Tatopani customs office continues to remain idle

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 21:

The strike called by the Maoists at Tatopani custom continues to keep all movement of traffic and goods at a complete standstill. Maoists are demanding Rs 30,000 per truck for goods being imported to Nepal through this custom point from the customs office. As the customs office has expressed its inability to comply with the demand, the Maoists have closed the custom office at Tatopani from June 7. With this, all work at the Tatopani customs has stopped. More than 100 trucks, carrying goods worth Rs 100 million, used to pass through this route everyday. "We are loosing millions of rupees everyday with the closure of custom office at Tatopani. This is the peak season of the year for export of handicrafts to Tibet. We are not being able to meet the supply orders already booked in advance by our buyers. Traders who had come to Nepal to buy and transport handicrafts back to Tibet and China are now in dilemma. They can neither go back nor negotiate with the Maoists. Meanwhile, the government has done precious little to solve this festering problem," said Namgayal Lama, president of Freight Forwarders Association.

Our trucks loaded with goods worth millions of rupees are stranded at the border. We have been urging the relevant government bodies to take initiatives to solve the problem but amazingly they seem hardly worried about the situation, he added. Durga Shrestha, president of Nepal Himalayan Trans- Border Trade Association (NHTBTA), while commenting on the closure of the border at Tatopani expressed concerns that the already deteriorating business level of Nepal has now entered a more complex phase with the strike called by the maoists.

"We are waiting for the government to act quickly regarding this closure of the custom office . It is not possible for us to negotiate with the Maoists. We are seeking the assistance of local traders and human rights activists to take quick steps and resolve the problem," said Shrestha. The government body which is responsible for solving the problem could not provide any information regarding the progress made in solving the problem. Krishna Hari Banskota, deputy general of department of customs, expressed inability to provide any information on the latest developments related to this problem as he has been busy with other engagement.