--By Madan Lamsal
Finally, the Nepalis have got something they were longing for over the past seven decades – a constitution written by their representatives. Similarly, they have got republicanism and federalism. Recently they got not only a woman Speaker but also a woman President. And it looks like they will get a woman Chief Justice as well.
The Nepalis have got many things as fundamental rights under the new constitution. Why, then, are a handful of people making a hue and cry about not getting oil and gas? The Americans use the word ‘gas’ also for the petrol. It’s now said that Nepalis have a ‘gas problem’ due to almost everyone complaining of gastric. Thus, this gas has become Nepal’s national disease. Could this be the root cause of the current problems?
Some people might argue that the Madhes agitation has hurt those at the bottom of the pyramid the most. But in fact everyone from politicians to the lower class has benefitted from the Madhes agitation and India’s blockade. These days, to go the 30 kilometre distance between the border point of Raxaul and Simara, one has to pay Rs 500 per person to the rickshaw wallah or the horse-cart wallah. Thus a rickshaw wallah or a horse-cart wallah is making upto Rs 40,000 a day! Who says the lower class is facing problems because of the blockade?
Cities are wearing a deserted look because of the blockade, or more precisely, the fuel shortage. Those who used to drive a car or a motorbike have started relying on their own two feet. This has led to an inadvertent health benefit - many bellies have shrunk – and those suffering from uric acid or diabetes are getting better. The streets are filled with cleaner air. Perhaps by default, the health of Nepalis is improving day by day.
The most booming business today is the blockade business. In other words, the business of making money from the opportunities created by the blockade. There are many for whom the blockade has come as a gift in disguise.
Take, for example, the leaders and cadres of the agitating Madhesi Front. They are getting tens of millions of rupees in donation from smugglers and businessmen in the name of supporting the Madhes agitation. They don’t have to show anyone how and where this money is being spent. On the other hand, they are minting money by fixing channels for fuel supply management. A litre of petrol which costs Rs 100 on the other side of the border can be easily sold for Rs 300 on this side of the border – a clean profit of 200 percent.
What to say about the hakim saaps of Nepal Oil Corporation! They only need to show how much fuel they received, without bothering about the need to tell anyone where and how this fuel is distributed. Once those at the top are provided a little fuel, the rest can be sold at prices two-three times more than the cost price. If you don’t believe it, just look at the streets. It has been days since fuel was distributed to the general public but the number of motorbikes and cars on the streets is increasing day by day.
In pursuit of energy, some government officials have gone to China, some to Bangladesh. Others too are tipped to be making their travel plans. The police and commerce heads are already into the juicy business of stopping the blackmarket. Those selling electric appliances seem to be swimming in money- they can’t seem to keep up with demand. “I can sell you this last piece,” they are telling customers and selling things at their prices.
Those selling brickets and stoves too are making hay while the sun shines. Forget the bits and shards of wood, even the sawdust is fetching a good price. The wood business is bound to grow as the government itself has started felling and selling trees. Where have the environmentalists disappeared to? Does this mean the governemtn will start selling candles once the loadshedding begins?
Making the most of the current times, the NEA has openly said it wll hike the price of electricity. The so called energy experts are all over the TV giving interviews. But those expecting new ideas from them were disappointed when they advised the government to declare a ‘state of energy emergency’. A communist government would love to declare a round of ‘emergencies’. It’s just that the situation is not right for this. But wait! Even that day may not be that far away. Because many stand to benefit even from this act.
The country has benefitted from the blockade. Trade with China is being pushed. The Kyerong border post has opened. Now they say all seven border post with China will open. Something will come through these trade points! At least few rats or rackets will surely come if not anything.