The governmentâ€™s recent promise to provide Rs 100,000 compensation through a basket fund for vehicles damaged while plying on the bandh days has done little to persuade the transport entrepreneurs to bring out their vehicles from garages on such days. Flouting the bandh call and operating vehicles on bandh days is taking a risk of being vandalised or even set on fire, which often entails into bearing a loss worth several times the amount offered by government in compensation. As a result, most of the vehicle-owners choose to remain off road on these days. This was also reiterated by the general secretary of the Nepali Transport Entrepreneurs Surya B Bhattarai. Besides, vehicle-owners complain that the formalities of claiming compensation is cumbersome. Add to it the publicâ€™s fear of flouting bandhs, thanks to violence associated with shutdowns. This means those buses plying on bandhs will have few or no passengers in return for all the risk of running them. It is understandable that nothing can purge the publicâ€™s fear psychosis, nor can the government be expected to compensate until the last paisa. In other words, Rs 100,000 is too little a bargain for vehicle-owners to be lured into taking their conveyance unto the streets in the face of danger. Compare this with the fact that a bus or a truck, for example, costs over Rs 1.5 million. Hence the need for a midway approach to urge vehicle owners to run on bandh days.
Welcome as all modes of conveyance on such days certainly are, it is, however, hard to ignore the fact that insurance companies too are far from cooperative when it comes to compensating vehicle-owners for bandh-inflicted damages. Because there is no other way of convincing owners to ply vehicles, the way forward is to adopt a comprehensive measure, in consultation with transport entrepreneurs, that addresses their genuine and legitimate concerns. The latter must not take this as an opportunity to fleece the government or the insurance companies. Instead, both parties need to realise that ad hoc measures, which disappear with every change of guard at the centre, will do little good for either side in the long run. Nepal is not entirely free from petty squabbles and vandalism. The government should understand that most vehicles are bought on loans from banks and individuals, who will not waive the monthly dues for operating on bandh days. And minor damages aside, the compensation package in offer is stingy by any reckoning. Urging the transport sector already reeling under the dearth of passengers to come out for so less a bait is downright banal. Beside raising the package for vehicles suffering major damages, the actual process of claiming compensation must also be simplified.