Public transport entrepreneurs threaten to defy prohibitory orders citing discrimination

Public vehicle entrepreneurs have expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s decision to halt operation of public vehicles as part of the prohibitory orders imposed in the Kathmandu Valley from today while flights are allowed to operate without restrictions.

Stating that the government was being discriminatory against public vehicle entrepreneurs and favoring air travel, public vehicle owners said they will be forced to defy the government’s direction of halting public transport if flights were allowed to operate.

The Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE), issuing a statement on Wednesday, said that they will operate public vehicles if flights were allowed during the period of the prohibitory orders.

The Federation also requested the government to reconsider its decision and facilitate passengers by allowing operation of public vehicles in compliance of health safety protocols.

General Secretary of FNNTE Saroj Sitaula said, “Since the government’s decision is targeted towards curbing the spread of the virus, we will comply with the decision for a few days,” Sitaula said adding, “But if the government does not correct its discriminatory decision soon, we will be forced to violate the rules.”

Sitaula also questioned the government’s logic behind halting public transport saying that 10,000 to 12,000 people gather at the Tribhuwan International Airport to travel via flights every day and still air travel services were not suspended.

“Is the government trying to say that passengers can contract the virus only in public vehicles but not at the airports and airplanes?” he questioned.

According to the Federation, there are around 400,000 public transport vehicles in the country at the moment. With an investment of Rs 10 billion, around 1.1 million people are directly employed in the public transport sector, while about four million people are engaged in the sector indirectly.

Sitaula said that public vehicle owners were forced to shut operations for nearly a year during last year’s lockdown and the new prohibitory orders will make it extremely challenging for them to clear their bank loans. He added that 80 per cent of the total public vehicle owners had purchased their vehicles with bank loans.

The entrepreneurs were of the opinion that stopping public transport alone will not curb the spread of coronavirus. They demanded that all sectors should be allowed to operate in compliance of necessary health safety protocols.