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Rollback: Unpopular KUKL chair withdraws court cases

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 15, 2017- The chairman of Kathmandu Valley’s sole drinking water supplying firm, who has lost support of most of the staff because of his high-handed attitude, has withdrawn two court cases filed against the company he is working for.

Suresh Basnet, chairman of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), retracted the cases filed at the Supreme Court on Friday citing “cooperation is necessary in a company that supplies essential commodity like water”, according to KUKL Legal Advisor Bachu Singh Khadka.

Basnet had agreed to withdraw the cases after the company’s board, on February 1, agreed to take back its decision to relieve him from his duty on charges of incompetence. 

“A copy of the minute of the board meeting was submitted to the court based on which the cases were taken back,” Khadka said.

The withdrawal of cases is expected to facilitate the process of installing a new leader at KUKL whose capability to deliver quality service upon completion of the first phase of the much-awaited Melamchi Drinking Water Project has often been called into question because of ongoing dispute at the company.

Basnet was elected as KUKL’s chairman in June 2014, as a representative of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, a private sector umbrella body, which owns 9 percent stake in the water supplying company.

But since he assumed chairman’s position, KUKL has faced “delays in decision making processes” because of his “high-handed conduct”, which, according to officials, was preventing the management from executing various plans, such as hiring new staff and holding annual general meeting. 

Basnet is also accused of “using political influence to compel the board members to take decisions to suit his needs”, and “intervening in the company’s general manager selection process to appoint his candidate for the post”. 

Tired of this attitude, KUKL board members relieved Basnet from his duty in May 2015 by endorsing a no-confidence motion filed against him, and appointed Padam Kumar Mainali, a government joint secretary, in his place.

Basnet then moved the then Patan Appeals Court claiming his dismissal was illegal. But the court upheld the decision made by the KUKL board. 

Basnet then took the case to the Supreme Court around one-and-a-half years ago, which issued a stay order, barring KUKL from immediately removing him. Around this time, he also filed a case against Mainali citing Mainali had held a KUKL board meeting without informing him, despite the court’s decision to let him work as KUKL chairman.

The hearing on the case which was stayed was postponed for around 18 times. The continuous postponements indicated there was no way to replace him unless someone convinced him to step down or the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, which sent him, recalled him.

The recent withdrawal of cases has addressed this problem. But many are now questioning whether Basnet would stick to his commitment to quit after the company holds its annual general meeting on March 5, as he has become greatly unpopular. 

Recently during a programme held to mark the company’s anniversary, four trade unions of the company sought his resignation. Only one trade union affiliated to the CPN Maoist Centre said the anniversary event was not an appropriate platform to discuss the matter.

KUKL is facing these problems at a time when the first phase of Melamchi Project is expected to come online by September. 

Upon completion of the first phase of the project, around 170 million litres of water will start flowing every day from the Melamchi River in Sindhupalchowk to the Kathmandu Valley, where many taps currently emit air rather than water. 

The arrival of this water is not only being eagerly awaited by millions of residents of water-starved Valley, but also by financially-troubled KUKL, which is hoping for a turnaround in its fortune through higher sales of water.

Published: 15-02-2017 10:05

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