KATHMANDU, March 31: Hundreds of Nepali migrant workers returning home from India are stranded in Dharchula on the Indian side of the Nepal-India border since the last few days after the Darchula district administration barred them from entering Nepal citing the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
After being prevented from crossing over to Nepal they have accumulated across the border and are chanting slogans against the Nepali authorities. The migrant workers are facing hardships as India is also under a lockdown. Pictures circulating on the social media show that some Nepalis have crossed over to Nepal by swimming the Mahakali river, which serves as the border between the two countries.
The local authority, however, is still reluctant to allow the workers in stating that both Nepal and India have an agreement to take stranded people to their own quarantine facilities and provide food and shelter until the lockdown ends.
A bridge connects Nepal and India in Darchula. “We have orders not to allow entry to anyone and there is an agreement between the two countries to quarantine anyone stranded on either side of the border,” said Yadunath Poudel, chief district officer of Darchula, adding, “We have communicated the same message to the Indian officials.”
CDO Poudel estimates that as many as 500 Nepalis are stranded in Dharchula, the Indian area, after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown by sealing all border points with India and China.
Over 250 Nepalis travelling to Pithauragadh of India were returning to Nepal after the imposition of the lockdown.
“It seems Indian officials want to send the stranded Nepalis to Nepal. But we have asked them to place them in quarantine in India itself as per the agreement,” said CDO Poudel, “Border points won't be opened.”
A video posted on Twitter shows frustrated migrant workers chanting slogans demanding that the government of Nepal rescue them.
When Nepali students were trapped after the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, went into a lockdown, the government evacuated them on a chartered flight and placed them in quarantine. But the authorities have turned insensitive after hundreds of migrant workers from the Gulf countries and India returned home on their own fearing the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier, police had resorted to baton-charge after hundreds of migrant workers stuck on the border at Kanchanpur attempted to forcibly enter Nepal. Following mounting pressure from local politicians of the ruling and the main opposition parties, the workers were allowed to cross over to Nepal.
Meanwhile, police in Dailekh have stopped 140 people who were heading for Humla from Surkhet, on the way. After domestic flights were suspended they were heading home on three chartered buses.
Dailekh District Police chief Hari Bahadur Oli said they were stopped and sent back to Surkhet because the buses had not obtained necessary permission from the authorities.
“We have sent all of them back to Surkhet,” said Guras Rural Municipality's chief administrative officer Ram Bahadur Budha, adding, "All hotels here are closed. The locals were scared after seeing a huge crowd visiting the area during lockdown.”