The devastating earthquake
Nepal was hit by powerful earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, as well as hundreds of aftershocks that killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed half a million houses. The economic damage of the quake was estimated to be USD 7 billion.

In the face of such tragedy, India rushed rescue teams for help hours soon after the quake hit 14 districts of central Nepal including Kathmandu.

During an international donors conference here on June 25, various donor agencies and development partners pledged financial assistance amounting to USD 4.4 billion for Nepal's reconstruction and rebuilding efforts, and revive its economy from the devastation caused by the quakes.

Nepal had estimated a need of around USD 6.7 billion for rebuilding private and public buildings, schools, infrastructure and supporting economic recovery.

50 percent of the pledged support was in the form of grant while the remaining in the form of soft loan. India had pledged USD 1 billion for reconstruction, 25 percent of which will be grant. China announced USD 500 million grant.

Promulgation of new Constitution

However, it was not all gloomy for the Nepalese as there was something to cheer about in September with the promulgation of a new Constitution. With the missed deadline of January 22 to promulgate the new Constitution, Nepalese people were eagerly waiting for an early completion of the draft charter.

Political parties held several rounds of meetings and attempts were made to negotiate on the main contentious issues to forge consensus to draft of the Constitution. Forms of governance, electoral system and federal structure were the key issues on which political parties were sharply divided.

Despite the boycott by the Madhesis, Nepal's major parties forged an agreement and announced the Constitution on September 20 with over 85 percent of votes. According to the new charter, the country was divided into seven federal provinces, which was rejected by the Madhesi community.

Majority of Nepalese people were happy to accomplish the task of promulgating the Constitution fulfilling their 65-year dream through eight-year-long negotiations.

Agitation of Madhesi and Tharu communities:
Following the promulgation of the Constitution, there was widespread agitation by Madhesi and Tharu communities of southern and western Nepal who claimed it was a move to politically marginalise them.

The protests led to the blockade of key border trading points between India and Nepal, causing shortage of essential goods and medicines in the landlocked Himalayan country.

Nepal claimed that India had imposed an unofficial blockade creating acute shortage of essentials including petroleum products, cooking gas and medicines to the country which was just recovering from devastating earthquake.

Indo-Nepal ties between plummeted over the issue. India maintains that it has imposed no such blockade, and the restrictions are a result of security concerns as Madhesis are protesting in the Terai region of Nepal bordering India. Over 50 people have been killed in protests since August.

The political front
In August, Nepal's Parliament elected K P Sharma Oli, chairman of the CPN-UML, as the new Prime Minister. Oli became the Prime Minister despite the agitating Madhesi parties casting their votes against the Communist leader.

Another significant development this year was that Nepal Communist leader Vidya Devi Bhandari was elected as Nepal's first woman President by Parliament.

The CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist alliance has succeeded in grabbing all top posts including the post of the President, Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti.

Indo-Nepal ties
Though largely the Indo-Nepal ties remained strained but there was some hedaway made. Nepal and India on August 25 signed an MoU for construction of petroleum pipeline.

The proposed 41-km Amlekhgunj-Raxaul pipeline would cost Rs 4.4 billion and Indian Oil Corporation had pledged to provide Rs 3.2 billion for the project that is expected to be completed within 30 months of its start.

The UN and other international agencies have warned that Nepal is facing a humanitarian crisis due to the blockade and three million children are at risk as winter sets in.

Nepal's Deputy prime minister and foreign minister Kamal Thapa visited India twice to persuade the Indian establishment to lift the alleged blockade. Madhesi leaders also travelled to New Delhi recently and met Indian leaders from both the ruling and opposition parties to exchange views over the political deadlock.

India has asked Nepal's ruling parties, opposition and the Madhesi parties to cooperate and work together to ease the tension and forge consensus to end the stalemate. It also took positive note of the process of amendment of new constitution by the Nepalese government.

However, the political crisis still is far from being resolved as the Madhesis have rejected a three-point roadmap proposed by the government to resolve contentious issues.

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