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Nepal Strikes Photography by Robin Fall

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n 2008, Nepalese police recorded 254 days “It was the beginning, the seed of politics. The seed with strikes. When strikes or bandhs occur, of the labor movement in Nepal and the tree has borders are closed, traffic is disrupted, govern- grown up. Sometimes irresponsible parties do ment offices, hospitals, businesses and bazaars are something wrong… personally I am telling them shut down. What started out in the early times this is not democracy and I’m trying to educate of Nepal democracy as protest against the govern- them.” ment is now a system for citizens to meet their -Girija Prasad Koirala demands. Strike culture is having a serious effect on the poor’s ability to feed themselves. Political parties still use strikes as political expreslike they did in 1947 but now ethnic groups, The Biratnagar Jute Mills, established in 1939, is the sion students, journalists, citizens and others also use oldest factory in Nepal and one of the largest. The strikes in response to the inefficient government. factory is also where the first labor strikes took place, leading to the overthrowing of the Rana, On Monday, July 13, in the city of Biratnagar, Narand the first elected officials in Nepal. Many of the vada Chaudhary, a student of Mahendra Morang great leaders of Nepal started their careers at the Campus, was hit by a truck upon returning home Biratnagar Jute Mills, including the current presifrom college. The following photos are of six differdent of Nepali congress, Girija Prasad Koirala. I ent student unions closing down Biratnagar while had a chance to speak to the ex-freedom fighter vandalising buildings and cars. about the current strikes:

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upporters of the ex-king and Maoists clash on the birthday of the former leader. The protests block traffic on the busy Himilayan Road in downtown Biratnagar, Nepal. Strikes happen without notice, causing businesses and transportation to be shut down. Businesses that don’t comply or react quickly get their windows broken out.

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The Effec ts of Strikes: the fac tories and workers of Biratnagar suffer

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hen a strike occurs, businesses close down for days. Factories cannot get raw materials in time. Strikes happen for various reasons but the consequences are detremental to the already suffereing economy of Nepal. The strike “holidays”, power outages, and not being able to manage under the conditions lead to the fatality of the oldest factory in Nepal where strike culture began.

According to Thapa, “If the wheel runs then I can earn.” Easier said than done during monsoon season, which lasts from June through August. Thapa, among others, must now struggle to provide food and education to his family. There is a consensus among the people of Biratnagar: the amount of strikes that close down businesses must be stopped.

The closing of the factory has played a huge toll on the city of Biratnagar, whose laborers are now without a job, some who have worked for decades. Kundad Thapa worked as a laborer for 20 years and now rents a rickshaw to support his wife and two children. At the mills, he used to make around Rs. 5,000 (65 USD) a month but now his salary varies:

The place where it all started, The Biratnagar Jute Mills, is suffering the consequences of people giving too much voice to the government. Unfortunately, the system is still the only way that the government will hear them in a timely manner.

“Sometimes I’ll make Rs.150, 50, 300, and sometimes I make 0. I used to be able to manage a package of rice (50kg) a month but at present I cannot even manage 5kg.” -Kundad Thapa

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“Due to the strikes in Nepal, it has killed many people. Many people cannot go to their destination. Some people can’t reach their home. The sick people get stuck in the same place... people are getting problems due to strikes.” -Kundad Thapa


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Nepal Strikes - Robin Fall Photography Kundad Thapa (left with family; right driving a rickshaw) who used to work at the mills now must rent a rickshaw to provide for his family. “I used to be able to manage 1 package of rice (50 kg) a month but at present I cannot even manage 5kg.”

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Nepal Strikes - Robin Fall Photography Laborer and family (left) from the now closed Biratnagar Jute Mills. One of the sons of the now jobless (right) who is suffering from a bad liver. This is one of the many families who are now starving along the India/ Nepal border.

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Nepal Strikes - Robin Fall Photography Workers (left and right) at the Biratnagar Match Factory which is now on the brink of closing. This is one of the last in the once prosperous industrial capital to still run. Only 20% of the ancient machines are still in service as the instability in Nepal ocntinues.

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Nepal Strikes  

In 2008, Nepalese police recorded 254 days with strikes. When strikes or bandhs occur, borders are closed, traffic is disrupted, government...