Nepal begins turning away Indian flood victims

August 28th, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 28 (IANS) As Nepal’s Natural Disaster Mitigation Committee began talks under the leadership of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in the capital Thursday on how to combat the ravaging flood in south Nepal, near the border area, Nepali security forces began turning away dozens of Indians who had also become homeless due to the disaster.Dozens of flood victims from India’s Bihar across the border began flocking to Nepal since last week after the raging Saptakoshi river washed away thousands of homes in Nepal’s Sunsari district and engulfed nearly six districts of Bihar.

Carrying sacks on their heads that carried the few possessions they had been able to save from the swirling river, men, women and children started seeking safety in higher land in Nepal across the border.

By last week, over 1,200 Indians had taken shelter in the makeshift relief camps opened by the Sunsari district authorities. Nepali officials said the hapless Indians were being fed and provided medicine on humanitarian grounds and would be asked to return once the situation improved.

However, with rain still lashing Nepal and the Saptakoshi meandering away from its course in an alarming manner, putting more areas in Nepal and Bihar under threat, police this week began stopping the Indian homeless at the border, making them return.

Over three dozen Indians, who had reached the Jogbani checkpost Monday night after fleeing from Bihar’s flooded Supaul district, were stopped Tuesday at Biratnagar, and asked to go back, Nepal’s state media said Thursday.

The refugees told the police they had relatives in Nepal’s Morang district and were seeking to stay with them till the waters receded.

Some said they had heard that relief measures were better in Nepal and so had crossed over from Bihar.

Nepal’s official daily, Gorkhapatra, said it was being guesstimated that over 5,000 Indians had entered Nepal after the flood started.

Though the Jogbani checkpost was on the vigil for Indian refugees, they were still pouring into Nepal from other unmanned points on the open border, the daily said.

Meanwhile, the Indian team assessing the ruptured barrage on the Saptakoshi river estimated that it would take about NRS 5.15 billion to mitigate the damage.

The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar had been sent a letter to this effect, reports Thursday said.

Under a 1954 treaty signed between India and Nepal, the government of Bihar has to maintain and repair the Saptakoshi barrage.

Nepal’s political parties are also urging the Maoist-led government to claim compensation from the Indian government.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav is headed for New Delhi Thursday. After attending the The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meet, he is also scheduled to discuss the floods with the Indian authorities.

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