Poll prohibition: no drinking in Nepal for a week

April 4th, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 4 (IANS) A favourite hunting ground of tipplers where no ceremony is complete without the free flow of liquor and even the tiniest grocery shop stocks a formidable array of alcohol, Nepal will however run dry for almost a week due to the crucial poll scheduled April 10. With the twice-postponed constituent assembly election only six days away, the Kathmandu District Administration office has prohibited the sale and consumption of liquor in all public places three days before voting day.

The liquor ban, to be effective from April 7, will run till April 13, three days after the constituent assembly election is over.

The prohibition comes as a blow to Nepal’s hotels and restaurants, already reeling under an eight-hour power outage daily and frequent labour trouble.

“Beers account for over 50 percent of my sale,” said Pawan Shrestha, who runs an open-air restaurant in Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist hub.

“I had hoped for better business before the election with the government declaring a five-day holiday.”

With Nepal’s government also declaring a five-day holiday from April 7, to ensure there is no untoward incident, revellers had been planning to hold long beer parties.

“Now I will have to stock up on booze during the weekend and drink it at home,” said a disgusted Shankar Jha, a travel trade executive who had planned to take advantage of the long poll holiday by going to a nearby holiday resort with his friends.

Besides the liquor ban, Nepal has announced other measures to ensure a violence-free election on April 10.

Round-the-clock aerial surveillance starts from Saturday with helicopters patrolling the skies from six different bases.

Home ministry spokesperson Modraj Dotel said choppers would roam the skies from Kathmandu, Simara, Biratnagar, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Dhangadi.

The army has also been asked to keep its helicopters on standby.

The open border between Nepal and its southern neighbour India will remain closed on the eve of the election and D-Day itself to prevent the smuggling in of arms and explosives by armed groups operating in Nepal’s Terai plains who have warned they would oppose the election.

The government is also recruiting over 63,000 temporary police personnel and about 6,000 Armed Police Force men to improve the security situation.

The Election Commission said it had raised the insurance cover for poll staff to Nepali Rs.1.5 million from Rs.1 million.

The Election Commission also warned officials that they would be suspended and subjected to stringent action if they did not immediately proceed to the polling centres where they have been deputed.

Despite the security measures, the fear of violence still hovers over the much-awaited election with reports of clashes between the major parties and bomb blasts in the troubled Terai still pouring in.

Independent observers have found the Maoists to be the worst aggressors, attacking contestants from rival parties despite this week signing an agreement to maintain harmony for the polls.

There is also the fear of post-poll violence with the top Maoist leaders warning that they would start another movement if they lost the ballot battle.

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