Traffic police in Kathmandu stop motorists for flouting lockdown despite relaxation on restrictionsOver 12,000 motorists were booked for lockdown violation on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, Raju Magar took out his motorcycle and rode towards Lalitpur to meet his friend. But as he reached Singhdurbar from his room in Gongabu, he was stopped by traffic officers. The keys to his motorcycle were seized by one of the officers.
The 35-year-old was told that he was riding his two-wheeler during the lockdown.
The officers seemingly were unaware of the Wednesday evening’s decision of the government to ease the lockdown.
“I had literally gone mad staying in my room for over two and a half months. After the government’s decision to relax the lockdown, I decided to go meet my friend, but the traffic officers seized my bike,” Magar told the Post.
The government’s decision to ease the lockdown regulations was covered by all the print, broadcast and online media. Still, the traffic police in Kathmandu seized hundreds of vehicles, mostly two-wheelers, for flouting the lockdown orders throughout Thursday.
Simrika Karki, a resident of Shantinagar, was stopped by the traffic officers in New Baneshwor. The officers who seized her scooter did not listen to her when she told her that the government had decided to ease the lockdown the previous evening.
“I was visiting my 90-year-old grandmother who lives in Bafal with my uncle, but the traffic officers confiscated my scooter in Naya Baneshwor,” the 27-year-old told the Post.
The traffic officers did not allow her to ride her scooter any further despite her telling them that the lockdown had been relaxed. Karki eventually returned home.
“This was my first day outside my house after nearly three months. I decided to visit my grandmother after I read the news about the relaxation on lockdown,” Karki said. “I don’t know why the government’s decision was not implemented.”
According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division office, over 12,000 private vehicle owners, mostly two-wheeler riders, were booked on Thursday for flouting the lockdown.
The officers deployed on traffic duty in the city streets were either unaware or confused about the government’s decision.
“Government has not made an official decision, so we have booked those vehicles that do not have passes,” SSP Bhim Prasad Dhakal, chief of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, told the Post.
The number of vehicles out in the streets of Kathmandu was considerably higher on Thursday. But in some parts of the city, traffic officers were still booking the motorists for travelling without the passes issued by the government.
Karna Jeet Thapa, a constable who was on traffic duty in the Ason, was trying hard to limit the traffic in the area that was suddenly teeming with people and vehicles after months of inactivity. He was stopping the motorists and asking for passes because he had not received any orders from the higher-ups about the latest decision of the government.
“I am just trying to clear the congestion. I have been trying to stop private vehicles which do not have passes, but they say the government has made the decision,” Thapa said. “But I have been ordered by my seniors to stop those motorists who do not have passes.”
The country has been under a lockdown since March 24 to contain the spread of Covid-19. But the restrictions which have been going on for over two and half months have severely affected the lives of ordinary citizens. Low-income working class people, daily wage workers and small business owners have been hardly hit.
As the public frustration caused by the protracted lockdown spilled onto the streets in the form of protests and rallies in Kathmandu and other parts of the country, the KP Shara Oli government on Wednesday announced the phase-wise easing of the lockdown.
But the traffic police in Kathmandu were still trying to enforce the lockdown restrictions on vehicles on Thursday, which suggests communication breakdown between the government and its agencies.
“Had the government not decided to ease the lockdown, I wouldn’t have come out of my home. The government says one thing and the traffic police are doing the opposite. It’s always the public who suffer,” Karki, who was turned away by traffic officers at Naya Baneshwor, said.