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Strike in Surkhet

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
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SurkhetSurkhet and its surrounds remained closed to traffic early Thursday morning due to a bandh called by transport workers.

Following the death of three-year-old Indira BK Tuesday, crushed when a bus started for its destination at Rakam Gajauda, locals had assaulted the driver and conductor. Badly injured, both fled the scene, but the driver Okil Budhathoki fell (or, according to some reports, was thrown) into the Bheri River. He has not been seen since. The driver’s union subsequently closed down the highway, demanding compensation and pending recovery of the body of the driver, presumed dead.

Scenes in Chinchu, downhill from Rakam and a half hour drive from Surkhet Bajar, were chaotic Wednesday. The day wore on amidst rumours that the strike would be called off at 5pm, the line of mostly public transport vehicles headed for Surkhet Bajar piled up, and passengers waited patiently as the drivers enforcing the strike began arguing amongst themselves. Police and army sentries looked on helplessly as local drivers insisted the roads stay closed, while drivers carrying passengers lobbied to open the roads for at least an hour. Eventually, the latter prevailed, but not before a fracas at the roadblock, which was lifted shortly after 5pm.

Earlier, there had been rumours that two busloads of union members were roaming the roads armed with sticks to enforce the strike. It was with trepidation that the long line of buses, trucks and vans took to the road to Surkhet, and crossed the raging Bheri River as darkness fell. The strike continues.

RABI THAPA in SURKHET

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