Nepal Minute - out of the ordinary


Kathmandu Metropolis Mayor Balendra Shah has been in the news a lot since he took office on May 30, 2022. Most of the time, city residents have praised him.

The city's nearly three million people liked what he did to build public toilets and parking spots in a place known for its crowds, bad traffic, and dirt. But his plans to tear down old buildings over the Tukucha river and clear the Bagmati banks at Thapathali have drawn criticism.

Critics have pointed out that the rapper-turned-politician has, among other things, failed to implement garbage separation, rehabilitate street vendors and riverside squatters.

They have also noticed how the media-shy former structural engineer remains surprisingly close to the owners of a popular social media handle called RONB, who also promote e-sports.

People in Kathmandu still want to give him a chance, despite the fact that few of his proposed policies have been implemented. At the end of his five year term in 2027, they anticipate that Balen Shah would have completed many initiatives to improve the quality of life in Kathmandu.

But protests against Balen and his office have become a new normal. spoke to half a dozen Kathmandu residents from different walks of life this week. We have collected their thoughts on KMC's current works. Excerpts:

Renuka Shrestha, 35, Thapathali

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Even though the mayor's work may have hurt poor cart and cycle vendors, it has also helped reduce traffic jams on inner streets like ours.

However, I'm not against these kinds of businesses. I just think they should be given certain places or time to do their work. Since rents are high and setting up a shop can be very expensive, the city must at least give them time to do business.

People have both liked and disliked his work, but I think the things he did were important.

Renuka Shrestha is from Thapathali and has run a grocery store near Rosebud School for two years.

Shiva Khanal, 28, Putalisadak

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Balen is doing a great job. Nobody did anything like this to such squatters, vendors, and others for a long time. And after he did what he did, some people are speaking out against him. But I think that change needs some hard-line actions, and these backlashes are common and should be ignored.

No one should be allowed to stay on government land, and no one should be able to break the law.

But I don't think there's a way out of this problem if the mayor doesn't stand up for himself. People will still come, won't they?

Khanal is from Syangja, but he has lived in Kathmandu for more than 10 years. He runs a business of medical supplies in Tripureshowr. 

Sundar Shyam Shrestha, 52, Kuleshwor

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So far, his job has only been about scaring and chasing people.

Either they should take care of more parking spots or let us park in one place for a certain amount of time. I'm just one of the many drivers who get a parking ticket every day or several times a day.
How can I run a cargo business if I have to park my vehicle a kilometre away from the destination?

Both the traffic police and the metro police are after poor people like us.

Sundar Shyam Shrestha, a Kathmandu local, lives in a rented apartment. He drives a cargo truck for his livelihood. He has been driving for 20-25 years.

Kalpana Thakuri, 28, Sankhamul

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Representative image. Photo: NepalMinute

He needs to channel his destructive energies into something more positive.

His work might be legal, but it doesn't make much sense. We feel bad that the rules might give the rich an advantage over poor people like us.

The problems of squatters need to be dealt with in a planned way. We shouldn't be asked to leave at the last minute. Where do you go? We've lived here for years and have been promised a legal document that says we own the land.

Thakuri has a house in an “illegally occupied” plot in Sankhamul, Baneshwor. She chose not to be photographed.

Ram Bahadur Shrestha, 78, Buddhanagar

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His actions, like hurting the poor and the helpless, are wrong.

What else should these poor people do?

They don't have an education because they are poor, and now they are being punished for being poor.

At least, he shouldn't forget that poor people in Nepal are also citizens with their own rights. When people are poor and can't pay their rent, they might not have any other options.

Put your energy into something productive first, I say to him.

Shrestha, a Ramechhap native, has been living in a rented apartment with his son for seven years.

Renu Yadav, 28, Thapathali 

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He is a good person and does his job well. People who do jobs that are wrong or illegal are being hurt.

Look at how New Road was back then and how it is now. It was a mess back then, but now it is less crowded and more organised. In the process, some poor people are getting hurt. The mayor should find a way to fix this.

These protests and backlash are temporary, and in the end, his work will make Kathmandu a more beautiful place.

Representatives from the metropolis came to this house and took measurements. Someday, the front of my shop won't exist anymore, but that won't bother me. If the building was built without a permit, I will cooperate.

Yadav runs a fruit and juice shop near Paropakar Maternity and Women's Hospital in Thapathali. She came to Kathmandu from Lahan 14 years ago and has been running the shop for over two years.

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