Kathmandu valley paralysed as transporters go on warpath

June 15th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 15 (IANS) Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s tottering government faced a new crisis Sunday as transporters called an indefinite strike to protest the state’s refusal to let them raise fares despite a substantial hike in fuel prices. Kathmandu valley was paralysed as public buses went off the road and bus owners blocked major roads and held demonstrations.

Taxis also joined the protesters, condemning the murder of a cabbie in the capital last week and demanded security.

Earlier this month, the government was forced to raise the price of petroleum products following a hike in India, land-locked Nepal’s sole oil supplier.

The state-owned oil distributor, Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), has been facing bankruptcy due to the government’s inability to increase oil prices and keep parity with global market prices.

However, though Nepal’s cabinet authorised NOC to increase fuel prices, due to its preoccupation to turn deposed king Gyanendra out of the royal palace and power-jockeying among the major parties, it failed to implement an immediate hike in fares.

Chafing under the state apathy, the Federation of Nepali National Transport Entrepreneurs increased prices last week on its own, resulting in chaos. The hike that started from 30 percent, was condemned as steep by consumer agencies.

In places, enraged commuters attacked the vehicles charging the new fare, saying it had not been authorised by the government.

The Federation said it would continue the strike till the government revised fares.

The transport department is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss a revision in fares.

Last week, Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly, that is serving as the new parliament, flayed the fuel price rise.

In addition to the transport strike, that left thousands of school children, office- goers and tourists in dire straits, Kathmandu is also reeling under the accumulation of garbage.

For nearly a week, garbage has been accumulating on major streets, including near the former royal palace, as the locals living near the dumping site have blocked the way, saying they would not allow the site to be used till the government implemented the commitments it had made.

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