Taxi drivers launch protest against restrictionsValley cabbies accuse the government of doing injustice to them and their families.
Taxi drivers in Kathmandu Valley have launched a protest to exert pressure on the government to allow them to operate their business.
On Wednesday, they staged a sit-in outside the Department of Transport Management Office in Minbhawan, Kathmandu.
They have warned of intensifying their protest if their demand is not addressed.
“Taxi drivers and their families have been severely hit by the lockdown. Many of them are going through difficult times as the government has not allowed taxis to operate,” said Surya Tamang, chairperson at Taxi Majdur Sangh, an organisation of taxi drivers..
Many taxi drivers have outstanding vehicle loans and families to look after, but they have not earned anything for over three months.
“The government is doing injustice to the taxi drivers by denying them their livelihood when they need it the most,” Tamang added.
On Tuesday, over 400 taxi drivers had gathered outside the transport department, demanding that the government allow them to operate their taxis.
Ever since the government eased the lockdown from the second week of June, taxi drivers in the Valley have been demanding that they should be allowed to work as well.
“What we have not understood is, does the government really believe that taxis can transfer the coronavirus and not private vehicles?” Tamang said.
The government has lifted the lockdownd restrictions only on private vehicles.
Gogan Bahadur Hamal, director-general at the department, has been reiterating that the department alone does not have the authority to allow taxis to resume their service.
The department officials are said to be in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Population and the Corona Crisis Management Centre for the past one week to address the concern raised by the taxi drivers. However, there has not been any concrete decision from the government side as of Wednesday.
Despite Post's numerous attempts to contact Hamal for a comment, he didn’t respond.
“The government officials have no problem, because they are getting a monthly salary and are living in luxury,” said Dili Tamang, a single mother who has been supporting her family working as a taxi driver. “I have to pay Rs 21,000 as a monthly instalment to the bank. I have not paid the bank for three months now because of the lockdown and I still need to pay the room rent,” she said.
Dili’s plight is shared by hundreds of taxi drivers in the Valley.
“If the government is ready to waive off our loan and provide a relief fund, we are ready to stay at home,” said Dili
Most of the taxi drivers who were protesting outside the transport department office on Wednesday said that their banks and finance companies had been calling them regularly asking them to pay up their monthly instalments which are due for the past three months.
Out of desperation, many taxi drivers in the Valley have started defying the government’s lockdown restrictions and operating their taxis. The authorities, meanwhile, have also stepped up their surveillance to catch errant cabbies.
On Wednesday alone, the traffic police in the Valley booked 316 taxi drivers for violating the lockdownd rules.
“Our duty is to follow the government's rule, and if the transport ministry sends us a letter we are ready to let them operate,” said Bhim Prasad Dhakal, chief at the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division.
The Kathmandu Valley has 12,385 taxis, with 25,000 drivers who have been working in day and night shifts.