BAJHANG, May 2: Yarsa collectors in Bajhang district have been accused of exchanging the valuable herb for alcoholic beverages. The people involved in the shady business are suspected of having set up a black market, solely for the purpose.
Though yarsa-collecting areas of Dhanseri, Chalawan, Kalapani, Surma Taal, Majha, Raidhungi and Saipal were declared dry areas, black marketeers are reportedly selling alcoholic beverages costing Rs 250 at an increased price of Rs 1,200. “We work extremely hard every single day. We work in the snow. So, we like to drink to do away with the tiredness and the extreme cold!” exclaimed Ram Bahadur Bohara of Sapial Rural Municipality-1. Bohara informed of the unavailability of cash hence using Yarsa at the rate of Rs 400 for a small one and Rs 500 for a large one, in exchange for alcoholic beverages.
“The Highlands are a lot of fun. There aren't any police officials and the rules are only followed by the weak ones. This is hence the prime spot for black markets to thrive,” said yarsa collector Bam Bahadur Singh of Jayaprithvi Municipality-1. “A lot of us end up exchanging yarsa with alcohol without understanding its true value. The highlands are much disorganized. In addition, the excessive snow this year has made yarsa even scarcer than it already was,” he further added.
The locals also seem to be in a dilemma regarding the black-market scenario. The local government's declaration to stop selling alcohol and the central government distributing licenses for the production of alcohol nationwide is seemingly confusing for the locals of the area. “My alcohol business is very hush hush. I don't sell it to people I do not know and people I have my doubts on," said a hotel owner in Saipal Rural Municipality. He also informed of having a stock of 31 cartons of virgin whisky aimed to be sold within this year.
Yarsa collection begins in April and ends around the mid of July every year in the districts of Bajhang, Bajura, Doti, Achham, Dadeldhura, Kailali, Kanchanpur and Humla. Around 20,000 people participate in the collection. Deploying police personnel in the highlands is impractical. The government had hence decided to ban the consumption of alcohol to maintain peace among the yarsa collectors.
The local governments of the said areas have decided to fine anyone consuming alcohol Rs 10,000 and anyone selling alcohol Rs 20,000.