Jitendra Kumar Jha/Republica Stranded consignment trucks in Phattepur Bazaar on Wednesday.
SAPTARI, March 23: Disappointed with the downgrading of an erstwhile municipality into rural municipality, irate locals of Saptakoshi in Saptari district have been hitting the streets since the past nine days.
Erstwhile Saptakoshi Municipality was converted into rural municipality under the new federal setup. Angered by the restructuring, locals had padlocked the municipality’s office on March 14.
The protest is supported by the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), which is against holding the local polls. Although the Madhesi alliance has padlocked all the offices of the municipalities and rural municipalities of the district, the padlocking of Saptakoshi’s office is unique in the sense that other local political parties along with UDMF have also supported it.
Representatives of the local political parties, entrepreneurs, civil society leaders and other locals have been continuing their protest since the past nine days after padlocking the office of the erstwhile Saptakoshi Municipality, now a rural municipality.
Marketplaces there have remained paralyzed since the past four days, informed Pawan Kumar Dahal, a local leader affiliated to the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum - Democratic (MPRF-D).
“Local entrepreneurs have not been forced to shut down their business. They did it voluntarily because they are angered by the government’s decision,” he added.
Apart from education institutions and emergency health services, every other activity has been affected due to the protest,” Dahal further informed.
The protesters blocked Phattepur-Kanchanpur road section on Wednesday. This obstruction, which lasted till late evening, led to a traffic jam in the locality.
The government, on December 2, 2014, had formed the Saptakoshi Municipality by including Phattepur, Odhraha and Kamalpur VDCs of the district. However, the new local restructuring has snatched away its municipality status, calling it rural municipality.
“The government has tried to disrespect the locals. So our protest will continue until the government declares Saptakoshi as municipality again,” said Krishna Dhakal, a local leader of Nepali Congress.
Another leader, Narayan Acharya, coordinator of the struggle committee formed to protest the government’s decision, said their only demand is to declare Saptakoshi as municipality. “Saptakoshi was a municipality, and it should stay as municipality.”
The three erstwhile VDCs that formed the erstwhile Saptakoshi Municipality were lagging behind in development. The government had given it a municipality status despite not fulfilling population criteria. Locals there were very happy after the government had declared Saptakoshi as municipality, believing that it would bring some development in the area.