August 2: Transport entrepreneurs have not been following the criteria set by the government for operating the public vehicles within the districts after the government lifted an ban on vehicular movement which was in effect during the four months long lockdown. In mid-July, the government of Nepal decided to allow operation of public vehicles by adopting safety measures and carrying passengers up to half the seat capacity. The government had also agreed to let the transport entrepreneurs charge up to 50% more fare than usual. However, the public vehicles are found carrying more passengers than that allowed by the government disregarding the increasing number of coronavirus infection.
Ramesh Dhakal of Koteshwor shares his experience that the vehicle keeps stopping to let passengers in the bus even after more than half of the seat capacity is already occupied. “Although they fill only half the seat capacity when they cannot find many passengers, they keep as many passengers as possible when they can ,” he says.
Hemant Acharya of Kirtipur also shares the same experience like that of Dhakal. He says although there are only half passengers in the microbus up to Balkhu, they let in passengers to the full capacity in areas where there aren’t any traffic police check posts. “They charge double fare but do not maintain physical distancing measures. The helpers do not wear mask as well,” he says.
The transport entrepreneurs and government had recently reached an agreement to operate vehicles. As per the agreement, it is mandatory for the drivers/helpers to wear mask, gloves and keep a sanitizer in the vehicle. However, many vehicles do not have sanitizer in the vehicle and helpers do not wear mask and gloves, says Ram Thapa, a transport activist.
“I have travelled in some public vehicles myself. Some have followed the safety measures while some have neglected them. In such cases, they can be a means of spreading the infection,” he says. He also alleges the Department of Transport Management and traffic police for not monitoring it the vehicles.
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division says that they have taken action against more than 50 vehicles carrying more passenger than half the seat capacity. Chief of the Division, SSP Bhim Prasad Dhakal said, "We are monitoring the situation by stopping vehicles at various places and warning those vehicles which have not adopted safety measures.”