United Telecom Limited (UTL), the first private operator to enter Nepal’s telecoms market, was closed down ‘indefinitely’ yesterday after the UTL Workers’ Union called for a strike demanding a number of terms and conditions including permanent jobs for workers hired for over 240 days, medical cover, life insurance and accident insurance. UTL is a joint venture between India’s Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) and Telecommunications Consultants India, and operates in Nepal in collaboration with Nepal Venture Private Limited. Since its inception the company has faced numerous obstacles and disruptions. During King Gyanendra’s 14-month reign its operations were suspended no fewer than six times, resulting in losses of millions of rupees for the company. Following the restoration of multiparty democracy, UTL has continued to suffer under alleged discriminatory provisions dictated by the Maoists in government. Santosh Rayamajhi, president of the UTL Workers’ Union, which is understood to be loyal to Prime Minister Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress party, is quoted as saying that UTL’s 100,000 or so phone lines will continue to function as normal, but all other administrative and customer care services have been stopped. Although the union has submitted its demands, UTL’s management says they are ‘unreasonable’.