Kathmandu, June 26
Newly elected representatives of Humla district have come to the capital seeking supply of rice to their district, as the supply of rice to Humla stopped last month.
Four newly elected local leaders – Chair and Deputy Chair of Simikot Rural Municipality Padam Bahadur Lama and Bali Rawal, respectively, Chair of Kharpanath Rural Municipality Karna Rawal and Chair of Namka Rural Municipality Bishnu Bahadur Lama have been doing the rounds of Nepal Food Corporation, Ministry of Supplies and other government offices to seek their help to end food scarcity in their villages and district. One of the reasons for halting the rice supply to Humla is a row between the government and the airlines companies over how much the airline companies should charge for supplying a kilo of rice.
The government is ready to pay airline companies Rs 79 from Surkhet airport and Rs 89 from Nepalgunj airport for ferrying a kilo of rice to Humla but airline companies have turned down the government’s offer.
According to Padam Bahadur Lama, a few days ago locals negotiated the price with airline companies in Humla. According to that agreement, airlines agreed to supply rice from Surkhet for Rs 105 per kg and from Nepalgunj for Rs 115 per kg but the government has refused to give validity to this deal.
Suresh Shrestha, a joint secretary at the Ministry of Supplies, said the government had to follow the tender process and could not legitimise the deal struck between locals and the airline companies. “We have enough rice but we cannot allow the airlines to ferry it at such exorbitant rates,” he added. He said the government would decide tomorrow about the issue after discussing the matter with stakeholders, including local representatives. Humla is among the few hill/mountain districts that face food shortage every year. Humla residents produce crops and vegetables that can barely meet 60 per cent of the total food demand in the district. The government has been supplying subsidised rice to Humla since 1975.
Lama said most households in Humla depended on rainwater for irrigation and the food grains and vegetables they produced were enough only for four to six months. He added that when drought hit the district, the food grains didn’t last even for four months.
Lawmaker from Humla Jivan Bahadur Shahi and four local representatives said the government needed to improve irrigation system and build motorable roads to all parts of the district to end the food shortage there.
“Humla needs irrigation not rice,” Shahi added. The lack of market also deprived Humla residents from exchanging their produce, such as vegetables and apples.
Padam Bahadur Lama blamed expansion of community forests for the woes of Humla. He reasoned that community forests had shrunk grazing field for livestock. “I had 300 goats which were worth 10 million rupees,” he said and added that he had to give up livestock farming due to lack of grazing fields.
A version of this article appears in print on June 27, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.