Public uncertainty mounts as Dashain festival approaches

Kathmandu Valley (File Photo/Nepalese Voice)

Every year, during Dashain, thousands of people leave for their hometowns to celebrate the festivities. This year, amidst a global pandemic, Dashain plans are being affected. The confusion around rules and regulations add further uncertainty.

For example, most people know that widespread movement increases the risk of community spread of Covid-19, however, with public transport being opened, one cannot help but wonder if the government is encouraging people to travel during Dashain?

How does the government plan to control a post-Dashain situation, for example, if the people of an affected area take the virus to remote districts with poor healthcare infrastructure? Well, they are unsure.

Department of Transport Management too does not have any concrete safety plans for Dashain Travel – they have said long-haul transport will be allowed to operate with 50% occupancy. However, reports are suggesting the protocols are not being followed.

Furthermore, DoTM has allowed transport entrepreneurs to charge 50% extra fare, which makes it difficult for passengers who have been economically affected to pay their travel fares.

The Director General of Department of Transportation Management (DoTM), Gagan Bahadur Hamal, assures that advance ticket booking will be opened after discussions with transport operators, security agencies, other stakeholders and consumer rights activists.

Meanwhile, the preparation till date is the assumption of Director General Hamal who estimates that ‘there will not be as much passengers this year as most of the people have left Kathmandu or decided not to leave the valley.’

Similarly, the DoTM has issued a notice stating that the long-haul travelers need to carry their own food and can’t make any stop at the mid-way owing to the risk of coronavirus.

The food part is quite understandable, however, the department needs to make preparations keeping in mind that not most of the vehicles have in-built toilets, making it difficult for passengers.

Even though the festival is not even a month away, the preparation of the government to deal with this situation is nill.