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Nepal lifts months-long fuel rationing

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Kathmandu / AFP

Nepal has lifted its months-long rationing of fuel following the end this month of a border blockade by people protesting against a new constitution, officials said on Tuesday.
The months-long blockade caused a crippling shortage of fuel and other vital supplies in the landlocked Himalayan country.
But members of Nepal’s ethnic Madhesi community decided to call off their protest at a key border post which began last September, allowing trucks to resume crossing over from India.
The Nepal Oil Corporation said limits on sales, of five litres for motorcycles per petrol pump and 15 litres for cars, would now be lifted after
supplies improved. “A decision to remove the quota system was made Monday evening to allow vehicle owners to refill fuel according to their needs,” corporation spokesman Deepak Baral said.
“The supply is only still just 70 percent of our demand. The borders have opened but the blockade of fuel still hasn’t been fully lifted,” Baral said.
The easing comes as Nepal’s prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli visits India to repair strained ties caused by the blockade.
The impoverished country is heavily dependent on India for fuel and other supplies.
Kathmandu accused New Delhi of imposing an “unofficial blockade” at other border crossings in support of the Madhesis, who share close cultural, linguistic and family links with Indians — a charge Delhi denies.
More than 50 people were killed in clashes between police and members of the Madhesi community protesting against the new federal constitution, which they say leaves them politically marginalised. The Madhesis called off the blockade after Nepali and Indian businessmen and locals dismantled protesters’ tents to clear the border.
The constitution, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to cement peace and bolster Nepal’s transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency.
Discussions between the government and protesters over the charter adopted in September have so far failed to yield an agreement to change it.

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