Pandemic impact: Only 50% public vehicles ply the streets

Sabina Karki

November 6, 2020


Pandemic impact: Only 50% public vehicles ply the streets

The streets in Kathmandu are not fully occupied yet. (File Photo)

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KATHMANDU: Almost more than six months of lockdown and prohibitory orders restricting public transportation, the government has allowed the resumption of the service from September 17.

However, even after one and a half month’s resumption of the services, only 50% of the vehicles are seen in operation these days.

According to Saroj Sitaula, the General Secretary of Federation of Nepal Transportation Entrepreneurs, the Federation which used to be under stress to managing the buses during the major festivals Dashain and Tihar has witnessed hardly 50% of the vehicles in operation even one and half month of the resumption of public transportation in the country.

“We used to be in stress to manage the bus due to the pressure of the home returning passengers, but this time even 50% of the vehicles of the regular time hardly operated their services,” Sitaula told Khabarhub.

The buses are resuming their services from the major cities including Kathmandu to the local levels.

Despite the resumption, the buses did not get enough passengers this time for two reasons: Firstly, they feared that the trouble they have to encounter on the way due to possible declaration of lockdown or prohibitory orders; and secondly they were skeptical if they would be allowed to come back to resume their work.

Likewise, many people preferred traveling by private vehicles however risky the long travel might be in such means of transportation.

Sitaula blames the indecisiveness and lack of clarity on the government’s part about how public transport should come into operation for the bad days the transportation sector has to go through.

“Lack of clarity on the health safety measures to be adopted while traveling and lack of uniformity in decisions about the measures to be taken to curb the pandemic have worsened the situation,” he said adding, “The entrepreneurs resume the services but encounter lockdown or prohibitory orders on the route, sometimes the drivers and other staffs had no words to tell to the passengers.”

Entrepreneurs in distress

According to Lok Nath Bhusal, the Information Officer at the Department of Transportation Management, public transportation is in operation at all levels, all parts of the country now.

“The buses of the long, medium or short routes all are in operation now,” Bhusal added, “The number of vehicles running in the street is increasing day by day since they were asked to resume service from September 17.”

Speaking to Khabarhub, Bhusal claimed that the health safety standards have been abided by in the means of transportation.

Although the DoTM had directed all transport entrepreneurs to ensure that the buses are sanitized regularly and the driver and the co-driver both test coronavirus negative before the operation, these directives have not been implemented by the entrepreneurs.

Bhusal confessed that the Department was still not sure whether everyone followed the directives. He added that the authority is planning to intensify the monitoring and take due action provided the directives are not followed.

Bhusal reiterates that the transportation entrepreneurs should get the coronavirus test of the drivers and co-drivers mandatorily.

We are ready to fight against COVID: Transport workers

The coronavirus cases in the country seem far from falling to date. The Kathmandu Valley sees 2-3 thousand new cases of coronavirus every day.

Yet, the daily wage earners of the transportation sector claim that they do not dread to work in a coronavirus hotspot like Kathmandu.

“I am not sure when I may get coronavirus, we are advised to test at our own cost and it’s not easy,” Dinesh Karki, a driver Khabarhub stopped to request his experience of driving during the pandemic said, “Whenever we see the common cold-like symptoms, we drink hot water, cetamol and continue the work.”

Driver Karki regarded working under pandemic fear as a compulsion on his part as he can’t feed the family without it and seemed not much worried about the possibility of coronavirus transmission as he was still wearing a mask.

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