Nepal begins identifying Indians in flood relief camps

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : As Nepal’s flooded Saptakoshi river continued unleashing havoc in southern Nepal as well as India’s Bihar state across the border and the number of homeless victims crossed several millions, Nepal began cracking down on Indians seeking shelter in its relief camps.

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Nepal’s state television Friday said the authorities of Sunsari district, where the camps are located, had started issuing identity cards to Nepalis living in them.

So far, camp officials said 2,007 Indians were found living there, Nepal Television said. However, it also said that the local people were alleging that the actual number of Indians was around 10,000.

The official agency also said that at Sunsari, the authorities had turned away 500 Indians who tried to cross over into Nepal after being told that relief services were better in the neighbouring country.

According to Nepal’s home ministry, about 107,000 people had been affected by the floods in southern Nepal. In Bihar, the disaster was on a far greater magnitude with over four million losing their homes.

There was growing fear in Nepal that the incursion of Indian refugees would strain the Himalayan republic’s limited resources.

Though district officials had said last week that the first lot of Indians who had come seeking shelter had been given food and medicines on humanitarian grounds, now the authorities have begun to turn away Indians.

Nepal’s new Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai said that the international community would be asked for assistance, considering the immensity of the disaster.

Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav is currently in New Delhi and has already engaged in talks with the Indian authorities.