Kathmandu, May 16
A blockade imposed by locals on a six-kilometre road stretch from Dholahiti to Chapagaun has led to the closure of around two dozen private schools in Thecho and Sunakothi area in Lalitpur, affecting hundreds of students.
Frustrated over their predicament of having to live under cloud of dust emanating from the gravelled road, locals at Dholahiti, Sunakothi and Chapagaun along the road stretch have brought vehicular movement along the road to a complete halt since 12 May. Their move is aimed at forcing authorities to expedite construction work of the road that remains unattended for the past two years. The dilapidated road becomes all muddy during rainy days.
Due to lack of transportation facility, schools have been shut down until May 19, and are ‘likely to’ extend their closure if the obstruction is not lifted by then.
Principles of four secondary schools at Thecho, ward no-12, of Godavari Municipality said that they were forced to shut down the schools as lots of children and teachers suffered hardship to commute to the schools.
Radha Krishna Maharjan, principal of St. Paul Secondary School at Thecho said, “We were compelled to close the schools as the locals have completely blocked the vehicular movement. That means the students and teachers need to walk for hours to reach the schools.” He also said that all the schools have agreed to adjust the holidays with public holidays of this academic year.
Ward no-12 Chair, Jagat Bahadur Maharjan said, “Dozens of school children of this area are seen travelling with their heavy bags for hours every morning to catch their bus, which waits just outside the blockade area in Dholahiti. Children will have to cover the distance back to their homes in the evening.”
Education experts have condemned the closing down of schools saying both the agitating party and private schools were insensitive to children’s right to education. Dhananjaya Sharma, an educational expert said, “Both parties have made a serious mistake by closing down the schools. The agitating locals should have at least allowed school vehicles to pass along. Abrupt closure of schools by the management violates fundamental rights of the children to education.”
Locals of wards-10,11 and12 of Godavari Municipality have created barriers at around 30 places to prevent movement of vehicles along the road. Blockade that starts at 7:00 am every day continues till 5:00 pm.
Dholahiti – Chapagaun segment of the road is under dispute since 2016 as some locals are against the road expansion project. They have been refusing to accept the government claimed compensation amount for their land and houses, under the project.
Local leaders, Member of Parliaments representing the area, Department of Road and the District Administration Office, Lalitpur have reached an agreement to start its black-topping without widening the road. As per the agreement, the black-topping of the road will take place after this monsoon. However, black-topping of the road in its existing state requires an approval from the Cabinet. The cabinet had earlier approved a contract to widen the road to 22 metres, which requires partial or complete demolition of some houses along the road segment.
Prem Raj Joshi, chief district officer of Lalitpur said, “Since the agreement has been reached, we are confident that the road blockage will be lifted from tomorrow and the life in the area will return to normalcy.” He also warned that the administration will be compelled to use force if the blockade continued.
Gajendra Maharjan, mayor of Godawari Municipality said “Since an agreement on the road issue has been reached among concerned stakeholders, the agitating locals must lift the blockade.”
Agitating locals, however, have said that they will lift the blockade as soon as the black-topping work along the road begins. “We believe in action, not in words,” said the protesters.
A version of this article appears in print on May 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.