More of the same in 2024?

Nepalis saw scandals at home and strife overseas this year, let us hope the next will be an improvement

For Nepalis, the year 2023 was marked by one scandal after another at home, while Nepalis found themselves in the middle of active conflict zones across the world both unintentionally and of their own volition. 

The year began with Pushpa Kamal Dahal being Prime Minister for the third time with a promise of better governance. Even the opposition UML gave him a vote of confidence. The new RSP party’s Rabi Lamichhane was in and out of the Cabinet, and finally decided to stay in the opposition.

Dahal's preoccupation during 2023 was to hold his fragile coalition together, despite having the Nepali Congress (NC) as an ideologically opposite partner. His government was rocked by a slew of corruption scandals that led to the arrests of several senior officials across party lines, but the big fish eventually got away. 

Nearly 800 Nepalis were promised entry into the US as fake Bhutanese refugees by government officials and traffickers. Property surrounding the Prime Minister’s residence was parcelled off to private buyers by the real estate mafia. Gold smuggling continues unabated at Kathmandu airport, and none of the kingpins ever get caught

Malaysian conglomerate Axiata exited Nepal after selling its majority stake in Ncell to a Singapore-based Nepali-origin businessman, which experts say would not have been possible without the involvement of top bureaucrats, regulators and politicians.

Despite the finance minister assuring us that the economy is “on the mend”, it stagnated some more in 2023. Revenue collection was lower than projected, exports are at a record low, and 90,000 workers and students left Nepal in December alone. The government has been slow to promote electric transport even as petroleum import continues to soar. 

In March, Dahal’s coalition government introduced the transitional justice amendment bill in the House. But conflict survivors, victims and human rights groups said it ignored their concerns, the Supreme Court’s directive and flouted international law on war crimes. 

The earthquake in western Nepal on 3 November left 153 dead and two months later survivors are living in tents in sub-zero temperatures. The disaster also exposed Nepal’s demographic shift: most fatalities were women from the poorest families since the men have migrated out. 

Migration, as Nepali Times has highlighted in 50 instalments of its Diaspora Diaries, is now the central reality of Nepal. A majority of families have members who have left to work, study, or settle abroad, and Nepal’s economy is propped up by the money they send home. The search for jobs has also led Nepalis to some of the world’s most dangerous regions. 

There are said to be at least 700 Nepalis in the Russian Army, families have not heard from many of them, and 7 have been killed on the Ukraine front. Nepali human traffickers have been supplying mercenaries to Russia by flying them to Moscow on tourist visas. Four Nepalis have been captured by the Ukrainian military.  

The Hamas attack on 7 October killed 10 Nepalis who had gone to Israel under the government’s Learn and Earn program, while Nepali student Bipin Joshi, who was taken hostage, is believed to remain in captivity. Israel’s ongoing brutal bombardment of Gaza has led to the deaths of nearly 21,000 Palestinians, with the US helping Israel to block a UN ceasefire.  

Burmese of Nepali descent have taken refuge in Thailand because of suppression by the military junta which staged a coup in Burma in 2021. Nepalis trafficked by a Chinese organised crime syndicate to work in call centres in Burma also need to be rescued.  

UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited Nepal ahead of COP28 in Dubai to draw attention to the climate crisis and the Himalaya, but the summit failed to commit to an immediate phase-out of fossil fuels. Nepal’s pledges at COP28 do not correspond to its lack of progress in switching to renewable energy, saving remaining forests and controlling air pollution. 

Shristi Karki


Shristi Karki is a correspondent with Nepali Times. She joined Nepali Times as an intern in 2020, becoming a part of the newsroom full-time after graduating from Kathmandu University School of Arts. Karki has reported on politics, current affairs, art and culture.