KATHMANDU - Nepal is considering rationing oil and fuel, a Nepal Oil Corp spokesman said on Saturday, after hundreds of trucks were held up this week at the India border when protesters against a new constitution gathered to block the road.
Nepal adopted the charter last Sunday to promote unity and stability after years of civil war, but its demarcation of provinces has upset people in Nepal's south who fear the new federal structure will marginalize them. At least 40 people, mostly protesters, have been killed in violent clashes since August.
About 900 trucks carrying food, fuel and other items were lined up on the Indian side of the Raxaul-Birgunj border on Saturday, said Kamlesh Kumar, assistant commissioner of customs at the border point, as protesters from the Madhesi Morcha party blocked the road in Nepal for a third day.
"If we do ration petrol and oil, we can manage for a couple of weeks," said Deepak Baral, a Nepal Oil Corp spokesman.
Nepalese officials, however, pinned blame for the logjam on India, Nepal's southern neighbor and biggest trading partner, which has been drawn into the political crisis after criticizing Nepal's political leadership for rushing through the constitution despite the dissent.
"India has closed the border," said Rograj Pant, a customs official at the Raxaul-Birgunj border in Nepal. "There are no goods coming across for (the protesters) to block."
An official at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu declined to comment, and India's external affairs ministry was not immediately available for comment.
On Friday, the embassy said in a statement that the "reported obstructions" were caused by Nepalese groups.
"From the India side, there is no problem," said Kumar. "If we release the trucks, where will they go?"
In Lalitpur, a city south of Kathmandu, hundreds of motorcycles were lined up at a petrol station, anticipating a fuel shortage.
Reshma Shrestha, a restaurant owner nearby, said she had about a month's supplies to keep her business running.
"But we won't be able to go on like this for too much longer," she said.
Earlier in the week, the government asked China to hasten the reopening of two border crossings, according to a report in the Republica newspaper. They have been closed since two earthquakes killed over 9,000 people in Nepal this spring.