The Federation of Nepalese National Entrepreneurs has rejected the government’s decision to allow public transport services to resume from Friday, demanding that the government fulfill their demands at the earliest.
The federation has demanded that the government make provisions for tax waivers, facilitate the implementation of safety precautions onboard public vehicles, and direct banks to allow them to restructure their loans.
“During the four months of the lockdown, we had to spend at least Rs 150,000 to 200,000 on maintenance for each vehicle,” said Arjun Gautam, a central committee member of the federation who participated in Friday’s meeting that decided not to resume services. “We had to spend on the tyres, the battery, and the engine at a time when we had to remain idle for months,” he added.
“The government took a haphazard decision ignoring the costs for public transport operators,” said Gautam.
The government on Thursday had announced to resume short-haul public transport to within Kathmandu valley other districts of the country. The government took the decision, just a day after a parliamentary committee directed the government to allow taxi operators to resume work.
However, public transport vehicles are only allowed to ferry passengers up to 50 percent of their seat capacity, drivers and conductors are to wear masks and they are to provide sanitisers to passengers. They have been allowed to charge double the normal fare for their services.
Ever since the government eased the nationwide lockdown from mid-June, public transport operators were demanding that the government resume public transport by coming up with a detailed plan to save the livelihoods of people involved in the sector.
“But the government seems very irresponsible. How can it make a decision without consulting us?” said Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of the federation.
The federation is also demanding that the government issue safety guidelines in accordance with the norms set by the World Health Organisation. It has also announced that public transport can’t be operated at 50 percent capacity.
“This is gross negligence on the part of the government. We are not going to operate our vehicles. We will hand over the keys to the government,” said Yogendra Nath Karmacharya, chairman of the federation.
Despite the government’s decision to resume public vehicles from Friday, Kathmandu Valley hardly saw buses ferrying passengers on the road. Traffic police officials said only a handful of microbuses were seen on the ring.
“It’s because entrepreneurs were still in meetings and people were afraid to come out of their homes to board public vehicles,” said Bam Dev Gautam, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police division.
Health experts and virologists have termed the government’s decision to allow public transport to resume as risky, as the Kathmandu Valley has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases in the last few days.
The federation warned that if the government does not fulfil its demands, it will ask the government to repay their bank loans and nationalise their vehicles.
The federation says that the livelihoods of thousands of people dependent on the transport sector have been affected due to the blanket ban on public transport.