Oil price hikes hit the Nepalis hard

“In previous years, parties and their sister organizations used to take out to the streets as soon as market prices were hiked. These days all parties and their sister organizations remain totally silent over such price hikes,” Hem Prasad Bohara, a porter at Asan in Kathmandu remarks in response to the news that the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has upped oil prices. He adds, “People like us don’t know what democracy is. May be it is something belonging to the well-to-do individuals.”

The working class people have generally expressed their serious concern over the price hike in petroleum products by about 4.5 percent per litre—a decision the government-owned NOC declared on Monday. Voicing his previous experience of price hikes, Bom Kumar Tamang, a rickshaw puller at Asan relates, “No matter how little the price hike in oil may be, businesspeople will add still higher percent to their selling products to benefit more. It happened in the past. It will happen now too. Who can stop it?”

Neera Kandel, a newspaper vendor, thinks that the price hike in petroleum products will make her familial life still more painful. She complains, “Our income is very low. Dealers try their best to increase food and other prices to any extent they can because they know there is no state power in Nepal.”

Nepal Oil Corporation distributes bonuses to its employees. Its officials are some of the richest individuals in Nepal. Former General Managers of the NOC are said to have owned properties worth millions now.

Currently, a cup of tea—about 120ml in laymen’s market—costs Rs.10.00 (US $0.7). A layman’s meal costs Rs.70.00 (US $1.00) whereas most of Nepalis earn about US$1.5 a day.

Nepal, de facto run by oligarchs, is in the transition phase of democracy marked by the ongoing peace process being monitored by the UN. Labor justice is still a remote truth in the country. Even Marxist forces do not appear to have shown a serious concern over the all-out labor exploitation in the country. Consequently, the majority of the Nepalis are hard-hit by frequent price hikes, though price hikes are expected economic phenomena.

Ordinary masses have been developing their spiral of silence due to the failure of state mechanisms to control geometrical rise in the commodity market prices propelled by money-mongering dealers. Such a failure of state’s controlling mechanisms is obviously attributed to the all-pervasive corruption and ill-governance.