House panel tells govt to talk to India pronto to ease supplies

KATHMANDU: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislature-Parliament has directed the government to immediately hold talks with India to establish Nepal's transit rights as a landlocked country in line with the international, regional and bilateral conventions and treaties.

A meeting of the Committee on Saturday instructed the government to take immediate measures to resolve the problems in Tarai as well.

The government has been asked to seek alternative means to ensure smooth supplies of goods including fuels during the festivals and inform the general public about possible arrangements it could make to that end.

Besides, the meeting agreed to direct the government to develop an action plan about alternative measures to address fuel crisis on long-term basis and submit the report to the Committee within the next 15 days. The Committee also decided to hold discussions with experts concerned to identify measures helpful for finding a long-term solution to the problem.

Responding to queries of lawmakers in the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bamdev Gautam clarified about India's "economic blockade" against Nepal. "We are facing the blockade; the supply of petroleum products to the country has been halted that has affected all sectors in the country including economic affairs and people's daily lives."

Similarly, Minister for Finance Ram Sharan Mahat said the blockade has triggered a huge economic crisis in the country.

It would ultimately cause an adverse impact on the country's economic growth. India has prevented Nepal from exercising rights to freely import goods and services without explicitly accepting it as a blockade against Nepal, he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said efforts were underway to normalise the relations with India through a diplomatic channel. He expressed his hope that a solution to the persisting problems would be found soon. Major political parties should place their focus on resolving the problems, he demanded.

Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Bahadur Thapa said he was doing his best to restore smooth supply of fuel to the country from India.

He pledged to make fuels available to emergency services.

In the meeting, the lawmakers demanded that the government seek an immediate solution to existing fuel crisis and identify new measures for its long-term solution.

They called on all the political parties to come together during the time of such crisis and seek a solution to it collectively.

Revenue Secretary Rajan Khanal, Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shanker Das Bairagi, Spokesperson at the Home Ministry Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies Jib Raj Koirala and Nepal Oil Corporation Executive Director Gopal Bahadur Bista were present in the meeting.