Hundreds of Nepalis stranded at Nepal-India borders as federal government has yet to respondLocal units in the bordering areas say they can’t let the people enter the country until the centre takes a decision.
A month and a half since the Nepal-India border was closed, the border points are still crowded with Nepalis seeking to enter their native country every day.
Confusion looms large among the district authorities that border with India for the federal government has not formulated any policy to deal with the returnees still locked outside the country. Some Nepalis are stranded at the border points while there are many more who have completed their time in quarantine facilities in India waiting to return home. The government has yet to make a decision about just what to do with them.
“We are having a hard time trying to manage the crowd. We can’t do anything until higher authorities instruct us what to do,” a security officer in Rupandehi said on conditions of anonymity. “Meanwhile, the Indian authorities are mounting pressure on us to let in the quarantined Nepalis back.”
Both Nepal and India have been under a nationwide lockdown for over a month-and-a half now in response to the spread of Covid-19. Two weeks ago, the Nepal government had allowed entry to 300 Nepalis who had completed the three-week quarantine period in Nautanwa, India.
But the crowd at the border of Belahiya has not subsided. According to Ishwari Adhikari, a police inspector at the Belahiya-based Area Police Office, there are over a 1,000 Nepalis across the border who want to come to Nepal.
“Many people show up at the border every day seeking entry to Nepal, but for a lack of government order, we don’t know what to do with them. We return them to India in coordination with the Indian Police,” Adhikari said, adding that on Thursday alone, 106 Nepalis were returned to the Indian side of the border.
Nearly a half of all those stranded in the border have already completed their quarantine period in Nautanwa, Adhikari said. The Indian authorities have requested their Nepali counterparts in the border to take back the Nepali nationals who have completed their time in quarantine. Many of the stranded Nepalis came walking to the border from various parts of India, while some were provided with transportation facilities by the Indian authorities, Adhikari said.
The lack of a government decision has raised the risk of people entering Nepal through proxy routes across the porous open border.
Meanwhile, in Kapilvastu, local units have sheltered a total of 896 people who entered Nepal to escape the rain and storm on Thursday. They are sheltered in various schools and health posts near the no-man’s land in the district.
Dirgha Narayan Poudel, chief district officer of Kapilvastu, said that while the people are currently sheltered by the local units, they can’t be let inside Nepal until the federal government takes a decision.
“We have informed the Home Ministry about the situation,” he said. “We will have to shelter them until we are instructed on what to do.”
In West Nawalparasi, where four local units share borders with India, there’s a reported rise in the number of people in quarantine facilities, as people have been using proxy routes to enter Nepal.
“Those who enter Nepal through porous border points are quarantined,” Radhe Shyam Chaudhary, chief of Sarawal Rural Municipality, said. According to Chaudhary, the number of quarantined individuals in the district increased from 142 to 193 this week.
Dhruba Nepal, administrative officer at the Rupandehi District Administration Office, said his office has repeatedly informed higher authorities about the situation but hasn’t received anything in response yet.
“We can’t do anything unless we receive a decision from the upper echelons of the government,” Nepal said.
(Manoj Poudel in Kapilvastu and Nabeen Paudel in West Nawalparasi contributed reporting.)