Petrol and medicine shortages in protest-hit Nepal

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Nepal was facing shortages of some essential commodities Monday as anti-constitution protests stopped trade with its neighbour and biggest trading partner India.

The government introduced rationing to handle the shortage in petrol, after not being able to import the fuel for five days through its southern border.

“There are long queues at the petrol stations, but most of them are shut,” said motorcyclist Dev Neupane in the capital Kathmandu.

Indian authorities closed the border to trucks, citing security concerns about violent protests that have hit southern Nepal during the past month over the country’s recently adopted constitution.

Two-thirds of Nepal’s imports come from India, including almost all of its petrol imports.

Other supplies have also been affected, including vegetables and medicines.

“We have started running out of medicines as we don’t have fresh supplies. We can only sell what’s in stock,” a pharmacist in Sunsari district told Sagarmatha TV.

Hundreds of lorries are reported to be lined up on the Indian side of the border.

Nepalese media have termed the Indian authorities’ decision to stop the trucks as an “undeclared embargo.”

Supplies Minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa left for New Delhi early Monday to hold talks aimed at restarting cross-border trade.

Nepal imports garments and food from China as well, but trade with the northern neighbour is yet to return to normal due to damage to customs posts caused by the April 25 earthquake.

Sources in Nepal’s three biggest political parties have said they could table an amendment to the constitution to accommodate the protesters’ demands, when parliament gets under way in the first week of October.

Violent protests in the southern plains against the federal structure outlined in the new charter have killed at least 47 people over the past month.

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