Birgunj hardest hit by ongoing Tarai bandaThe Birgunj market has suffered the most due to the long-running banda and Indian trade embargo.
The Birgunj market has suffered the most due to the long-running banda and Indian trade embargo. The southern neighbour has not relaxed its grip on the movement of goods through Birgunj Customs although controls have been loosened some at other border points. The agitation being conducted by Madhesi parties in the Tarai plains will be five months old next week.
Clothing brand UFO’s branch showroom in Birgunj has been shut down after being in operation for more than a decade. The management cited difficulties in paying the rent and salaries due to a decline in business because of the prolonged Tarai banda for pulling down the shutters. The UFO outlet held a stock clearance by offering a 50 percent discount.
Although the agitating Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) has relaxed the banda without officially lifting it, another group of protestors associated with the Sanghiya Samabeshi Madhesi Gathabandhan forced the Birgunj bazaar to shut down again on Sunday in protest against the new constitution.
After the SLMM relaxed the banda, the market here has been largely open. CityRide buses and Tata Sumo jeeps have also been operating on the Birgunj-Kathmandu route.
Workers associated with the alliance held demonstrations in various parts of Birgunj and enforced the market closure on Sunday. A leader of the alliance Rajesh Man Singh said that they had acted to keep the banda strict as it had loosened up. They beat up traders who retaliated against banda enforcers and tried to open their businesses.
With peace in the city still far from being secured, merchants owning shops on the main road have been complaining that their businesses had been hit hard by the Madhes protest.
“We have to pull down the shutters every time a group of people bring out a small rally,” complained the owner of a garment shop at Maisthan Chowk. “My landlord has been constantly demanding the rent, but we are having a hard time making some money.”
He said that his shop had been open for barely a month during the past five months. “Expenses have soared, but my income has plunged,” he added.
Another trader from Adarshanagar said that merchants were on the verge of abandoning their businesses altogether. “Traders based in this economic hub have been reduced to a pathetic condition,” he added.
Birgunj is one of Nepal’s key economic centres as it is the main transit point for the country’s international trade. Around 60 percent of Nepal’s foreign trade passes through Birgunj, and the government collects 50 percent of the total customs revenue from the Birgunj Customs Office.