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Maoist blockade paralyzes Nepal

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
December 24, 2004 18:37 IST
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Life was paralysed in eastern and central Nepal Friday due to an indefinite blockade of highways by Maoists to protest the killing and detention of their cadres by government forces, leading to sharp increase in commodity prices and stockpiling of essential goods.

Vehicles moving to and from the capital came to a complete halt following the blockade in Makawanpur, Dhading and Sindhupalchowk districts bordering Kathmandu starting from Thursday.

Major sections of the Prithvi Highway, Tribhuvan Highway and East-West Highway were specially affected. No vehicles entered or exited from the Thankot checkpoint, the only land route that connects Kathmandu with Raxaul of India and other Terai districts, police said.

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There were only few dozens of vehicles on the road as compared to some 1900 that normally pass, a police official at the Thankot Checkpost said over phone.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at the bus stations and no trucks with essential goods including food grains could move on the highway due to the Maoist threat despite the government's assurance to provide security.

Home Ministry Spokesman Gopendra Bahadur Pandey insisted that government has provided necessary security arrangements on the highways. The rebels have blocked the highways by placing wood logs and other obstacles.

Traders have already started hiding essential commodities causing about 20 per cent increase in the market prices. Prices of vegetables, fruits and pulses, which come to Kathmandu mainly from Terai and India have already increased.

People have started stockpiling consumer goods including kerosene, cooking gas and other essential items. On the eve of the blockade on Wednesday the Maoists burnt 18 trucks loaded with food-grains and other consumer items on a highway in Hetauda causing damage worth Rs 4 crores.

The capital was hit by a similar Maoist blockade for more than a week in August.

Nepalese industries are passing through a serious crisis due to the economic blockade imposed by the Maoists, said Chandi Prasad Dhakal, vice chairman of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

"The government has not paid any attention to our problem, which is very serious," he said yesterday. "The government running on our tax money has failed to provide any security to the industries, which are facing threats from the Maoists including extortion," he said.

More reports from Nepal

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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