Nepal crackdown hits United Telecom Ltd – again

19 Jan 2006

A government crackdown on opposition activists in Nepal has adversely affected the operations of United Telecom Ltd (UTL), an Indian joint venture in the kingdom. The state rounded up at least 15 leaders of the Nepal Communist Party and cut telephone and mobile phone lines ahead of a planned mass protest rally in the capital in defiance of a recently imposed government ban on holding demonstrations. The royalist government put in place a seven-hour curfew, starting 9pm Wednesday, and although some landlines were restored after 8am the following day, mobile phones remained out of order along with all UTL’s lines. It is the second time in less than a year that the Indian-backed firm has suffered. In February 2005 when King Gyanendra seized power with the help of the military he imposed a state of emergency and cut all phone lines, forcing UTL to suspend its operations until mid-July at a cost of NPR1.5 million (USD22,490) per day.