Less than three weeks to go for Dashain, but bus operators yet to start pre-booking ticketsAround two million people left the Valley during the festival last year, this year the number is expected to drop to less than 700,000, according to Metropolitan Traffic Police Division.
With less than three week to go for Ghatasthapana, which marks the start of Dashain, bus operators are still reluctant to start taking reservation orders fearing that fewer passengers will leave Kathmandu for the festivities than during the pre-Covid days.
The rapid spike of Covid-19 in Kathmandu has kept the public in a constant fear for their free movements even in the prior to the festive season.
“We are still not sure whether to start pre-booking of tickets,” said Yogendra Karmacharya, president of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs.
“We are thinking of waiting for one more week to see if passengers want to get out of town. I think that this time, we won’t need to have pre-bookings as many people are unwilling to go out due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” added Karmacharya.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, Kathmandu Valley recorded 724 new infections between Friday and Saturday. Of them, 583 were confirmed in Kathmandu, 78 in Lalitpur and 63 in Bhaktapur districts.
As of Saturday, the number of cases in the Valley has reached 20,698. A total of 18,200 cases were detected after the three district administration offices in the Valley imposed prohibitory orders starting August 19 midnight.
Until last year, a festive mood would grip Kathmandu weeks before Dashain with people going out in large numbers for shopping, and bus operators adding buses to their fleet to take passengers out of the Valley. Bus counters at Naya Bus Park, Kalanki, Gaushala, Koteshwor, Sundhara and Balkhu would also be brimming with people.
But this year, most people have chosen to stay home due to the pandemic.
“If you go to your village, there is a risk of transmission of the disease. There are rumors that the government will impose a lockdown during the festival,” said Sushila Neupane, 37, who runs a grocery shop in Lagankhel.
“What if the government imposed the lockdown when I am out of the Valley? What if I am stuck there?” said Neupane, who is from Chitwan.
Gogan Hamal, director general at the Department of Transport Department, said the department does not know anything on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division said less than 700,000 people are expected to leave Kathmandu to celebrate Dashain this year compared to over two million last year.
According to the division's report, over 500,000 people left the Valley two weeks preceding the first lockdown that was enforced from March 24. Tens of thousands of working class people also left the Valley on foot.
“Only 10 percet of them might have returned to Kathmandu,” said SP Rameshwor Yadav, also the spokesperson for the division.
Ever since the government reopened long-haul buses on September 18, only 102,500 people have left the Valley. “This is a small number, which is unlikely to grow during Dashain this time,” said Yadav.