| (Top) Nepalis wait for transport at a bus terminus in Kathmandu while soldiers patrol a highway near Kathmandu on Wednesday. (AFP, Reuters)
Kathmandu, March 15 (Agencies): An indefinite road blockade called by Nepal’s Maoist rebels crippled transport across the mountainous nation for a second day today, triggering a rise in food prices, residents and a consumer group said.
The rebels, who want to topple the monarchy and set up a communist state, have ordered the closure of all roads to Kathmandu, district capitals and other cities to try and end the absolute rule of King Gyanendra who seized power last year.
“There is no scarcity of goods in the market so far,” said Harendra Bahadur Shrestha, chief of the Consumers’ Forum.
“But the prices of fresh vegetables, fruits and other food items have gone up as the movement of trucks carrying these commodities has stopped due to the blockade,” he said. Life in hill-ringed Kathmandu and other towns was normal despite the blockade that started yesterday, residents said.
Several passengers in the capital were forced to cancel their trips even as the government ordered troops to patrol key highways to foil the blockade.
In the main fruit and vegetable market at Kalimati in Kathmandu, only four truckloads of vegetables, fruits and other essential commodities arrived last night, an official said.
The truck owners are charging many times higher than the normal rate for tranporting goods from one place to another, he said.
The prices of many vegetable has increased by 50 per cent due to the shortage of supply despite home minister Kamal Thapa’s claim that the government has enough food and petroleum products to fulfill the demands of 1.5 million people in the Kathmandu valley.
The pro-democracy political parties, including Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party (UML), have asked the Maoists to call off their blockade.
CPN-UML spokesman Pradip Nepal said the seven- party alliance would be forced to pull out of the 12 point agreement reached with the Maoists if the rebels continued with the blockade.
Nepali Congress leader Arjun Narasingh KC hoped that the Maoists would withdraw their strike in light of the coming school examinations and the peaceful protest announced by the alliance.
Yesterday, Maoist chief Prachanda expelled two senior rebel leaders after they accused him and another top rebel leader, Baburam Bhattarai, of deviating from the Maoist path and being soft on the monarchy.
Nepal has been in turmoil since King Gyanendra seized executive power last February. The king says he was forced to take over because politicians had failed to quell the decade-old Maoist conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people.
Four policemen were injured, two of them seriously, in an landmine blast in the Banke district of Nepal, defence sources said.
The landmine, installed for security reasons, accidentally exploded at the armed police force training centre in the Naubastha area.