KATHMANDU: The government made a frantic move and took credit for the 2,500 oxygen cylinders that arrived at the Tatopani Customs in Sindhupalchowk, a district bordering China, from the northern neighbor on Monday.
The cylinders were, in fact, brought by traders for business purposes, and not by the government. Moreover, the cylinders were not brought at a “subsidized” rate as claimed by the government.
Earlier, even though it was reported that a total of 18,000 oxygen cylinders from China had arrived in Nepal as subsidy, a total of 2,500 units have arrived on Monday, and that too, for commercial purposes.
Chief of the Tatopani Customs Office Narad Gautam told Khabarhub that a total of 2,500 oxygen cylinders with a capacity of 10 liters each arrived at the customs office on Monday.
“Twenty-five hundred oxygen cylinders have arrived at the customs office by 3 o’clock today,” he told Khabarhub, adding, “There have been reports of other items arriving but they are yet to arrive.”
Gautam added that the cylinders that arrived on Monday were not brought on subsidy but for commercial purposes by traders. He said that the government only facilitated the smooth import of the health supplies brought by the traders.
Ramesh Sherpa, a businessman and Chairman of Silk Transport also confirmed that a total of 2,500 cylinders have arrived at the Tatopani Customs from China on Monday.
“Traders have brought oxygen cylinders from China for commercial purposes,” he told Khabarhub.
According to him, health items will continue to come in as per the demand. Sherpa clarified that the cylinders being brought by the traders are not for subsidy purposes but for commercial purposes.
He said, “I don’t know what the government is doing. The cylinders that have come now have been brought by the traders.”
According to traders, as many as 7,500 cylinders have already arrived in Khasa, the business center of Tibet.
Sherpa added that they had earlier urged the government through Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel to facilitate the import of the cylinders. A staffer at Pokharel’s Secretariat, too, confirmed that the cylinders that have arrived at the Tatopani Customs were meant for commercial purposes.
Talking to Khabarhub, he said, “Some cylinders brought by the traders from China have arrived at the Tatopani Customs and some will arrive soon.”
He informed that out of the 20,000 cylinders subsidized by the government, some 2,000 cylinders will arrive in Kathmandu by air and the rest 18,000 by land.
Health supplies stuck at customs for four days
According to Sherpa, as many as 7,500 oxygen cylinders and other health supplies had arrived in Khasa some four days ago. However, only 2,500 cylinders were brought to the Tatopani Customs Office after 4 days.
Since the supplies were stopped, the traders had urged the government through Deputy Prime Minister Pokharel for facilitation after the cylinders were stopped at the customs.
Chief of the Tatopani Customs Office Gautam, too, admitted that 2,500 oxygen cylinders had arrived in Nepal on Monday on the initiative of the government after the health supplies from China were stopped for a couple of days.
Government in a hurry to take credit for work done by traders
On Sunday, the Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) published the news that 18,000 oxygen cylinders had arrived in Nepal from China, quoting Ganesh Pandey, the Press Adviser to Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinator of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Center, Ishwor Pokharel. The news was disseminated by almost all media.
According to the news, the oxygen cylinders that had arrived at Tatopani Customs Office would be brought to Kathmandu after being handed over by the Chinese government. This, as observers say, is an ill-intent on the part of the government to try to take the credit for the work done by the traders.
What is the status of the health supplies supposed to be donated by China?
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers had informed in a press release on May 5 informing that the Chinese government would provide health supplies, including 20,000 oxygen cylinders, worth 5 million Chinese Yuan to Nepal in grant.
However, even though 2,000 cylinders have been brought by air, other stuff is yet to arrive.
Pandey said that 18,000 cylinders were in the process of arriving by land. But he expressed uncertainty as to when they would arrive.