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India demonetisation move: No remedy for Nepalis as deadline nears

The deadline issued by the Indian government to exchange bank notes in the denominations of 500 and 1,000 is just 13 days away, but no concrete measures have been announced for exchanging these banned Indian notes in Nepal.
Nepali migrant workers in India too continue to face a tough time. Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay said he is in consultation with Indian officials about resolving the problems. Though the concerned authorities of both the countries are in consultation, there is no indication of any solution so far.
Indian government on November 8 announced that bank notes in the denominations of 500 and 1,000 will cease to be legal tender after December 30. But Nepalis holding the banned Indian notes in Nepal and Nepalis working in India are increasingly getting jittery, as even if the some provisions are put in place for exchanging these notes, the window period will be too small.
Nepal has been requesting India to make an arrangement for up to IRs 25,000. Though there will not be any problem to exchange the old notes that are in the banking system, there are concerns about the notes held by general public. Asked about the progress made in exchanging the old notes, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Thursday that finance departments of both the countries “are in regular consultations to exchange the old notes”.
But there was no indication from him as to when a solution would be put in place. Earlier, India had communicated that it had formed a committee to suggest ways to exchange old notes in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Nepali migrant workers in New Delhi are already facing a lot of problems following the Indian government’s demonetisation move.
Those workers who do not have Indian identity cards and lack bank accounts have been hit hard. Nepali students studying in colleges and universities have also complained about the difficulties they are facing.
Officials at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi say despite their requests to Indian officials there has not been any progress on easing the problems faced by Nepali migrant workers.
“We are holding consultative meetings with concerned stakeholders in the presence of Nepal’s ambassador to India about easing the problems,” said Bharat Karki, India Representative of Everest Bank.
Remittance companies say they are receiving lots of complaints from migrant workers about the problems they are facing. Following India’s demonetisation move, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had talked with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi about the exchange of old notes in Nepal and problems faced by Nepali migrant workers in India.
Meanwhile, Nepal has requested India to continue the flow of Indian currency in Nepal. After the demonetisation move, India had stopped providing Indian rupees to Nepal Rastra Bank. Banks are refusing to exchange Nepali currency with Indian currency, saying that Nepal Rastra Bank has stopped providing Indian bank notes.
“We have requested India to continue the flow of Indian rupees into Nepal, and we are waiting for a response,” said Ambassador Upadhyay.
Kamal Dev Bhattarai

17-12-2016, The Kathmandu Post

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