From one crisis to another, tracing Nepal's journey in last 3 years

Kathmandu, NepalWritten By: Sidhant SibalUpdated: May 11, 2018, 11:28 AM IST

Engineers train in retrofitting techniques outside an earthquake-damaged house in the village of Dungkharka, some 45 km east of Kathmandu. Photograph:(AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached Nepal on a two-day state visit during which he will hold talks with the country's top leadership to build mutual trust.

Nepal has been a nation in crisis since last 10 years it has suffered political crisis, earthquake and impact of demonetisation. But the last three years have been particularly difficult.

In 2015, many of the country's historic sites were levelled after an earthquake struck Nepal. It was the worst earthquake in Nepal since 1934 in which 9000 people died. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese were made homeless with entire villages flattened. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed including many UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley, like the Durbar Square in Kathmandu, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Boudhanath Stupa and the Swayambhunath Stupa.

Under the 'neigbhourhood first' policy, when the earthquake struck in 2015, India launched Operation Maitri and help reached Nepal within 15 minutes. India swiftly dispatched the teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in special aircraft with rescue and relief materials to Nepal. India's assistance, which reached Nepal within six hours of the earthquake, included 16 NDRF teams, 39 Air Force aircraft sorties with 571 tons of relief material.

And Nepal acknowledged India's help. "We are thankful for India's generous support," Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali said.

Nepal was on path to recovery but a year later, India announced its decision to scrap the existing currency under demonetisation and the Himalayan kingdom's redevelopment plans were in doldrums.

"The Indian demonetisation has hurt Nepali nationals," Nepal's Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli told the country's Parliament in April. According to news agency Reuters, Nepal had about Rs 950 crore worth of old Indian bank notes.

India is Nepal's largest trade partner and the supplier of the bulk of consumer goods. Indian currency is widely used by businesses and individuals who keep their savings at homes in Indian bank notes. In Durbar Square, where life was limping back to normal, suddenly everything came to a standstill.

Central Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) officials said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) verbally agreed to allow every Nepali national to exchange up to Rs 4,500 worth of scrapped Indian bank notes in a meeting in March last year.

"But nothing has been communicated to us formally so far," NRB Deputy Governor Chinta Mani Shivakoti told Reuters.

Oli raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India last month, and has been assured that the Indian government will look into the issue. Oli is expected to bring the issue with PM Modi during his current visit.