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Strike hits fuel prices in Nepal

Petrol pump owners have started impromptu rationing of fuel.
By Reuters | None, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON APR 17, 2006 04:27 PM IST

Hundreds of cars and motorcycles queued up at gas stations in the Nepali capital on Monday as fuel supplies dwindled on the 12th day of a general strike called by anti-monarchy activists.

Pump owners had started impromptu rationing and prices of vegetables and other food had sky-rocketed, Kathmandu residents said.

At least four people have been killed and hundreds wounded in police action against protesters since political parties launched a campaign on April 6 to remove King Gyanendra from power.

Tens of thousands of people have staged demonstrations against the monarch, bringing the mountainous kingdom to a standstill.

"Petrol supply has completely stopped," said Harendra Bahadur Shreshtha, the chief of the Consumers Forum, a private group. "There is supply good for one month, but the government is busy in suppressing the movement and is not paying any attention."

Supplies of fuel are controlled by the government.

Cars were being given no more than 5 litres (1.3 US gallon) of petrol per day and motorcycles 3 litres, pump owners said.

Neelam Adhikary, a Kathmandu housewife, said prices of essentials had surged.

"Onions used to sell at 20 rupees (about 30 US cents) per kilo, now they are 60 rupees," she said. "Salt was 11 rupees for one kilo, now it is 45."

Political parties said the pain was temporary and asked people to bear with the situation.

"We know the strike and the movement had caused problems to ordinary people, but this is temporary and we should all bear it," Prakash Sharan Mahat, a former minister and one of the leaders of the pro-democracy campaign, told hundreds of demonstrators gathered in a western suburb of the capital.

On Sunday, the political parties called on people to stop paying taxes or electricity or water bills until a democratic government was formed. They have called for a mass protest on Thursday and asked all transport, including air services, to halt for the day.

King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed full power in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade old Maoist revolt in which more than 13,000 people have died.

The king has offered to hold elections by April next year, but activists say he is not to be trusted and should immediately hand over power to an all-party government.

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