| March 21, 2018

The hard times

The hard times
The whole country is reeling under the 'undeclared' economic blockade that has followed the Tarai agitation which completed 45 days on Tuesday. The long lines at the gas stations, the waits for public vehicles, and the shortage of LPG gas are just some of the

consequences of this blockade. The rumors about the shortages of basic commodities like salt and cooking oil are also creating havoc. We talked to a few young people around the country about their experiences and asked for their opinions on what should be done next.
Anjila Takhachhen, 18
High school graduate from Trinity College

It's said that neighbors are blessings. But currently if I say this about India, people are immediately going to check my surname to see whether I'm a Nepali or not. Here I confess that I'm neither team Nepal nor team India. For the reality is no matter how much we might quarrel right now or slander each other on social media, we can never be physically disconnected. I believe we Nepalis have always respected our history and the history says Nepalis believe in helping not hurting, loving not provoking. If we have to count, it was just a few months back that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited our country and made us dream. The good thing is, those are not impossible dreams. They can actually still be realized for a prosperous future, but only if we move on with a friendly relationship. War has never been a solution and never will be. I suggest we stop using coarse language in social media because that is not who we are and we cannot take the risk of misrepresenting ourselves to the world. The most important thing to do right now is to hold meetings with the Indian government for a proper diplomatic solution which will benefit both the countries. Let's hope the decisions taken don't affect our future adversely but eradicates all the misconceptions between us neighbors.

Having said that, also keep in mind what Carl Sandberg said: "Love your neighbor as yourself but don't take down your fence."

Sonal Shrestha, 22
Kantipur City College

Nepal has been in a state of political crisis for many decades, but this crisis has reached a new level of intensity as of now. When majority of the population welcomed the new constitution with so much excitement, all of us expected the country to get better. People danced, sang patriotic songs and celebrated their hearts out. But the happiness was short lived. With the protesting Tarai parties and the "unannounced" blockade by the Indian government, the country is going through a rough patch. Basic necessities of the population aren't being met. And all this because we're so dependent on the imports from India.

On the other hand, we're so blindly going after what's been trending on the Internet and playing the blame game that we haven't been able to see the problem that lies within. Until and unless the government and the new constitution don't address the demands of the Madhesis, this scarcity of basic needs is only going to get worse. By this I don't mean that the government should instantly fulfill all their demands, but they should sit down and talk, and come up with long term solutions. They should make a political resolution to address grievances of not only Madhesis but also Tharus and janajatis by amending the constitution.

For a country like Nepal, which recently got over the massive earthquake, has now this blockade to deal with, but the people have not lost hope. We'll always stand by our country, and I love this spirit that we have, if only the government reciprocated! This is the time for us to stay calm and search for alternatives instead of being carried away and play the blame game.

Sabip Rajbanshi, 24
National College

The blockade has had a heavy impact in the capital, as we've all felt it. The most noticed shortage has probably been of the fuel. I own a bike and over the years had gotten quite lazy riding it for pretty much everywhere I had to go. But due to the shortage, especially at rush hours, there's no other option but to walk. Public vehicles are way too packed. This shortage in fuel is soon to affect other areas of our lives, too. Restaurant owners and some of my friends have already started feeling the gas shortage.

I think the whole problem came about from bad political planning by the leaders. In some ways I believe this situation is fueled by Madhesi leaders because they were upset for not having a bigger role in the second Constitutional Assembly. Nonetheless, this is the time to maintain patience. The government should sit down with the people of Madhes and calmly negotiate with them. As for the seven amendments demanded by India, in my opinion, our neighbor has breached our sovereignty and we shouldn't come into an agreement especially when it's asked this way.

Ankur Koirala, 17
St Lawrence College

These days, I feel stressed out as soon as I wake up in the morning wondering if I'll easily reach my college in time or whether I'll have cling on to the microbus's door, risking my life to attend my classes. I'm also tired of listening to people everywhere, including my family and friends, talk about the crisis and their own theories about what will happen next. Yes, whatever is going on is not pleasant, but an outraged response or a judgmental status won't help much, if at all. Things are much more complicated than we think.

Instead of making #BackOffIndia trend in social media, or expressing our patriotism by bashing out political leaders online, let's maintain unity, and think practically. How about avoiding unnecessary use of vehicles for now so that we can save fuel for emergencies? Why don't we be responsible online and avoid gossips or rumors that could affect our regional co-operation?

We've always been a sovereign country, and political intervention from any outsider won't be tolerated. However, we can't deny the fact that no force in the universe is going to change the fact that India is our neighbor. So, clearing out misunderstandings and continuing a cordial relationship is a must. Our government should handle this situation by sitting down for talks with its Indian counterpart, while making sure that the negotiation neither hampers our diplomatic relation nor undermine our sovereignty.

Manchana Shrestha, 22
Trainee at Channakya Software

At 7:15 PM on September 24, I went to the petrol pump in Shantinagar where I queued up for 20 minutes. But what bad luck! Just as my turn was about to come, we were all told that there was no more petrol left for us. I haven't been using my scooter since that day and I travel by tempos. Yesterday, I couldn't attend my evening class because it's very far away from my office. Today, even after waiting for a long time, I didn't see any tempo so I walked to work. I don't know when I'll be able to attend my classes. I know this is happening because of the blockade imposed by India. The reason is probably because the Indian government is not happy about our new constitution and think that it should not have been made this soon because the internal conflict hasn't been resolved yet. Whatever action or decision the politicians make should be in favor of the public. Politics should maintain human rights.

Anjeet Chudal, 24
Graduate of Development Studies

Since I don't own a private vehicle and the public buses aren't readily available, these days I mostly opt for walking. However, it isn't just transportation the recent fuel shortage is impacting. The supply of necessities like gas and oil are also slowly getting scarce. Turns out we're way too depended on India for most of our consumptions. Otherwise, we wouldn't be suffering so badly.

The blockade is still an undeclared on, so the rules set by World Trade Organization regarding trading protocols aren't applicable here. India has cited security reasons for the informal border seal, but there are also areas like Kakadvitta where there's no sign of protest, so why is the border sealed there?

I feel only a top level talk among major players of the government will solve the problem. That is not to say that Nepal government should amend all the points set forth by India. I guess the question comes down to whose interest the points speak for? Just like Nepal cannot have any say on India's constitution amending process, neither can India have on ours.

Dr Jyoti Gurung, 27
Volunteer at Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal

I believe if our government had come out with the constitution at the promised time on January 22, we could have avoided this unrest and its repercussions today. The earthquakes that occurred in April and May would most definitely have shifted our focus away from the already formed constitution, and we would have been busy rebuilding Nepal. This banda in eastern Tarai has been ongoing for almost two months now and it is the common people who suffer. No wonder labor migration is really high in our country. The border blockade is affecting the whole country and tourism is taking a big hit. Manang, where I'm in right now, has only a handful of visitors even though this is the tourist season. This affects the porters, guides, hoteliers—in short the local community very deeply. According to the British doctors who are volunteering with me, many people in the UK still believe that Nepal is totally destroyed by the earthquakes. I know an entrepreneur whose order of summer clothes are stuck in China while the Dashain and winter orders are stuck in the Indian border. This is affecting all of us.

Suresh Mukhiya, 26
Sub-editor of DreamNepal

As someone living in Tarai near the border, I would like to first mention that it's the protesters in Tarai and not India that is doing the blockade. The Tarai protesters are against the current forceful execution of the constitution. The media has totally misguided and created this false impression in us. Apart from that, the Tarai strike has disturbed all those people who don't have secure jobs and are fully dependent on daily wage work. I'm affected from this long strike, too. I believe this situation has taken place only because of the current government's ignorance towards its own citizens and their real rights. The government keeps stating they've been appealing the Tarai politicians to sit for talks whereas in reality, they haven't even made an environment to have a proper conversation. My personal opinion is that the government should visit Tarai to console or take feedback for the amendment in the current constitution. After all, Tarai people are also citizens of Nepal, aren't they?