Maoist workers strike afflicts Eastern region

BIRATNAGAR: The Unified-CPN-Maoist-aligned employees' union's stir in five-star hotels in the capital and Lake City has spread to the biggest urban centre in the eastern region as well. Though the agitation in the star addresses are on hold till December 20, more than 300 hospitality facilities here have shut down, thanks to face-off between the employees and management. Around 1,400 employees have come up with this demand.

Meanwhile, the fuel crisis has been resolved following an agreement between private petrol pump owners and agitating workers’ union today.

The owners have voluntarily closed the establishments on Monday after the workers started agitation a few days ago, demanding 10 per cent service. Guests have been greatly inconvenienced by the closure.

Some of the stranded guests have been forced to check in high-end hotels like Hotel Ratna, Janial, Namaskar, Eastern Star and Swagat, which have been unaffected by the dispute. Suresh Bhattarai, regional chairman, Hotel Association of Nepal, urged the Consumers' Forum and allied stakeholders to come to an amicable settlement at the earliest. The Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union, Morang Chapter, accused the hotel owners of trying to scuttle their movement.

Biratnagar is also in the throes of a major fuel crisis. Petrol is being sold at Rs 140 per litre as the Maoist-backed All Nepal Petroleum Workers' Union has forcibly closed the private petrol pumps for the past five days to press for its 16-point charter of demands. The union members have also been picketing at the Nepal Oil Corporation depot in Biratnagar, thwarting the private fuel outlet owners from replenishing their stocks.

Harried consumers are compelled to cough up exorbitant prices to tide over the crisis. Some are also buying fuel from neighbouring border towns in India.

Sashi Shekhar Shrestha, Chief District Officer, Morang, pleaded helplessness to solve these twin problems. "Both are national crises. I can empathise with the consumers. I've convened a meeting of the aggrieved parties tomorrow. I'm fully aware that black marketeering of petroleum products is rife in Biratnagar and neighbouring areas," said Shrestha. Around 450 private petrol pumps in the region were bearing the stir brunt since last Saturday.