Pokhara’s bus operators hand over the keys to their vehicles to banksBanks have been asking the bus operators to pay the loan instalments.
On July 1, Prithvi Highway Bus Operators’ Company organised a press meet in Pokhara to brief about the trouble faced by the bus service operators due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Yogendra Bahadur KC, chairman of the company, said that a total of 1,400 vehicles under the company were parked since the lockdown, and the bus operators were planning to take out protests as the lockdown had kept them from earning their livelihood, many of whom had vehicle loans to pay.
“Without any income, there’s no way we can pay the instalments for our vehicles,” KC had said. “If the banks continue to nag us asking for instalment payments, we are prepared to hand over the keys to our vehicles to the banks.”
The bus operators had demanded that the banks allow them at least six months’ time to pay the instalments. The banks have not agreed to their demand.
On Monday, the bus operators affiliated with the company handed over the keys to their vehicles to the banks. Keys to 90 vehicles were handed over to the banks—30 to NMB Bank, 17 to Garima Development Bank, 18 to Prime Bank, and 25 to Muktinath Development Bank.
“The repeated notices to pay the instalments were causing us mental torture,” KC said after Monday’s move. “We were left with no option but to turn in our keys.”
In Kaski, 70 percent of the investment in public vehicles comes from bank loans. With no way to pay back the loan instalments due to the lockdown, the local bus operators had asked for concessions so that they could pay back the loan installments at later dates.
Bank officials said that while the bus operators’ demand is valid, they can only do so much.
“We need to run our institutions as well,” said Govinda Dhakal, CEO of Garima Development Bank. “It is the central bank that needs to come up with a solution to the existing crisis.”
Public bus operators have said they cannot pay the loan instalments for some time. They said the lockdown has further added financial burden on them, as their vehicles were idled for months and need to be repaired.
Bus operators across the country have been calling on the government to resume the public transport service. While the officials at the Department of Transport Management have been saying that they are preparing a set of guidelines to resume the public transport service, there has been no clear plan on the matter yet.
Public health experts have warned that allowing public vehicles to operate would further increase the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Meanwhile, KC, the chairman of Prithvi Highway Bus Operators’ Company, said bus operators will continue to hand over the keys to their vehicles if their demand is not addressed.
“We will be handing over the keys to at least 200 vehicles by Wednesday,” he said.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of August 5, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 18,700,119 people with 704,332 deaths and 11,915,046 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections 1,906,613 at with 39,820 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 280,461 confirmed cases with 5,999 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 21,009 cases with 58 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.