The government has again initiated the process of paying disqualified Maoist combatants.
The Cabinet meeting on March 20 decided to provide relief for combatants of the conflict period who were disqualified during the verification process by preparing working procedure. The government has even started the process to prepare the working procedure, according to Home Secretary Binod Prakash Singh.
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal government is preparing to pay each disqualified combatant Rs 200,000 through respective district administration offices within the current fiscal year.
The Dahal government, that currently only has ministers from CPN (Maoist Center) and one from Janamat Party, has yet to provide convincing answer as to why those disqualified by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) to be counted as combatants are to be paid with the taxpayers’ money now.
The seven political parties and the Maoists on November 8, 2006 had agreed to keep Maoist combatants in the main cantonments at Kailali, Surkhet, Rolpa, Palpa, Kavre, Sindhuli and Ilam districts, and that the combatants would be verified and monitored by the UN to hold peaceful and fair Constituent Assembly Election without any fear, and democratization and restructuring of the Nepal Army as per the spirit of the 12-point agreement, 8-point agreement, 25-point code of conduct, and the five-point letter sent to the UN on August 9, 2006.
The peace agreement signed on November 21, 2006 after that had agreed to keep the Maoist combatants and their weapons in the cantonments.
The agreement for monitoring of management of the weapons and combatants on December 6, 2006 then set standards for Maoist combatants. The person must have joined the Maoists before May 25, 2006, and be born before May 25, 1988 to qualify as combatant during the verification process.
A total of 4,008 persons did not meet those criteria mostly on the grounds of age, and did not get to choose voluntary retirement to get a lump sum from the state or get integrated in the Nepal Army.
There were a total of 32,350 combatants in the cantonments when the Maoists renounced violence and signed the peace deal. Many of them left the cantonments and UNMIN ruled 19,602 of them eligible to be counted as combatants while 4,008 did not qualify to be counted as combatants.
The Nepal Army took charge of the Maoist combatants in April 2012 while agreement for integrating the Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army was reached on November 1, 2012.
A total of 15,630 Maoist combatants, however, opted for voluntary retirement and returned home with Rs 500,000-800,000 while 1,422 were integrated in the Nepal Army. The state spent around Rs 20 billion for running the cantonments, integration of the combatants and payment for those who chose voluntary retirement.
There were demands that the Maoist child soldiers who were disqualified during the verification process be compensated by the government at that time while many opined that those deemed disqualified need not be paid with the taxpayers’ money.
The then Baburam Bhattarai government on October 21, 2012 had decided to pay Rs 200,000 to each of those disqualified combatants. But the Supreme Court (SC) was moved against the decision and the government could not dole out the money.
The then KP Sharma Oli government had allocated Rs 840 million to pay Rs 200,000 each to the disqualified combatants and those who had opted for voluntary retirement but had not received the lump sum in the budget for the fiscal year 2073/74.
Bishnu Paudel was the finance minister in the coalition government including CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) then. NC lawmakers and conflict victims had moved the SC against the decision and a short-term order by the single bench of Justice Gopal Parajuli had stopped that.
The current government has again decided to pay the disqualified combatants when Maoist Chairman Dahal is the prime minister (PM) and oversees 16 ministries.
Maoist General Secretary Dev Gurung pointed that the past governments had also taken the decision and added that the current government is preparing to provide relief by formulating working procedure as the SC had instructed to pay them only after preparing working procedure. “The current government is preparing working procedure as money cannot be paid from the treasury without working procedure. The previous governments had also taken decision to pay money,” Gurung stated. “Those who were expelled after being labeled disqualified were deprived of relief. The government is trying to address them now.”
UML leader and member of the then the all-party Special Committee for the Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants Dipak Prakash Bhatta said that it was natural for the combatants who were deemed disqualified due to age, shorter experience, or even inability to provide satisfactory answers to the questions asked to be compensated by the state now. “The state and specially Maoists had made them participate in the conflict yesterday. But they were not verified as combatants mostly due to underage. The state or the Maoists should have addressed them then only. But it is not yet clear which body will look for them now, how they will be searched now.”
Nepali Congress (NC) leader Minendra Rijal said that the recent decisions of the government led by Maoist Chairman Dahal including giving public holiday to mark the ‘People’s War’ Day, declaring martyrs and paying the disqualified combatants seem to be outside the spirit of 12-point deal, and the comprehensive peace agreement.
He has stated that such politics can unravel the current ruling coalition formed with commitment to continue it for five years. “It is our duty to remind Dahal to not indulge in such politics. This will bring difficulties.”
He has also added that Dahal does not seem to understand the gravity of the problems in the economy now. “It is not just the money to be given to disqualified combatants and families of martyrs, but the more important issue is the current government and PM do not seem to be serious about the problems facing the economy.”
Former disqualified combatant Lenin Bista said they were child soldiers and cannot be termed disqualified. “The government will provide relief for the child soldiers who were younger than 18 years then. They cannot be called disqualified combatants,” he has stressed. “We had put demands for education, health and demanded we be provided scholarship for education, the government invest on us by providing guarantee and other demands (sic). But the government said it will provide Rs 200,000 each. But it has not given in 10 years. This concept of giving money is wrong. This is an excuse for the party to claim that it has addressed the child soldiers.”