Trade through Birgunj resumes as Raxaul locals call off protest

Published On: December 12, 2016 09:35 PM NPT By: Ritesh Tripathi

BIRGUNJ, Dec 13: Locals of Raxaul, an Indian town along bordering Birgunj, have ended the sit-in that they had been staging at the Raxaul-based Indian Customs Office from Monday noon.

With this, trucks carrying goods have started to enter Nepal.

The Raxaul locals had been stating sit-in since Sunday morning, bringing movement of trucks from India to Nepal to a grinding halt. This had affected trade through Birgunj - the key trading point between Nepal and India.

“The obstruction at Raxaul has been lifted," Chief Customs Officer at Birgunj Customs Office, Sewanta Pokharel, told Republica. "There is no obstruction in movement of vehicles from Monday noon.”

Following the obstruction, trucks laden with raw materials imported by Nepali factories were stranded at the railway yard alone the Nepal-India border. Nepali cement manufacturers mostly import clinker, iron ore, gypsum, slag and coal via the Raxaul train station. Such items are called 'dirty cargo' in Raxaul. 

The Raxaul locals had protested the movement of dirty cargo, saying that such import was causing pollution in their area.

The obstruction in movement of trucks had left Nepali industrialists worried as they would have incurred heavy loss had the blockade continued like last year. 

Nepali industrialists have breathed a sigh of relief after the protest was lifted on Monday.

“We felt relieved. Indian officials held talks with the agitators to end the protest," Pradip Kedia, the president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said.

Local businessmen believe that the Indian authorities stepped in to remove the obstruction following the news of a Chinese freight train heading to Nepal-China border from Guangzhou.

"The news put pressure on Indian authorities to remove the obstruction immediately,” a businessman said, adding: “It might be a coincidence, but it carries a huge meaning.”

Local businessmen have urged the government to hold talks with the Indian government for resolving the issue of pollution permanently.

Last year, India imposed a blockade on Nepal to show its dissatisfaction over promulgation of new constitution. The blockade triggered an economic and humanitarian crisis in Nepal. The nearly seven-month blockade pulled the economic growth rate down to 0.77 percent. While Nepal accused India for imposing the blockade, the Indian side put blame on hindrances in border points for the blockade.

As a landlocked nation, Nepal makes all of its petroleum imports from India. Similarly, over 70 percent of its international trade is done through the Birgunj Customs Office.

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