End in sight to Madhesi strife in Nepal?

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata. December 22 | Updated on January 22, 2018

Burning issue: Labourers carry containers of petrol and diesel to sell at higher prices, at Kakarbhitta on the Nepal-India border (file photo).

As Delhi welcomes Kathmandu’s move, cross-border fuel movement surges

The week has already seen two major developments in the relationship between India and Nepal. For the first time, the KP Oli government in Kathmandu has expressed its intention to resolve Madhesi issues. A Cabinet decision to amend the disputed clauses in the Constitution was formally handed over to the Madhesi parties on Monday.

As Delhi welcomed the decision and invited all political stakeholders to show “maturity and flexibility” to resolve the dispute through dialogue, India’s fuel supplies to Nepal hit a four-month high.

According to available information, over 350 kl of petrol and nearly 1,500 kl of diesel reached Nepal on Monday.

This was 40 per cent of Nepal’s daily consumption till agitators blocked the main trade route at Raxaul (Bihar)-Birgunj in mid-August. LPG supplies are, however, ruling at 20 per cent below normal.

Though the Birgunj gates have remained blocked for over four months now, India has been pushing more fuel through smaller gates after Diwali (November 10). With this, the daily average has risen from as low as 20 per cent in October to nearly 30 per cent in November.

The Nepalese media reported above average movement over the last three weeks through Rupaidiha (UP)-Nepalgunj, Jogbani (Bihar)-Biratnagar, and Panitanki (West Bengal)-Kakarbhitta, before hitting a four-month high.

The rising Indian supplies may have softened the prices of fuel in the parallel market in Nepal. Petrol prices are reportedly down from nearly ₹300 a litre in end-November to ₹100. But black-marketing goes unabated.

“Roadside florists and sweetmeat shops are selling fuel at a premium while pumps remain closed,” said Uddhab Prasad Pyakurel, an assistant professor at Kathmandu University.

Meanwhile, the Madhesi parties rejected the government offer and decided to continue with the agitation.

“The three-point decision doesn’t resolve a single issue. It’s old wine in a new bottle,” said Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum and the pioneer of the Madhesi rights movement.

“Kathmandu expressed its intent to resolve the crisis. But it failed to create an environment that is suitable to withdraw the agitation,” he said, referring police firing at agitators at Malangwa in Sarlahi district on Tuesday. In four months, nearly 59 lives have been lost, and 10,000 injured.

Manish Kumar Mishra, youth leader of Terai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party, believes a better environment could have been created by including Madhesi forums in the political process to resolve the key issue of amending the provincial demarcation.

Spotlight on India

Meanwhile, Delhi’s advice to Kathmandu to show “flexibility” hasn’t gone down well with the Madhesis.

“How can India welcome Kathmandu’s proposal that has failed to fulfil common aspirations? Delhi must understand that it’s a mass movement,” Yadav said.

Chandra Kishore, a Terai-based political analyst, agrees.

While referring to Kathmandu’s decision as “strong, both in content and process (to address the dispute)”, Kishore said Kathmandu must offer a little more than promises to help Madhesi leaders to convince the people to stop the agitation.

“Delhi should know that force-landing may have serious implications,” he said.

Published on December 22, 2015

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