Capital

Rickshaws make most of acute fuel shortage

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Oct 6, 2015-At a time when the country is reeling under acute shortage of petroleum products due to India’s unofficial trade embargo, business has never been so brisk for rickshaw drivers.

The rickshaw drivers have seen their business shoot up in recent times, specially after their stagnant days following the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks.

According to the drivers, they have been making upto Rs4,000 a day ever since the petroleum fiasco grappled the nation. “I could possibly make more at this time. But since it requires heavy labour, I am not in the physical condition to work for long shifts,” said Bahadur Lama, 41, waiting for passengers in Sundhara.

With rickshaws not allowed on main roads due to traffic hassles, they were usually seen plying their trade on narrow alleys of Paropakar, Indra Chowk, Asan, Jamal, Khichapokhari and Thamel. But with the dearth of petroleum products, these rickshaws can now regularly be seen around main city roads such as the airport area, Koteshwor, Baneshwor and Kalanki ferrying passengers.

“As the traffic has come down, we are now free to go anywhere,” said Lama, who starts his business at 7 am and goes back home at 6pm.

“Even though we all are suffering, us rickshaw drivers have some respite with the money we are making,” added Lama, who hails from Kavrepalanchok district. He has been ferrying passengers from the airport to Kalanki and from Thamel to the airport. “I charge maximum Rs 1,500 and minimum Rs 250,” said Lama.

Rickshaw drivers who had quit the profession after the earthquake, in lure of the current situation, have also once again started pulling their tricycles. “But people still fear to ride in the inner parts of Asan, Indrachowk and Thamel because of the debris and cracked houses in the narrow roads,” said another rickshaw puller Mangal Lama, 62, from Bafal. He too admits that his business is thriving as he is not restricted to a single route and with an ever increasing number of people preferring rickshaws.

However, passengers who cannot find rickshaws are compelled to ride on over-crowded public vehicles and pay exuberant taxi fees.

Priyanka Agrawal, who had come to shop at the Civil Mall, was about to ride a rickshaw from Sundhara. “A taxi asked me to pay Rs600 till Tahachal, but this rickshaw is willing to go for only Rs250,” said the girl, a travel agent at Hyatt Regency.

According to Akhil Nepal Krantikari Rickshaw Majdur Sang (ANKRMS), all 472 rickshaw drivers working in the Capital are well busy with their business now. Following the earthquake, over five dozen of people had left the occupation after facing difficulties in finding passengers. Over half a dozen rickshaws were destroyed in and around Kasthamandap by the devastating quake.

Tika Parel, central chairperson of ANKRMS, urged the government to promote rickshaws in the Valley for its cost effectiveness and its benefit to the environment. “People are now using rickshaws as it is cheaper than taxi. This can be a good alternative to vehicles since we will not have to depend on India for petroleum products.

Published: 06-10-2015 09:02

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