As government extends lockdown, non-natives of Kathmandu Valley wish to return to their hometownsNo one is getting out during the lockdown period, spokesperson of Kathmandu Metropolitan City says.
On normal days, Surendra Timalsena, 33 would have been selling aloevera juice outside the Mahadev temple in Koteshwor. But with the lockdown clamped by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus two weeks ago fearing, Timalsena has been confined to his room alone. His wife and their four-year-old son left for Chitwan, to his in-laws, the day before the lockdown was announced.
“I thought that this would not go for long and I could resume my business, but it’s already been two weeks and the government has once again extended the lockdown,” said Timalsena, who hails from Sundarbazar Municipality-3 in Lamjung district.
The government’s decision to extend the lockdown period has caused him to worry because he is running out of food.
“I have the food provision that will last me for a week. In case the lockdown is extended again, then I’ll be in trouble. I want to return to my village. There, at least I won’t have to worry about the shortage of food,” Timalsena told the Post.
Suraj Rai, 31, who has been doing his office work from his room in Maharajgunj these days, also feels trapped. Like Timalsena, he too longs to go home due to the uncertainty concerning the lockdown.
“If the government manages transportation service, I will go to my hometown and work from there. As long as you have the internet, you can work from anywhere these days,” said Rai, who is from Surunga, Jhapa.
There are hundreds of such people like Timalsena and Rai who are longing to go back to their hometowns but are stuck in Kathmandu due to the ongoing lockdown. Many of them want the government to manage vehicles for them to return to their hometowns and villages.
“My parents are worried back in the village. They call me every day and tell me to come back home. It’s already been two weeks and there is no sign of the lockdown getting lifted.I am confined in my room,” Rai told the Post.
Despite the lockdown orders, there have been reports about people leaving the Kathmandu Valley during the night. On the third day of the nationwide lockdown, some construction workers left Kathmandu on foot from Ichangu Narayan.
“They were working till the second day of the lockdown but on the third day, they had already left,” said Shiva Sharma, who had employed the workers at his house construction site.
“Three of the workers were from Makawanpur. I later learned that they had walked for eight hours to reach their villages.”
On Monday, the Kantipur daily reported the joureny made by six people on foot from Kathmandu to Saptari.
Timalsena said he cannot take the risk like those people reported by the media.
"I am alone and travelling all the way to Lamjung from Kathmandu won’t be a wise idea. If the government arranges vehicles for people like us, then I will definitely go. I’m even ready to take the coronavirus test and observe self isolation at my village" he told the Post.
Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, say neither the city office nor the government has any plan of starting vehicle service for the people who wish to return to their hometowns and villages during the lockdown.
“They have to follow the lockdown rules for now. If the government decides to further extend the lockdown period, then we have a discussion about this matter at the higher level,” Dangol told the Post.
Traffic police in Kathmandu say many people have left the Valley on trucks transporting essential goods during night time in the past one week. But of late, authorities have been strictly monitoring all vehicles leaving the Valley as a measure against the spread of Covid-19.
According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, over 500,000 people left the Kathmandu Valley on the days preceding the lockdown.
The 2011 census had put the population of the Valley at 2.5 million. Nearly a decade later, that figure is estimated to be over 4 million.