Ganesh Man Singh departs for Birgunj
After the cloth merchant traders of Birgunj expressed their problems with Subarna Shumsher, B P Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh – Singh, in the capacity of Nepal’s minister for Industry and Commerce was requested to depart for Birgunj to solve the problem.
“The cloth merchant problem in Birgunj was going to be my first test as minister”, Singh shared with Mathbar Singh.
Singh had earlier sent Indra Bhakta Shrestha who held separate dialogues with the local merchants and the Gujurati origin merchants. Indra Bhakta too was of the same opinion that Singh would have to personally attend to the problem in Birgunj.
Therefore Singh set on a journey to Birgunj. Ironically, his first outstation visit as minister was the same place from where he had been sent to Kathmandu as prisoner after being arrested in Thori. Also, Birgunj held a special place in his heart because he had spent many months in the Indian border town of Raxaul during the revolution.
“Many a days I would look towards Birgunj and my heart would yearn to return to Nepal, but I couldn’t”, Singh shares a memory from his days of the revolution.
Therefore, the next day, a team from Nepal’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce departed for Birgunj. Singh had expected a quiet and an uneventful journey via Bhimphedi, Amlekhgunj, and then to Birgunj – but no sooner had they reached Chitlang, a crowd of people awaited them.
Similarly, groups of people were waiting at Tistung, Palung and Kulekhani – each time Singh had to stop and address the gathered people. Many of the people would join Singh in his journey, and by the time Singh reached Bhimphedi, his small team had transformed into a procession of some sort.
Taking a train to Birgunj via Nijgad Forest
Early next morning, Singh took a motor vehicle to Amlekhgunj – after a brief stopover at Hetauda, the team was scheduled to travel via Nepal Government Railway’s train to Birgunj.
The Amlekhgunj – Raxaul railway line, coming into operation from 1927 AD, was the first train service in Nepal. It was managed by Nepal Government Railway, and was completed during the Prime Ministerial period of Chandra Shumsher JBR. It was discontinued in 1965 AD, after the Tribhuvan Highway was built.
Just as Singh finished his lunch, the train arrived. The team got on board, and the train driver came to visit Singh. After sharing introductions, the train driver shared an interesting story:
“Greetings Minister Singh. I am the train driver – in fact the same train driver who took you to Kathmandu when you were held captive. At the time, I wasn’t permitted to meet you. But today, it is my honour to drive you again”, the train driver said.
“The train driver’s name eludes my memory. But I still remember the incident clearly”, Singh shares with Mathbar Singh.
From Amlekhgunj, the train would traverse through the thick Nijgad forest.
“The forest was so thick we couldn’t even see the daylight. It seemed like dusk, even though it was just noon. And many a times, we would have to stop the train to allow animals to pass through”, Singh shared with Mathbar Singh.
After crossing Nijgad, the train made multiple stops at all stations, before finally reaching Birgunj. At Birgunj, a small welcome ceremony was organized, after which Singh left for his Subarna Shumsher’s palace.
Discussions with political leaders and merchants:
The disgruntlement in Birgunj had arisen over a disagreement within three parties – local cloth merchants in Birgunj, Gujurati origin cloth merchants and local political leaders of Nepali Congress. When local political leaders would ask for party donations, the local merchants were of the view that the Gujurati merchants should pay higher as they were making money illegally, but Gujurati merchants were not willing to – therefore arriving upon a deadlock.
Ganesh Man Singh had to sit with each aggrieved party individually to arrive upon a solution. Furthermore, local Congress leaders were also further hurt as they had been jailed recently for inciting violence. On the day of his arrival, Singh met with the merchants, and assured them that their grievances would be addressed.
In the evening, he met up with party friends – namely, Tej Bahadur Amatya, Megh Raj, Madhav Lal, Mathura Man. “They were not only party friends, but also my associates during my stay at Raxaul – friends of difficult times”, Singh said. Of them, two had been arrested too.
After a small heated discussion over the arrest of party friends, they got down to business.
The local leaders said that the problem had arisen after Gujurati merchants started to deny payments. The local merchants followed suit. They were also of the view that the merchants had to pay.
Therefore they came upon a solution – the donations would be directed to a noble cause. A public hospital was desperately needed in Birgunj, and the leaders suggested the merchants could donate for that cause.
Next day, amidst a formal meeting the proposal was met positively by the merchants. Singh even assured the merchants that the government would match the amount pledged by the merchants. The merchants raised Rs. 225,000; the government raised the same amount, and therefore Rs. 450,000 for a modern hospital in Birgunj was raised.