Nepal | October 22, 2020

EDITORIAL: Make journey safe

The Himalayan Times
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As this is a difficult situation, everybody should refrain from travelling far away as it poses a risk to their health and that of others

Quite a few people are expected to leave the Kathmandu Valley for home to celebrate Dashain, the greatest festival of Hindus, this year due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. According to the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), the number of passengers travelling out of the Valley is likely to drop to 600,000. Last year, around two million people had left the Valley for their hometowns during the festival, which starts this year on October 17. Keeping in mind the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, the DoTM has decided to open the advance booking of tickets for public vehicles for the festive season from October 11. The advance booking of tickets will not only help people get tickets easily but also aid the government agencies in monitoring the public vehicles and control the middlemen who might be out to cheat the passengers taking advantage of the festive season, creating unnecessary panic among the travellers. In order to ensure maximum health safety of the passengers from the Covid-19 point of view, the department has been holding rounds of meetings with transport entrepreneurs and the traffic police. However, such meetings have been fruitless as the bus operators have been demanding that they be allowed to carry passengers as per the total carrying capacity of their vehicles, just like the airlines.

The government has, however, told the public bus operators to carry only half the passengers of their total carrying capacity to maintain a safe distance of six feet between passengers. They are also required to meet the health safety protocol issued by the Ministry of Health and Population.

The department will release the ticket fare list and other plans for operating vehicles only after the bus operators reach an understanding with the DoTM at another meeting scheduled for October 9. The Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs is holding discussion with their regional associations regarding the department’s proposal a day before the next meeting.

It is difficult to manage long-distance public vehicles in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. A Covid-19 infected person who is travelling in a public bus could spread the virus to the whole crowd. After six months of lockdown, the government had allowed the operation of long-distance public vehicles from September 17 on condition that they would carry only half the passengers of the total seats but charge double the regular fare. Making a journey safe from the disease is a challenging task for all. On the other hand, the genuine concerns raised by the bus operators need to be addressed by providing them with whatever facilities the government side can. As this is a difficult situation, everybody should refrain from travelling far away as much as possible as it poses a risk to their health and that of others. As of now, the Covid-19 pandemic has largely affected the urban centres, and the villages seem to be relatively safe from the disease. The situation could turn out of control if there is an exodus of people from the cities to the villages where emergency health services are rarely available should there be an outbreak of the coronavirus. So, it is imperative to see everything, including Dashain, from the Covid-19 perspective.

Unruly behaviour

On Monday, Nepali Congress lawmakers resorted to vandalism inside the provincial assembly of Province 5 over the headquarters of the provincial capital. The incident may not have caught much media attention because it took place in a provincial assembly, not the federal parliament. Such incidents have become common place not only here in Nepal but even in advanced democracies. But regardless of where they occur, vandalism of any sort in a house of people’s representatives is unparliamentary behaviour and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

The incident in Province 5 came to the fore after the ruling party pushed its way to declare Deukhuri as its permanent capital without making public the report prepared by the special committee of the PA.

Logically, the Nepal Communist Party can push any agenda through the PA on the strength of its sheer majority, where it commands a strength that is three times that of the NC. Yet, when it comes to naming the province and its capital, a wider discussion on it would have been desirable. If the NCP was not going to heed the special committee, why did it agree to constitute the committee in the first place?


A version of this article appears in print on October 07, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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