Nepal has quietly asked India not to send old clothes as part of relief for earthquake victims, saying in the Himalayan republic saying it did not want “leftover food", officials from both countries have confirmed.
India was the among the first countries to respond with a massive relief mission after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake flattened large parts of Nepal on April 25, leaving over 7,000 people dead and countless others homeless.
Besides the government, NGOs and the corporate sector have also pitched in provide help to the estimated 9 million people affected by the earthquake.
Nepal’s objection to old clothes came to light recently when the first wagon carrying relief supplies by train, reached the dry port at Birgunj, 10-odd km from Raxaul, India’s last border district in Bihar.
Officials said the Nepalese authorities detected a few “objectionable” gunny sacks, amid other relief materials, as part of completing customs formalities in receiving foreign goods. Relief supplies are unloaded at the port from railway cargo vans, re-packaged in some cases and re-loaded on trucks for transportation to different areas of Nepal.
Indian officials said, on detecting old clothes the very first day the exercise began, the Nepalese authorities not only rejected the consignment, but minced no words in conveying to their Indian counterparts that “leftover food in plate should not be served to them”.
B Mohan, chief executive officer of the Himalayan Terminals Private Limited, an Indo-Nepal joint-venture firm looking after terminal operation at Birgunj, told HT: “I removed the consignment of old clothes and junked it at our port.”
Consul general of India at Birgunj, Anju Ranjan, confirmed the development, saying, “I have communicated the information to the home ministry through my channel.”
The home ministry has been tasked with collecting and ensuring loading of relief supplies, pouring in from different governments and agencies across India, at New Delhi. They are then ferried overnight to Birgunj through Raxaul.
Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments, besides the Indian Red Cross Society, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Dena Bank and the MHA are among those to have sent relief supplies through the rail route.
The port has so far received 171 tonnes of relief supplies through the rail route from India ever since the exercise began on May 2.
“We now check any consignment of clothes before handing them to Nepal. On May 4, we found brand new towels in one such consignment, which the Nepalese authorities happily received,” said Raghvendra, an IAS probationer, overseeing the operation at the port.