Mayor Shakya goes incommunicado as Kathmandu grapples with pandemicNo one knows the state of health of the city’s ‘guardian’ or even his whereabouts, city officials say.
On Wednesday, the chief district officers of the Kathmandu Valley decided to allow street vendors and other shops to sell their wares until 11 in morning and between 4 to 7 in the evening. Two days later Kathmandu’s Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi visited Kathmandu’s CDO office to tell officials that the office encroached upon the city’s jurisdiction by allowing street vendors to resume business as authorities have already banned them.
Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, who tested positive for Covid-19 on August 31, remains silent. Shakya, in his statement the day after he tested positive, said he didn’t show any symptoms and was isolating himself at home. In the same statement, he had vowed to remain in touch with his city officials fighting Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Shakya has gone incommunicado for over a week now even as Covid-19 cases register spikes in the city.
Of the 1,454 infections reported in Nepal on Friday, over 50 percent infected of the cases were from the Kathmandu Valley.
On the day Shakya was infected with the virus, the number of infected people in the city stood at 2,452. In the past two weeks, the number has nearly doubled and crossed 5,000 by Saturday, according to the Public Health Division of the city. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, as of Saturday, a total of 11,139 cases have been reported in the Valley.
But Shakya has not consulted any of his officials on controlling the spread of the disease, nor has he delegated his responsibilities to other officials.
“He has not delegated any of his executive powers to me. He also hasn’t consulted us on the Covid-19 situation,” said his deputy Khadgi. “In his statement, he said he will remain touch with city officials, and had expressed commitment to get involved in controlling the spread of the virus, but he is out of contact now,” said Khadgi. She said she visited the CDO on Friday in the capacity of the coordinator of the city's inspection team.
On Friday, some online news portals reported that Mayor Shakya was staying at a five star hotel, but that was not confirmed. However, when the Post made numerous attempts to contact the mayor, his cell phones were switched off. His close aides were also unaware about his whereabouts.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City Spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol’s cell phone remained switched off for the whole day, while Rajeshwor Stapit, his personal assistant didn’t answer the Post’s calls. Press advisor Mohan Bastola also didn’t pick up.
Meanwhile, Rajendra Stapait, an advisor to the mayor, answered a call from the Post. He said the mayor has been out of contact for the past few days. “I myself have tried numerous times to contact him. But his cell phone has been switched off. I am not sure if he is staying in a five star hotel or he is at home,” said Stapit.
Shakya was reluctant to establish quarantine or isolation facilities in the Valley until the first week of August. But after the virus spread rapidly and public pressure mounted, he announced on August 10 that integrated isolation centers to accommodate 5,000 people will soon be built.
After Mayor Shakya went incommunicado, the city has failed to start implementing plans for the isolation centre while the number of Covid-10 cases surge despite the three-week prohibitory order in the Valley.
Even ward representatives who have close ties with Shakya don’t know where Shakya is. They are now questioning Shakya’s ability to lead the city, during the pandemic.
“We are all elected by citizens to address their problems, and in times like these that we need to work together. But we don’t know where our mayor is,” said Chinikaji Maharjan, chair of Ward No. 22 chairperson.
“Shakya is the city’s guardian, but he himself is sick. This is our bad luck,” said Maharjan.
Similarly, Nil Kalkaji Shakya, chair of Ward No.25, said,“The number of infections is increasing alarmingly, but the city's chief is in deep slumber, this is a hopeless situation for the city.”