Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The blocking of supplies from India "has set us back many years. We have no fuel to cook food. We have started to buy firewood and have no electricity. We have are once again using wood for cooking. " With these words, Ram Maharjan, owner of a restaurant in Kathmandu, describes the situation that the Nepali population has been facing since the beginning of India’s unofficial embargo on exports began 13 days ago.
For nearly two weeks the Indian police has stopped all containers containing oil, petrol or gas from crossing the border to Nepal. Only a few convoys with basic necessities have been allowed to pass. According to many journalists in Nepal, Delhi’s decision stems from the fact that Kathmandu did not take into account Indian views of its constitution approved on 16 September, ignoring the protests of the minority Tharu and madhese who live in the southern region of Terai.
Due to lack of fuel, the life of the country's has been turned upside down. Schools, universities and industries are struggling to continue normal operations. About half of the institutions have announced a holiday period. Diplomatic missions in the country are sending requests for petrol to their home nations. The government has banned the use of private cars and reduced public transport services. More than half of ambulances are not operational.
According to the diplomatic representatives of the European Union in the country, "the lack of basic necessities mainly affects the poorest in a country where the recent earthquake threw another 3.5% of the population below the poverty line" .
After the Nepalese government’s harsh criticism of this sudden blockade, the Indian ambassador to Nepal has promised to soften the restrictive measures at the border. At present, however, the situation has not improved.
According Bhim Adhikari, customs chief of the administrative area of Mechi, about 60 vehicles were stranded yesterday at the border of Jogbani by the Indian authorities the pretext of security investigations. After several clashes between Madhesi and security forces on the Bhairahawa -Saunali border, the Indians decided for the complete closure of the area.
Directors of the Nepal Oil Corporation complain that tankers sent to refuel the Indian Oil Corporation Gonda Depot return only 10% full. The Nepalese politicians, while seeking to minimize the Indian intervention to avoid a direct confrontation, they are looking for new solutions to the border with China. According to local media, China has offered to rebuild roads in Nepal, if Kathmandu agrees to seek two thirds of its supply needs from Beijing.
Bamdev Gautam, deputy prime minister, said: "We do not know what India expects to achieve by throwing Nepal into crisis. It should comply with the new constitution approved by 90% of the representatives chosen by the people. "