Friday, February 22, 2008

Back to the field

Back to the field tomorrow. A plane over to Birtamod in Jhapa, as there are no buses running from Kathmandu to the Terai at the moment. I'll stay with one of the families that migrated from Taplejung to the plains. There's a concentration of 35 households around a "chowk" on the main road heading north to Ilam, Phidim and Taplejung, some 10 km north of Birtamod. There's Happenchowk (or "half-pant"chowk because, so the legend goes, it was here that Western half-pants (shorts) were first seen in the area. Someone on their way back to their village having been abroad is said to have bared his knees in style way way back in time), Buddabare, and Aitabare. The road to Aitabare heads east about 5 km at Happenchowk to reach the Timai Bhutanese Refugee Camp, which means there is a continuous rumble of the overly-sized UN jeep with pale peeping faces in the back seats, as well as uncommonly cheap rice and other basic goods (provided by WFP and sold off by refugees). A tiny plot of land here, enough to build a single-roomed box, costs over 1.5 lakh (150,000 rupees=(approx.)=1200 UKP). That is basically equivalent to the cost of organising a work visa to go abroad (more for better paid jobs and non-Gulf countries (or Malaysia).

Many of the Limbu families that have moved here bought a tiny plot of land by saving money over many years of cardamom crop and/or working abroad. Many of the households are run by women whose husbands are abroad at the moment. Generally people say that life is easier here (no carrying 50kg loads for two days uphill), health facilities are more accessible (and better), and children can study in English-medium private school and take computer classes. It does get too hot for most during the summer (there are no mosquitos in Mamangkhe), and many comment that the vegetables and water don't taste as good.


I will head up to the village when the buses start running up to Tharpu/Medibung by the Kabeli river valley - the end of the road - then up up up, across, up some more - with a bag full of books for children, photographs and mini-tins of "London" tea (all gifts).

Some recent news

Bits of recent news:

Hospitals compelled to use firewood


KATHMANDU, Feb 21 - Hospitals in the capital have been forced to use firewood to cook food for patients due to the shortage of cooking gas in the market.

Director of Patan Hospital Dr Rajesh Gongol said that the hospital has no option than to use firewood to cook food for patients.

Similarly, students' hostel at the Institute of Medicine, Maharajgunj has also started cooking food with firewood.

Likewise, TU Teaching Hospital (TUTH) has instructed its staffers to bring food and snacks from home as the staff canteen has stopped serving the staffers due to lack of cooking gas, said Dr Mahesh Khakurel, executive director of TUTH.

Buddhi Pant, a staffer of Bhaktapur Hospital said that an ambulance of the hospital that runs on gas has halted its service due to the lack of gas. Similarly, the staff bus also stopped operating from Wednesday. However, the hospital is getting its cooking gas.

Posted on: 2008-02-21 22:10:55 (Server Time)


FLSC activists torch Kantipur vehicle

Kantipur Report

JHAPA, Feb 20 - Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) activists torched a vehicle belonging to Kantipur Publications at Laxminagar road section in Jhapa district Wednesday morning.

About 15 FLSC activists burnt down the vehicle at 5 this morning in protest of the news published in the Kantipur daily that had led to the arrest of FLSC activists.

The vehicle (Ba 3 Cha 3933) carrying Wednesday’s edition of the Kantipur daily and The Kathmandu Post was bound for Birtamod from Biratnagar.

The driver of the vehicle informed that the activists looted mobile phones belonging to him and distributor.

The activists had been planning the attack since yesterday night and blocked the road, witnesses said.

Posted on: 2008-02-20 08:23:28 (Server Time)


Terai strike enters day 9, curfew continues in several places

Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, Feb 21 - Normal life across Terai continues to remain crippled the ninth day running on Thursday as the indefinite strike called by the United Democratic Madhesi Front sees no respite. Clashes have ensued in different parts of Terai between the protestors and the police this afternoon.

People in the region are facing acute shortage of daily commodities as the market places have been shut down. Educational institutions have been shut and vehicles remained off the road.

Supply of daily necessities has been largely affected as the vehicular movement on the East-West Highway and road links to India has come to a grinding halt, according to local businessmen..............

The general public took out rallies in Janakpur and Biratnagar urging the agitating Madhesi groups to call off the strike.

The public in Biratnagar chanted slogans of “Call off strikes and protests, Stop ethnic politics, Maintain peace and good-will” and marched around the city area. The rally started by a group of 20-25 youths at 9 am today soon gained numbers as people from every nook joined the two-hour long march around the city.

Meanwhile, there were minor scuffles at Mahabir Chowk in Biratnagar between activists of the UDMF and the police on the ninth day of the strike. Morang district chairman of the Front Jayaram Yadav was injured when an unidentified group attacked a rally of about two dozen activists of the UDMF at Devkota Chowk in Biratnagar.

Posted on: 2008-02-21 03:43:16 (Server Time)