Over 300 Nepalis stranded at Darchula border point, demand passage home

BAJURA: More than 300 Nepalis have been stranded at the Nepal-India border point of the far-western for the last four days after government closed down border points with India and China to prevent the spreading of coronavirus in the country.

Some 339 people from different districts are stranded at Dharchula in the Indian district of Pithoragarh due to closed border. Most of them were working at different places of Pithoragarh and walked up to two days to reach Dharchula.

The stranded Nepalis have been protesting in Dharchula -- the Indian town across Mahakali River. They have been demanding entry into the country.

“We walked up to two days to reach here (Dharchula) after businesses closed down in India; we’re stuck as the suspension bridge to cross over to Nepal is closed,” said Padam Dhami of Baitadi’s Purchaudi Municipality-3. “The Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) of India have said they’ll allow us to cross over, but it’s unfortunate that the Nepali side hasn’t opened the bridge,” he said.

Nepali authorities had last opened the border point from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm on March 27, allowing 225 Nepalis to enter the country, however, citizens reaching the border point after that time were denied entry.

One of the stranded persons, Dilendra Mahata of Marma Rural Municipality-5  in Darchula, claimed that they have not been able to buy anything for three days. He added that the Chamber of Commerce and Indian SSB provided food for them on Sunday.

As the number of people increased, some have been forced to stay on the road and the bank of Mahakali River.

Stranded Nepali citizens claimed that they were late in arriving at the border because they were not paid on time for their work or only received half their wage. After India enforced the lockdown, they could not get food and lodging there so they walked back home.

According to local Narendra Karki, among the stranded, 38 are from Marma Rural Municipality, five from Apihimal Rural Municipality, 11 from Shailye Shikar Municipality, all in Darchula district. Similarly, 164 are from Puchhaudi Municipality, 62 from Dilashaini Rural Municipality, both of Baitadi district. Likewise, 30 are from Bungal Municipality in Bajhang district and three are from Jajarkot district.

According to Darchula Chief District Officer, Yajunath Paudel, arrangements are being made for the rescue of those stranded after concerned local levels prepare transportation and quarantine sites to house those returning home.

(Reported by: Prakash Singh from Bajura and Tekendra Deuba from Dhangadhi)