Nepal government axes half of king's retinue
Mar 15, 2007 - 3:24:46 PM

Kathmandu, March 15 - Nepal's cornered royal family received a fresh blow Thursday with the government deciding to axe half of the employees working in the palace and bring them under state control.

The unprecedented decision was taken at a meeting of the cabinet that was for the first time in the history of the new government held at Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's office instead of his residence.

With the octogenarian premier suffering from respiratory trouble and jaundice, cabinet meetings used to be held at Koirala's official residence.

Information and Communications Minister Dilendra Prasad Badu, who is also spokesman of the seven-party government, told journalists later that half of the current workforce in the palace would be taken out and put under civil service.

At present, there are about 800 people employed in the palace. Of them, about 150 are to retire this year. This week alone, nearly three dozen employees retired.

General administration minister Dharma Nath Shah, who had announced such a change earlier, made the proposal at the cabinet meeting.

A substantial amount of the royal allowance paid by the government to the palace is spent on the salaries of the palace employees. Yet, the government has no say in their appointment.

Now, with half the palace employees coming under state control, their appointment would also be made through various state employment commissions.

The move is a fresh blow for Nepal's royal family, which till last year was above law as the king is regarded as an incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu.

Nepal's royals have been used to having all their needs looked after by the employees. Last year, a newspaper carried a photograph of a senior army officer tying the shoelaces for the king.

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