The Indian blockade coupled with Terai unrest is taking a heavy toll on the country.
It has been over a month New Delhi has been brazenly imposing economic embargo upon Nepal while the disruptive protests launched by Madhesi parties in the southern plains has been going for the last three months.
Such being the reality, general people have been reeling under the chronic scarcity of fuel, cooking gas, medicine, among other vital commodities.
The country is now receiving only an average of 30-35 tankers and 3-5 gas bullets on a daily basis while it had been importing 350 petroleum tankers and 42 bullets before the blockade. Some 60 percent of the total medicine in the country comes from India but medicines worth crores of rupees have been stranded on the Nepal-India border.
The very blockade has caused the government suffer a major setback in customs collection, which is its biggest revenue source. Any significant shortfall in government revenue is almost sure to hit capital expenditure, which in turn will affect infrastructure development and employment in the long run.
The current crisis is also causing widespread inflation with the exorbitant increase in the market price of almost all daily essentials, manufactured goods and construction materials.
Moreover, the manufacturing sectors have been facing an average loss of Rs two billion a day, while the cumulative loss from the blockade has already reached over Rs 100 billion.
One million workers, including 400,000 industrial workers, are unemployed now due to the Tarai unrest. Not only the unemployment is rising alarmingly, supply constraints have fuelled the black market and aggravated the scarcity of goods and services.
On the other side, many academic institutions in the Tarai and other parts of the country have remained closed due to the crisis. According to UNICEF’s estimates, more than 1.6 million children have stopped attending school in the past two months.
What is really perturbing is that the entire Nepal seems to be relegating towards a failed state.
In order to ward off the looming national disaster, the government should immediately initiate some major strategic measures. The well-orchestrated diplomatic efforts for forging strong trade relation with China are crucial to reduce dependency on India. At least four out of seven trade routes with China should be brought into operation to increase trade with the northern neighbor.
At the same time, it behooves the government to think outside the box to make Nepal self-reliant in the long run. After all, extreme dependency on any other foreign country will not be in the best interest of Nepal and Nepali people from the long-term perspective.