Just do nothing. That’s one way of solving problems here in Nepal. Make sure no one can do anything and then maybe something will get done. It’s been a week of continuous bandhs. First, students angry over fare hikes brought life to a standstill in Kathmandu. Then the transport union took over and taxis stopped plying the streets. And when their demands were met, some other group decided today it was their turn to ask for goodness knows what.
Call a bandh. Make sure no one can do anything. And then maybe someone in power, somewhere, will blink. Great strategy.
And so it happened that the parents flew in for a visit in the middle of all the chaos. Poor things didn’t know what hit them. The taxi that met them at the airport got stopped by an angry mob, who threw out their luggage, but not before first apologizing for their behavior. “It’s not you, it’s our government,” they said.
And then they had to pay the driver of a private car US$50 to take them to our house: the journey usually costs five bucks. They finally made it back home to Singapore today, shaken but unharmed, and with plenty of stories to tell. Like how in Pokhara they had to go to the airport on the back of motorbikes. Like how people here seem to enjoy throwing stones.
Blame rising fuel prices. As if a shortage wasn’t enough to begin with, as if people aren’t already fed-up with queuing for hours just to fill up their tanks, now they have to pay more.
The government is in a bind. It already owes India a tonne of cash for fuel supplies. It needs to stem massive losses. The protestors don’t care and you want to tell them the whole world is facing the same bloody problem. Oil is now US$139 a barrel. Cope, dammit.
But for Nepal, it’s not just about oil – the WFP warned recently that rising fuel prices are in turn causing food prices to spike. For a country where so many people live below the poverty line, that seems like a recipe for disaster – something no amount of doing nothing, can put right.