Stir intensifies against government decision to relegate municipality

Rajbiraj, March 22

Marketplaces remained closed and vehicles stayed off the roads on the fifth day of agitation launched by the locals to protest the government’s decision to relegate the erstwhile Saptakoshi municipality in Saptari to a rural municipality.

In the wake of the government decision about two week ago, the Saptakoshi residents had launched symbolic protests till yesterday. Intensifying their protests, the locals today enforced market and vehicular shutdown as demonstrators took to streets, burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the government at major thoroughfares.

Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers were stranded at places like Udayapur’s Beltar, Rampur, Basaha and Hadiya as vehicles were not allowed to ply the roads. Similarly, work at municipality-turned-rural municipality remains halted after the locals padlocked the office about a week ago.

Locals have vowed to continue their protests until the government withdraws its decision. They have also formed a struggle committee, while a delegation comprising representatives of eight local political parties have already submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development.

Nepali Congress leader Chandra Shekhar Chaudhary said he was taken aback by the government’s decision. “It was back in 2014 when it was declared a municipality after it fulfilled all formalities, and two years down the line, another government has relegated it to what it calls  a ‘rural municipality’,” he said.

The concerned struggle committee leader Paras Dahal said they had to ramp up their agitation now as the government had neglected their concerns. Back in 2014, the then government had declared Saptakoshi as a municipality by combining the then Odraha and Fattepur VDCs. According to government officials, the area qualifies for a rural municipality as it only has a population of 21,000, which is way less than the mark of 55,000 to be eligible for a municipality now.