated to political parties have planned to take out a rally on Sunday at the capital’s Ratna Park.

Reports from Banke stated that students greeted Ministers Kamal Thapa and Buddhi Man Tamang with black flags as soon as the latter arrived at Nepalgunj today.

Ministers Thapa and Tamang had hardly arrived at the DDC office in Nepalgunj to make preparations for the upcoming king’s civic felicitation programme when the students marching on the streets greeted them with black flags. Chanting slogans against ‘regression’, they demanded that the ministers resign immediately.

Rocca mum over US support to parties

KATHMANDU, Dec 20 - The US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, denied to hand out any assurance of US political support to the political parties both during her separate meetings with party representatives and at the joint meeting held at the residence of the US ambassador on Thursday.

But the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML leaders have discounted it even as they insisted that US was positive about democracy and that the super power wants parties and king to unite.

"I can’t disclose all but what she told us is to thrash up a common solution with king, too backing it," the NC leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat told The Sunday Post. He said, "the visit was part of a normal working visit and she might have gone back with a report on Nepal."

Meanwhile, sources in the party said Rocca was more critical of the way political parties were functioning rather than pledging any US support to them in their bid to restore the derailed constitutional and political process.

"How do you all expect to weather the political crisis when your parties are suffering from intra-party squabbling and mismanagement?" Rocca asked six leaders representing the NC, CPN-UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP).

Those present at the function were Dr Mahat, Bam Dev Gautam, K P Oli, Jhala Nath Khanal, Dr Suresh Chalise and Pratibha Rana.

Saying that the tryst with Rocca was more an embarrassment than a prelude to any breakthrough in conflict with the constitutional monarch, party sources revealed that the US visitor advised against any confrontation with the king "since the common enemy is the CPN-Maoist."

While NC President Girija Prasad Koirala was away in Birtangar, the CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal and NC leaders Sushil Koirala and Dr Mahat did meet Rocca in separate meetings.

Even as she was passing strident remark on parties, the CPN-UML leader Oli reportedly decided to do the hard talks and asked her what was the posture of King Gyanendra since the current problems have more to do with what he had up in his mind.

"All that I can tell is, His Majesty is positive but diplomatic obligations prevent me from disclosing all that which transpired at the audience," Rocca has been attributed to have told Oli. But as the source further said, Rocca insisted that King Gyanendra had nothing against democracy and that the parties would do well to patch up the differences.

Similarly, NC (D) leader Sher Bahadur Deuba in a separate meeting told her that the nation was suffering under King Gyanendra to which she was "receptive" but wanted consensus among all the parties. Dr Minendra Rijal of NC (D) also attributed Deuba telling Rocca that the issue was more than that linked with king’s personal prestige. "It is linked to the future of the nation."

Meanwhile, CPN-UML leader Khanal said, "The visit was neither negative nor positive. She put up some questions and we put forth what we have been saying all this while including all party government."

PM Thapa talks with S’pore counterpart

SINGAPORE, Dec 20 - Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa met with Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong here today. Discussion was held on bilateral issues of mutual interests during the meeting.

Thapa requested for the co-operation of Singapore for the establishment of Information Technology Park in Kathmandu. Prime Minister of Singapore was positive to the request of Nepal and asked to send a Nepali delegation to Singapore to discuss in detail about the programme.

Prime Minister of Singapore Tong was positive about the request of Nepal on resuming Singapore airlines flight to Kathmandu. Discussion was also held on sending the Nepalese workers to Singapore, promotion of trade and tourism between the two countries during the meeting.

PM Thapa informed his Singaporean counterpart that Nepal is planning to file its candidacy for the non permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for 2007/2008 and requested Singapore’s co-operation.

Singaporean Prime Minister Tong assured possible co-operation from Singapore. He said that there are about 1,600 Nepalese working in Singapore police service and that has helped promote the friendly ties between the two countries.

Rescue centre to serve as lifeline in Death Valley


KATHMANDU, Dec 20 - Gokyo valley, dubbed ‘Death Valley,’ that claims lives on an average of three trekkers every year will soon have a rescue centre.

Community Action Nepal (CAN), a INGO working for the welfare of the Nepali porters, is to construct a porter rescue shelter at Machermo of the Gokyo Valley in Solukhumbu district.

Dough Scott, Founder Director of CAN told The Kathmandu Post that the motive behind the construction of shelter is to save the lives of porters and trekkers, who often face life-threatening illness in the area due to extremely difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions. "Some of the porters even die because of the instant unavailability of basic medical facilities and proper place for treatment," said Scott.

The valley lies in the Sagarmatha National Park and is a famous trekking route to Goyko Lake and 5,420 metre high Cho La Mountain in the Everest region.

According to a recent study of the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG), on an average, 2,000 trekkers visit the region out of which as many as three porters lose their lives in the valley every year due largely to severe acute mountain sickness.

The proposed rescue centre, which would be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 5.8 million at an altitude of 4,470 metre, will have the capability of accommodating at least 40 people at a time.

Scott also said that he was inspired to build the rescue centre at Goyko with a feeling of compassion that the local porters must get at least minimum medical facilities in the local area.

"After the establishment of the rescue centre, we have a plan to set up a health post

that will provide maximum possible facilities to the porters," he said.

The IPPG had also taken initiative in the past to build the shelter in the area, but failed due to financial constraints. "Earlier we had a plan to build a porter shelter at Machermo to provide night time shelter for porters going up and down from the sacred lakes of Gokyo, but it was averted due to lack of fund," said Dr Jim Duff, President of the IPPG.

He added that the rescue centre would make the breathtaking Gokyo valley a safer place to trek. According to him, the IPPG will support CAN’s endeavour by extending power and a satellite phone in the rescue centre.

Mahesh Kumar Sewa, a trustee of CAN, said that construction of the shelter would begin soon after this winter season and complete within the next year.

"Volunteer doctors and first-aid people, particularly from Britain, will provide services during the peak trekking

season at the centre," he informed.

Ang Chhiring Sherpa, President of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) said that it is a matter of pleasure to have a rescue centre in the valley that has claimed lives of so many potters and trekkers.

"The construction of the rescue centre will not only save the lives of vulnerable porters, but also help promote the tourism industry," he said.

Lakpa Sherpa, a veteran mountaineer, expressed happiness and said, "CAN’s initiative to build the rescue centre is quite commendable while the government has not been able to provide even basic life-saving services to porters."

Crisis resolution need of hour: Nepal

PARBAT, Dec 20 - Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary of the CPN-UML here said the need of the hour was peace, people’s governance and resolution of the current insurgency and not hankering after the prime minister’s chair.

Inaugurating the fifth district convention of the UML Parbat district committee here today, Nepal said, "The national reconciliation between king, political parties and the Maoists is inevitable factor to resolve the current political stalemate."

He also revealed that the king immediately after the October 4 move last year, offered him the post of the prime minister. "But I refused it," Nepal said.

"I denied to become the prime minister and act as a slave. Following my refusal ,Lokendra Bahadur Chand was appointed PM."

Reiterating the party’s decision to remain open for all alternatives to find a way out to resolve the current crisis, Nepal said that the UML was ready to go for referendum. "But the present Surya Bahadur Thapa government must be dismissed for the purpose," Nepal said.

He also blasted both the government and the Maoists for continuing with the politics of bullets.

Expressing commitment to the five-party alliance, Nepal said that the movement would bring the derailed constitution back to its track.

Exchange of intelligence required to hook Maoist leaders: Indian envoy

KATHMANDU, Dec 20 - India’s Ambassador to Nepal Shyam Saran has said that an exchange of intelligence between India and Nepal is required to track down the Maoist leaders Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Prachanda.

"Baburamji and Prachandaji could be arrested if secret information is exchanged between the two countries and a mutual trust is developed," he said. He was speaking on Saturday at a function organised by the Journalists’ Youth Group at Maitidevi.

He, however, said that there was a crisis of confidence everywhere.

Referring to the open border between the two countries through which thousands cross either side of the border everyday, he further said that locating Maoists amidst a billion people of India was not an easy job that India could carry out alone.

"How can we know where will Madhav Nepalji go?" he asked.

Terming the Maoists as equal threat to both the countries said the Indian envoy opined that India alone may not be able to track down the Maoist leaders in the absence of shared information.

"The problem could be resolved by the extension of mutual co-operation between the two countries" , Saran said.

Referring to protest in Nepal over the arrest of CP Gajurel, a top Maoist leader, by the Indian police in Chennai in August, the ambassador said, "We have been opposed both for capturing them and giving shelter. What can we do in such a situation?"

Replying to a query, he admitted that Maoists of both Nepal and India were having close ties and were running a training centres to train their cadres jointly in Indian state of Bihar.

"But we cannot do anything now unless we have developed a process of exchanging bilateral intelligence," he added.

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