Shortages of fuel and other necessities are set to continue in Nepal after a constitutional amendment agreed by politicians failed to satisfy the demands of an ethnic group that has led a four-month blockade in the landlocked Himalayan country.
Reuters reports that lawmakers from the Madhesi ethnic minority, who live in the lowland areas close to Nepal's border with India, walked out of parliament in protest Saturday as a provision for "proportional inclusion" of minorities in state institutions was approved.
Madhesis and other smaller ethnic groups launched protests at the border in September, blocking vital supplies from reaching Nepalis. Some in Nepal have accused India of tacitly supporting the blockade, which compounded shortages in communities hit by severe earthquakes in April and May.
According to the Nepali Times, more than 200,000 workers have lost their jobs due to factory closures resulting from the crisis. In total, an estimated 700,000 people have been pushed below the poverty line by soaring inflation.
“It is mostly low-income people who are losing jobs and paying more for food and fuel,” Dipendra Purush Dhakal, a former governor of Nepal's central bank, told the Nepali Times. “In this kind of situation, women and children always suffer the most."
The government had hoped Madhesi leaders would be appeased by the constitutional changes, which include measures to redraw provincial boundaries and electoral constituencies to increase minority representation.
However, members of the Madhesi Front coalition — which is leading the protests — rejected the changes, saying the reforms were insufficient and had loopholes. "It is a complete farce. It does not address our demands,” Hridayesh Tripathi, a leader of Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party, told Reuters.