Did you know that at least five different organizations and groups had separately called the banda (strike) today in Kathmandu ? Well, that could be more or less by a group of two but just a quick reminder: there was strike in Kathmandu yesterday as well called by more than one group. Then there was severe traffic disturbance in certain parts of Kathmandu the day before yesterday.
Today: Public transport in the Bagmati zone came to a grinding halt on Sunday, the second day of the indefinite vehicle strike called by transport entrepreneurs who have rejected the government’s 25 percent increase in transport fares calling it insufficient.No public vehicles were seen plying the roads in Lalitpur, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur districts. Long-distance transportation has also been affected due to the strike in the capital.
At least four strikes – Valley and Nepal bandas — in a month and many more in the making. As if the rest of the country felt left out in the Valley-only transport strike yesterday called by student unions and transporters’ unions. Starting today, the entire country could be hit by chakka jams and road obstructions if transport entrepreneurs have their way and the law continues to look the other way. The transporters and students will have additional company beginning today- petroleum dealers and petro-product carriers, all of them contributing in their own ways to make life more difficult for the man in the street. Besides, eight student unions affiliated to political parties and transport unions like the Federation of National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNTE), Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ Association (NPDA) and Federation of Nepal Petroleum Supply Entrepreneurs (NPSE) will also join the fray today.
Of late, venting one’s ire on the street has spread like a plague throughout the country. The strike callers are of all varieties – from the aggrieved relatives of those killed in road accidents to transporters to students. It does not matter that a banda or chakka jam announced at the last minute leaves stranded people on their way to work, while setting out on some emergency task, taking someone to hospital, appearing for an exam, traveling the highway, or simply returning home.
The latest round of strikes started with the government announcing a hike in fuel prices and the resultant raise in public transport fares. The government proposed an across the board hike of 25 per cent for public vehicles (but with three-wheelers and micro buses to decide fares through competition) against a 35-45 per cent hike demanded by transport entrepreneurs. Transporters and people employed by them usually park their vehicles astride the roads to prevent all vehicular movement. “If the government fails to address the entrepreneurs’ demands immediately FNTE will halt vehicular movement for an indefinite period across the country from Sunday,” FNTE warned yesterday.
Students who have been enjoying a 33 per cent fare concession are also up in arms. They now demand a 50 per cent concession. The government’s decision to raise the concession to 43 percent is not enough, the students say. [The 43 percent concession is also applicable to the Jana Andolan-injured]. Transporters, of course, oppose this additional hike. On Friday, the students vandalized vehicles at some places and burnt tires in front of colleges in the capital. More such spectacles are expected on Sunday.
“We will continue our protests unless our demand for 50 per cent concession in fares is met,” said the eight students unions after a joint meeting, Saturday. Today was the fourth consecutive day of protests by them.
Petroleum dealers padlocked Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) depots across the country yesterday. NPDA that had announced nation-wide agitations from Thursday (19 June), demanding the the government ease the supply of fuel at the earliest. As a part of the protest, NPDA has announced a halt to the purchase of fuel from NOC depots from Sunday and to the sale and distribution of petroleum products from Monday. This will ensure lengthier queues in front of government-owned fuel supply stations.
Similarly, the Federation of Nepal Petroleum Supply Entrepreneurs (NPSE) on Saturday decided to halt petroleum supply across the country from Sunday. Issuing a statement NPSE said all tankers supplying petroleum products will stop operating until and unless the government increases fares for tankers.
With all sides determined to have their own way, get ready to walk to your destination. The sick and elderly travel at their own risk.