Nepal mulls fuel rationing as protesters block trucks
September 26 2015 11:14 PM

Nepalese and Indian trucks park near the Nepal-India border at Birgunj, some 90km (55 miles) south of Kathmandu, yesterday. Demonstrators against Nepal’s new constitution in Birgunj town blocked a major trading checkpoint for oil and food imports into the Himalayan nation.


Nepal is considering rationing oil and fuel, a Nepal Oil Corp spokesman said yesterday, after hundreds of trucks were held up this week at the India border when protesters against a new constitution gathered to block the road.
Nepal adopted the charter last Sunday to promote unity and stability after years of civil war, but its demarcation of provinces has upset people in Nepal’s south who fear the new federal structure will marginalise them. At least 40 people, mostly protesters, have been killed in violent clashes since August.
The Madhesi inhabitants of the southern plains have been demanding that states boundaries be drawn by ethnicity, which was rejected by the drafters of the constitution.
About 900 trucks carrying food, fuel and other items were lined up on the Indian side of the Raxaul-Birgunj border yesterday, said Kamlesh Kumar, assistant commissioner of customs at the border point, as protesters from the Madhesi Morcha party blocked the road in
Nepal for a third day.
“If we do ration petrol and oil, we can manage for a couple of weeks,” said Deepak Baral, a Nepal Oil Corp spokesman.
Nepalese officials, however, pinned blame for the logjam on India, Nepal’s southern neighbour and biggest trading partner, which has been drawn into the political crisis after criticising Nepal’s political leadership for rushing through the
constitution despite the dissent.
“India has closed the border,” said Rograj Pant, a customs official at the Raxaul-Birgunj border in Nepal. “There are no goods coming across for (the protesters) to block.”
Asked to comment on Nepalese worries that India had imposed an informal blockade, India’s external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in an email yesterday: “No, we
have not.”
In Lalitpur, a city south of Kathmandu, hundreds of motorcycles were lined up at a petrol station, anticipating a fuel
Reshma Shrestha, a restaurant owner nearby, said she had about a month’s supplies to keep her business running.
“But we won’t be able to go on like this for too much longer,”
she said.
Protesters in Birgunj town, 90km (55 miles) south of Kathmandu, on Friday blocked a major hub for oil and food imports into the Himalayan nation. The movement of cargo through other border checkpoints has also declined.
Fears of a fuel shortage saw dozens of commuters line up at gas stations in Kathmandu while the ongoing protests have sparked concern in India, which has traditionally exerted significant political influence in Nepal.  
Work on the constitution began in 2008 after the Maoists won parliamentary elections and abolished the monarchy. But power-sharing squabbles between parties stymied progress on the draft.
Lawmakers finally reached agreement in June this year, spurred by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake two months earlier that killed more than 9,000 people and destroyed more than half a million homes.
Earlier in the week, the government asked China to hasten the reopening of two border crossings, according to a report in the Republica newspaper.

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