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Strikes, strikes and more strikes

Though Nepal government is now desperate to bring about a major economic growth, protests, strikes and bandhs have become the order of the day across the impoverished Himalayan nation, reports Anirban Roy.

world Updated: Nov 30, 2008 00:25 IST

During the last two years, Nepal may have undergone a major political transformation — from an introvert Hindu Kingdom, it has opened up as a young democratic republic.

But, are the people happy with the political change?

Definitely it does not look that the people of Nepal are truly happy. Though the government is now desperate to bring about a major economic growth, protests, strikes and bandhs have become the order of the day across the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Political parties, students, teachers, transporters, traders, journalists and artists regularly stage julush (protests) for fulfillment for their demands.

Even police personnel publicly stage protests against the government. Frequent burning of tyres in the middle of the streets brings traffic to a grinding halt almost everyday.

Schools, colleges, shops and business establishments immediately get closed, resulting in a state of total uncertainty.

“The king is gone, and people have much more political freedom than before. But, it doesn’t mean that we take advantage of the situation, and stage protests everyday,” Jagdish Shrestha, a trader said.

The frequent culture of bandh has prompted a group of youths to launch a portal — www.nepalbandh.com — as well. The portal keeps close watch of the bandhs across the country.

According to the portal, there has been as many as 96 bandhs during the month of November. On November 16 and 20, there were bandhs in seven different places in Nepal.

There were 22 bandhs in the month of October. Shrestha said people resort to violent protests and agitation as they have realised that they don’t get anything if they don’t call for bandhs. “But it is affecting our life to a great extent,” he said.

During one of the bandhs recently, the picketers had attacked one of the Indian diplomats, and had totally damaged his vehicle.

Unfortunately, the Nepal government did not apologise for the untoward incident.

The worst sufferers of the bandhs are students and daily-wage earners. Most of the time, classes and examinations are cancelled because of the strikes. “Unfortunately, the teachers don’t compensate for the losses in the teaching hours,” Pratik Neupane, a college student said, adding, “Who will compensate for our losses?”

Moreover, the tour operators also find it difficult to handle their guests during the strikes and bandh. Tourists are often seen walking all the way to the international airport in Kathmandu from their hotels.

“Tourism is the largest foreign exchange earner for Nepal, and tourists may shy away from visiting our country because of these bandhs and strikes,” Karma Sherpa, a tour operator said adding, “How will our guests feel if they are forced to walk with their heavy baggage?”

Though the Nepal Tourism Board provides specially escorted buses to ferry tourists to and from the airport, it is extremely difficult to provide the service to everyone, Sherpa said.