Biratnagar city office calls out Kathmandu local administration and government for impeding Valley residents from going homeBiratnagar city had helped 160 Valley residents to retrun home during lockdown but they were stopped at Nagdhunga.
The decision of Kathmandu District Administration Office to prohibit the residents of Kathmandu Valley from returning home after they had travelled all the way from Biratnagar has exposed the double standard of the city authorities and the federal government, an official at Biratnagar city office has said.
On Monday morning, seven buses carrying around 160 people from different parts of Kathmandu Valley were stopped by security personnel at Nagdhunga, the entry point to the Capital city. The passengers, who had travelled from eastern Nepal on buses arranged by the Biratnagar Metropolitan City, were told that they were not allowed to enter Kathmandu on the account of the nationwide lockdown.
“The passengers had traversed 27 districts to reach Kathmandu, and on the way, they were not stopped once. It was when they reached Kathmandu, the local administration put an end to their journey,” Indra Mani Pokharel, the chief administrative officer of Biratnagar Metropolitan City, told the Post over phone.
Pokharel described the move of the Kathmandu District Administration Office, a decision the latter said came from the higher-up, a double standard maintained by the authorities in Kathmandu and the federal government that had earlier allowed thousands of people leave Kathmandu Valley for their hometowns, many of them on foot.
“We had communicated with the local administration office in Kathmandu as well as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City before sending the passengers who had been stranded in Biratnagar for over a month due to the lockdown. What kind of rule is this?” Pokharel said.
According to Pokharel, the passengers had boarded the buses after undergoing health screening.
Among the passengers returning home from Biratnagar was Kirshna Bogati. The 33-year-old from Boharatar, Kathmandu, had left her three-year-old daughter with her husband at home before visiting Biratnagar after her father’s death.
“I was desperate to return home to be with my daughter, but we were stopped at Nagdhunga,” Bogati told the Post.
Bogati was among those passengers who managed to enter the city after their loved ones came to pick them up. She said she had to walk till Kalanki where her husband had come to receive her on his motorcycle.
“I don’t understand why they would not allow the buses to enter Kathmandu but were okay with my husband coming to pick me up on his motorcycle. What is the local administration up to?” Bogati said.
A woman from Imadol, Lalitpur, and her daughter also walked to their home leaving behind their luggage at Nagdhunga.
“My daughter and I were stuck in Biratnagar for over a month. We walked home leaving behind our belongings at Nagdhunga, but many passengers could not leave their luggage behind, so they were stuck,” said the woman who did not wish to be identified.
When the Post inquired SSP Bhim Prasad Dhakal, chief of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, about the authorities decision to stop the buses, he said the decision had come from the higher authority.
“We also found out that the Biratnagar city office had not coordinated with the central government before sending the passengers,” he said.
Pokharel, the chief administrative officer of Biratnagar city office, however claimed that the local administration office in Kathmandu was already aware about the arrival of the passengers.
“We had even sent the names and details of the passengers to Kathmandu,” Pokharel said.
Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said the task of returning the stranded people did not fall under the jurisdiction of the city.
“This problem has to be addressed by the federal government,” Dangol said.
The Post made numerous attempts to contact the Chief District Officer of Kathmandu for a comment, but he could not be reached.
Ever since the government enforced a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 24, thousands of people, most of them daily wage earners, have left the Kathmandu Valley.
According to the records maintained by the Biratnagar city office, ninety-four people have returned from Kathmandu during the lockdown.
Deb Rai, driver of one of the buses that brought the passengers from Biratnagar, said all the bus drivers were given travel passes.
“Nobody stopped us on the way until we reached Nagdhunga. Only those passengers whose relatives came to pick them up and the relatives of security personnel were allowed to go. Among the people who have been stranded are elderly people who cannot walk,” Rai told the Post.
Before leaving, each bus was decontaminated and the passengers were outfitted with gloves and masks by the city of Biratnagar.
“We never stopped, let alone troubled the passengers coming from Kathmandu. We had hoped for a similar gesture from the authorities in Kathmandu,” Pokharel said.