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GUEST COLUMN. A border blockade and failure to get relief to earthquake survivors highlight Nepal’s sorry state Devaki Bista Initially paralysed by the magnitude and rapid succession of the quakes in 2015, the Nepal government was then able to mobilise and coordinate security forces for rescue efforts and for public safety.


In the several weeks that followed, it was also able to galvanise the civil service to work with ward citizen forums to provide emergency cash assistance of Rs 15,000 each to households whose homes were damaged and vulnerable to the monsoons, and then to add another Rs 10,000 each to help them cope with the winter. Since then, however, the government has not provided much more relief delivery. The National Reconstruction Authority was only formally inaugurated in January 2016, a full nine months after the disaster. The government is yet to reach most of the families in the 14 worst-affected districts, even within Kathmandu Valley. What next in the Madhes? Madhesi protesters are ready to go back to the streets again, but only if their leaders behave Walking through the streets of Birganj today, one would be forgiven for doubting that this was the epicentre of the violent agitation that crippled the country for six months.

What next in the Madhes?

The city’s iconic Clock Tower is ticking, horse carts are plying, and there are virtually no traces of what was going on until just one month ago. But listen to people at tea stalls and they are talking of nothing else but the recent Madhes movement. Everyone is asking: what’s next? Mahantha Thakur warns of resuming blockade. Kathmandu KMC demolishes 22 illegal structures on Bagmati riverbank Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) on Saturday pull...

Mahantha Thakur warns of resuming blockade

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Speaking with journalists in the Capital today, Thakur said the protesters would resume the blockade if the government continued bypassing them. “If it continues, the United Democratic Madhesi Front will hold a meeting soon and announces sterner protest programmes.” Nepal’s petrol black market: super citizens and an information blackout. On February 6, trucks crossed the Birgunj-Raxaul border in both directions for the first time in more than four months.

Nepal’s petrol black market: super citizens and an information blackout

Thus ended the last and most persistent of the blockades that protesters had imposed on most major Nepal-India border crossings as part of the ongoing Madhes movement. The blockades led to widespread shortages of petrol, diesel, and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) across Nepal. As consumers wait for the fuel supply to normalize over the coming weeks, we take a closer look at the black market that developed as a result. An army of petty smugglers Navin Yadav, a resident of Itharawa Khariyani village in Dhanusha, which lies parallel to the Indian border state of Bihar, had nothing to do. NOC doubles supply of petrol to fuel stations.

Private vehicles and cabs waiting for their turn to refill petrol at the Bhadrakali-based Ripumardini Petrol Pump, operated by the Nepal Army, as the nation reels under deepening fuel crisis, in Kathmandu on Friday, October 09, 2015.

NOC doubles supply of petrol to fuel stations

Photo: THT Health Brazil troops battle Zika mosquitoes More than 200,000 army, navy and air force troops ... Science & Technology Smartphone apps turn users into earthquake sensors MyShake, available on Android, links users to beco... Running on empty: Nepal's fuel smugglers defy border blockades. The smugglers emerge out of the thick morning fog that hangs low over Nepal’s southern plains, riding bicycles and motorbikes loaded with empty petrol drums and gas cylinders.

Running on empty: Nepal's fuel smugglers defy border blockades

They splash across a shallow stream, all that marks this part of the border with India, and disappear again into the fog. An hour later they are back, petrol drums filled and empty gas cylinders exchanged for full ones, a disorderly procession doing what Nepal’s government has largely failed to do for four months: provide fuel to its citizens. Nepalese people have always freely crossed the open border with India, but since September, when the local ethnic Madhesi imposed a blockade on the country’s official crossings to protest against the new Nepalese constitution, unofficial cross-border trade has soared.

“At night time there are so many people crossing, it’s like Diwali,” said a smuggler who started work shortly after the blockade began. Fuel distribution to be regular from today. Private vehicles and cabs waiting for their turn to refill petrol at the Bhadrakali-based Ripumardini Petrol Pump, operated by the Nepal Army, as the nation reels under deepening fuel crisis, in Kathmandu on Friday, October 09, 2015.

Fuel distribution to be regular from today

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Autopsy of a blockade

After nearly five months of being blockaded informally, India’s siege of Nepal was formally lifted this week by its proxies. Only the very naive or the extremely ill-informed still believe that the Nepal-India border was being blockaded by a bamboo pole guarded by a few men smoking in a tent. Why New Delhi did it, and what India stood to gain strategically from throttling a smaller neighbour is a mystery. Students of international relations will be debating this long into the future, and no doubt someone will write yet another tell-all bestseller relying on Indian spooks spilling the beans.

For now, we can merely attempt to connect the dots. Short of declaring war on a neighbour and bombing it, a siege like this is the easiest and cheapest way for one country to wreck another. What’s next in the Madhes? Unrest will grow again in the plains unless Kathmandu initiates confidence building measures Finally this week, the Madhesi Front backed down from its five month-long border-centric protests, and the country breathed a sigh of relief.

What’s next in the Madhes?

But the question on everyone’s mind is: how permanent is this? Madhesi leaders were quick to point out that they had just ‘changed the modality’ of the ongoing movement, since a substantial portion of their demands on constitutional amendments have not yet been met. The main leaders of the Madhesi Front say most of their original 11 demands have been ignored by rulers in Kathmandu, but they are mindful of the effect that the prolonged strikes and blockade were having on the general population.

The blockade that benefitted no one except smugglers. ... but the damage it caused will stay on Pic credit: Jiyalal Sah In September Madhesi parties left out of the constitution writing process decided to stage sit-ins at Nepal-India border check-points two days after New Delhi hinted that there could be obstructions.

The blockade that benefitted no one except smugglers

In February, Madhesi parties reluctantly called off their border sit-ins three days after India started issuing customs clearance to cargo trucks stranded in Raxaul for the last five months. There is ample proof that the blockade was not by the Madhesi parties alone, their agitation was used by New Delhi in its bigger strategic goal of reining in Kathmandu. Full cooking gas cylinders available in black market. Customers waiting in queue to get the half filled LPG cylinders in Kathamdnu. Photo: THT Kathmandu Parliament mourns ex-PM Koirala’s death Parliament meeting on Thursday endorsed condolence... Business Global stocks fall as scramble for safety boosts yen, gold and bonds Fresh cracks appeared in global markets on Thursda... Nepal PM’s stance vital to safeguard nationality: Basnet Former minister and CPN (UML) leader Mahesh Basnet... Science & Technology Ripple effect: scientists await word on gravitational waves A century ago, Albert Einstein hypothesized the ex...

Kathmandu, February 10 Capitalising on the situation of inadequate supply of liquefied petroleum gas from India and weak market monitoring in the country, LPG bottling plants have been supplying full cylinders of cooking gas in the black market. But some consumers have a different story to tell. Raxaul depot begins refilling NOC tankers. A tanker loaded with petroleum product enters Nepal via Raxaul border point on Monday, February 8, 2016. Photo: RSS Opinion Fear of economic downturn: Whom to blame? Declining value of Nepalese currency, high trade d... World Russian firepower helps Syrian forces edge towards Turkey border The Syrian army advanced towards the Turkish borde... Business Oil prices rise, US crude shrugs off equity slump Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday, with US crude sh... Kathmandu, February 8. India-Nepal border open after months of unrest. The Record - Birgunj border opened after 4.5 months. But... 800 trucks enter Nepal via Birgunj in 3 days.

A container loaded with goods entering Nepal through the Birgunj-Raxaul border point 135 days after the border point was blockaded by the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front, in Birgunj, Parsa, on Friday, February 5, 2016. Traders remove protesters from Birgunj border. A truck loaded with goods heading towards its destination after local businesspersons opened the Birgunj-Raxual border point in Birgunj on Friday, January 29, 2016. Photo: Ram Sarraf Opinion End of the New Normal? Indefinite bandh throws life out of gear in Janakpur. Madhesi Leaders affiliated to various madhes based parties meeting in Janakpurdham. Sports West Ham’s Carroll fit for Southampton, Byram ruled out West Ham United striker Andy Carroll is fit to fac... Entertainment Amber Gurung hospitalised Veteran musician Amber Gurung was admitted to hosp... Business Kuwait Airways retires 1,350 Kuwaiti nationals, targets profitability Loss-making Kuwait Airways has let go of 1,350 Kuw...

Dahal urges Rae to end border blockade soon. UCPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae discussing during their meeting in Dahal’s residence at Lazimpat, on Tuesday, February 02, 2016. NOC to distribute fuel on alternate weeks for motorists, motorcyclists. Life in Tarai gradually limping back to normalcy. Scores of police personnel guarding a road section in Birgunj after the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) intensified protest, on Sunday, December 20, 2015. Stop and go. Madhesi front leaders divided on withdrawing border blockade. Leaders of the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front holding a meeting in Naitan VDC, Bara, on Friday evening. Transportation resumes after five months. Public vehicles wating for passengers after transport services resumed in Gaur, Rautahat, on Wednesday.

Birgunj border opens, cargo vehicles entering Nepal from India smoothly. Goods being suppplied to Nepal from India on carts across the Birgunj-Raxaul border, which was obstructed for over four months, on Saturday, January 23, 2016. Big delays in big projects. Across the country, hydropower and infrastructure projects are on hold as the blockade bites. Earthquake, blockade double whammy to Nepal's economy: Ex-PM Khanal.

CPN-UML leader and former Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal (2nd from left) at a press meet in Pokharal. WFP warns of impending humanitarian crisis in Nepal. Opinion Being independent is what Nepalis seek Nepalis are bearing the brunt of crisis everyday, ... Nepal quake victims face deadly winter as parties bicker. Can renewables be an alternative for fuel shortages in Nepal? Health crisis. ‘No time to lose’ Full-blown economic crisis. After Birgunj tension, SSB shuts Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha point - The Himalayan Times. Nepal facing 'medical crisis' as supplies run short. Nepal border protests have led to a dangerous humanitarian crisis.

Nepal warns of humanitarian crisis as India border blockade continues. Nepal border blockade 'threatens the future of the country itself', says UN. Shortage of medicine hits Thapathali Maternity Hospital. India Pushes Nepal into China’s Arms. Mikeldunham: Nepal is down to firewood: Effects of crippling fuel shortage worsen, afflicting all sectors including earthquake-created humanitarian aid.

Nepal blockade linked to Bihar votes, says Katju. Nepal turns to China for fuel after India restricts supply. Consumers queue for cooking gas, return empty-handed - The Himalayan Times. China refuels Nepal as India fails to deliver. Nepal facing critical fuel shortage due to blocked supply routes, fears of another humanitarian disaster. Vehicular movement through Raxaul-Birgunj must to ease fuel supply - The Himalayan Times.

Fuel flow from India increases. IRIN - Fuel shortage threatens Nepal aid as winter comes. Pvt vehicle owners wrestle for fuel. Fuel shortage hits water supply in Valley - The Himalayan Times. Between the blockade and the unrest: A humanitarian crisis is brewing in Nepal. Editorial. Nepal fuel shortages: Petrol 'donated' to India embassy - BBC News. Nepal's forests under threat over fuel crisis - BBC News. Nepal blockade: Doctors warn of medicine crisis. Moving Target. UN: Nepal blockade puts millions of children at risk. When the blockade ends. As fuel shortages hit Nepal, is renewable energy an alternative? Nepal blockade: Six ways it affects the country.

Nepal's Fuel Crisis Will Push Almost a Million People Into Poverty. Flow of vehicles from India rises. The wreckage of 2015. 55 cooking gas bullets rerouted to Nepal from Raxaul.