Public transport workers losing livelihoods; authorities turn a deaf ear

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: Kumari Lama, a 36 years old tempo driver from Kathmandu has been out of work since the lockdown and is struggling for her and her families’ basic necessities. A mother of two and the sole breadwinner of her family, she is finding it challenging to sustain her household. The lockdown has brought a severe crisis in her life.

“Prior to the lockdown, I used to make around Rs 500 a day, but now my income has dropped to zero. I don’t have any source to earn a single penny,” she lamented. She fears she and her family will starve if the lockdown extends any further. Along with providing for her family, she is also burdened with paying her children’s college fees and bank installments of the tempo she purchased a year ago. None of these is a possibility for Lama at the moment.

Akin to Lama, Ram Dangal, a 40 years bus driver is also facing a similar predicament. As the only provider, paying house rent, feeding the family, and paying the kids’ school fees is turning out to be a herculean task for him. To add insult to injury, the school keeps on calling, threatening to exclude his children from the examinations if the dues aren’t paid. The government is totally indifferent to our suffering. It does not care whether we live or die,” said Dangal in frustration.

These two are just representative cases, there are countless others like Lama and Dangal from the public vehicle sector who are hit hard due to the lockdown. For the last one and half years, the transportation sector of Nepal has not been able to fully function.

For the last one and half years, the transportation sector of Nepal has not been able to fully function.

Saroj Sitaula, General Secretary of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) said, “It seems like the government does not have any clue about our sufferings, they are only focused on saving their power and position”. The sector with an investment of around 1,000 billion is now going through a disastrous situation, and hundreds and thousands of families are affected by it.

“To recover from our losses and to address them, I have frequently communicated with the secretary of the Ministry of Finance Sishir Kumar Dhungana and Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari. They have agreed to hold a meeting as soon as possible”, said Sitaula.

He demands the government to include the public vehicle sector in the most affected category and compensate for all the losses, and similarly, on behalf of the entire public vehicle sectors, Sitaula demands exemption on tax, renewal charge of licenses, bill books, bank loans, and installments.

“In earlier lockdown too, we had made similar demands with the government but none of them were addressed. Hopefully this year they pay more attention to our issues,” said Sitaula. He also urged the government to immediately provide vaccination for those working in the public transport sector.