DHANGADI/MAHENDRANAGAR, May 4: Normal life in the far western region has been thrown out of gear with agitators demanding an “undivided far west” continuing their strike for the 8th consecutive day on Friday.
Daily lives of the common people have been badly affected with markets, including medical stores, and public transportation service coming to a complete standstill.
“My five-year- old daughter is sick. But there´s no way we can take her to the hospital as the strike public transportation service has come to a complete halt due to the strike,” says Padam Bahadur Bohora, a local. Public transportation service has come to a complete halt for the last eight days due to the strike.
Adding to the plight of the locals, no basic medicines like anti-diarrheal and anti-vomiting tablets are available in the medical stores. “Patients have been returning home without medicines as we have not been able to replenish our stock,” says Hikmat Singh, owner of a medical store. Hill districts, including Doti, Achham, and Bajura have been the hardest hit with strike leading to shortage of food and other basic requirements.
“Since yesterday, locals coming from faraway villages to purchase food items have been returning home empty handed as I have not been able to replenish my stock,” said Bal Bahadur Rokaya, who runs a grocery in Bajura.
Trucks carrying food and medicines from Kailali and Kanchanpur to some eight hilly districts have not reached their destinations. Chandra Dhungana, chairperson of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Achham said that sugar and edible oil are out of stock in the district.
Basu Dev Joshi of Dhangadhi said, “Cooking gas is not available in the market. So I have been using firewood to cook food.”
The closure of banks and ATM machines has added to the misery of locals. “I need money for medical treatment but I have not been able to draw money,” says Devi BK of Sripur, Kailali who has been suffering from stomach ailment.
Moreover, air service has also come to a complete standstill with no flights operating to and from the Geta Airport - the only airport in the region. The protestors had padlocked the airport´s terminal building on Monday. Youths scheduled to fly abroad for employment are likely to lose their jobs if they miss the company´s deadline to report for work.
Gajendra Shahi, the manager of Raira Tours says, “More than eight to 10 passengers call us every day. But we are not sure when the flights would resume.”
Similarly, farmers have not been able to sell their produce in the market due to the ongoing strike. Though civil society activists and several other organizations have asked the government to resolve the crisis facing the far west, the government has taken no initiatives so far.
Timber smuggling rampant
While the indefinite strike in the far west is on, timber smuggling has become rampant in the region. In the Rato Pani Community Forest of Kailali, three smugglers were arrested red handed while cutting the trees. “The smugglers have been taking advantage of the absence of security personnel and forest rangers,” said a local. Forest officer Rajendra Man Singh said security personnel have been able to reach their duty stations on time due to the ongoing strike.