Frustrated PM Oli preparing to reshuffle cabinet

Indian Embassy letter controversy

KATHMANDU, July 14: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has started internal homework to reshuffle the cabinet as soon the current fiscal year ends, a high placed source said.

PM Oli had started discussion with Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal on making changes in the cabinet after the budget for the fiscal year 2019/20 was unveiled.

Dahal, in mid-June, had said that although they were exploring the possibilities it was up to the prime minister and cabinet would be reshuffled whenever he wanted.

But now, as question on the competence of his administration has been seriously raised following the India Embassy’s letter controversy, frustrated prime minister has become more serious and has no choice but to make changes in his office.


After the government made it mandatory to carryout pesticide residue test on vegetables and fruits imported from Indian and other third countries on June 17, the border authorities blocked the passage of fruits and vegetables without first conducting laboratory test since the new decision required importers to acquire clearance from the Food Import Export Quality Certification Office and Plant Quarantine Office at customs checkpoints.

It resulted in a large consignment of vegetables and fruits queued up and stock in Indian side of the border at various checkpoints including Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj as authorities at Nepali side lacked lab equipment and technical team–many were clueless.

This prompted the Indian Embassy to express serious concern over the new government policy as the lack of proper lab and equipment had left vegetables and fruits laden trucks stuck in the Indian side of the border while their product rotted due to the delays in obtaining lab certification.

The Indian Embassy had also dispatched a letter to the government requesting a halt to the pesticide residue test.

Two week after the decision, the government withdrew its decision to conduct pesticides tests on Indian imported vegetables. But the government’s decision to halt pesticide test on fruits and vegetables at custom points drew widespread criticisms for allowing untested fruits and veggies disregarding public health and even faced accusation for backtracking its previous decision under Indian pressure.

Responding to the criticisms, PM Oli said the government had not received any letter from the Indian Embassy, only to beg a public apology later after the letter came to public domain. The government had indeed received the letter but according to the PM, “the government officials had not informed him about the letter” which had made him “felt ashamed”.

Issues as such should have been channeled through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), but the ministries keeping him in dark about such significant matter of diplomatic importance have left PM Oli frustrated. And obviously, the weakness in homework on part of the government resulted in chaos in border incurring loss in million and disrupted supply and price in vegetable market.

Instead, the ministries blamed each other for keeping the prime minster in dark for long.

Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supply, Matrika Prasad Yadav said he was not informed about the letter by secretaries of his ministry while Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Chakrapani Khanal said the MoFA should be answerable for becoming failure to inform the prime minister about such development. Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Banskota vented ire at the bureaucrats for misleading the prime minister.

The recent developments have made the already dissatisfied prime minister more frustrated with the ministries and his administration and question the competency of the ministers and secretaries.