National

Dashain bookings start after nod to fare hike

- ARPAN SHRESTHA, CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Sep 23, 2018-

The annual pre-holiday bookings, which had been stuck in a loop of fallouts between the government and the protesting Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs Association, made headway on Saturday evening after the government decided to increase public transport fares by 10 percent.

According to Department of Transport Management (DoTM) Spokesperson Gokarna Prasad Upadhyaya, the meeting held at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport with federation representatives decided to hike fares. The meeting also decided to form a committee to review and report on systematic fare adjustment for public transport within two months.

Securing tickets to visit home for some three million Nepalis who leave Kathmandu Valley for Dashain has always been cumbersome. One might even fetch a ticket, often at exorbitant black market prices, and on the day of departure discover that the ticket didn’t guarantee a seat.

This year, pre-holiday bookings had been uncertain as the protesting transporters’ federation demanded that the government unfreeze their bank accounts and adjust the fares in view of rising fuel prices.

On Saturday afternoon, the confusion over advance travel booking was clearly visible at the New Bus Park in Gongabu. Ticket counters opened as usual. Most counters had even set up banners, announcing pre-bookings and people were making inquiries for tickets.

Friends Prem Bahadur Chaudhary and Surya Bahadur Chaudhary, originally from Bardiya, were among the many people at the bus park on Saturday, to secure tickets to ride home.

“I’m here to book my tickets on time or I won’t make it home for the festival. It’s a long way,” said Prem. “If we are late, we won’t get any tickets,” his friend Surya Bahadur added.

After hopping several counters and making inquiries, both Prem and Surya, who are visiting home after five months, eventually got tickets to Bardiya, their home district in the Far West.

For many Nepalis like Prem and Surya and others who have migrated to the Capital to make a living, pursue education and new opportunities, advance booking is supposed to make things easier so that they can return home for Dashain celebrations, and enjoy some downtime with family and friends but the struggle is real.

After several fallouts, the protesting entrepreneurs on September 16 struck an agreement with the government but uncertainty loomed the next day when the government hiked fuel prices.

The FNNTEA, which had been demanding readjustment of fares prior to the agreement, retracted its decision to open the bookings.

But on Saturday, ticket counters of private transport companies and a few other committees including some of the protesting parties, were open for business and most counters were selling tickets discreetly.

“Advance booking is open for eastern cities,” said Metro Yatayat Pvt Ltd representative Pushparaj Paneru, whose company had four buses departing for Kakarbhitta, Dharan and Biratnagar. Another company, Naya Nepal Yatayat Pvt Ltd was also selling tickets for Dharan and Kakarbhitta.

Purva Paschim Bus Byabasayi Sangh’s counter was selling tickets for Nepalgunj and other western parts of the country.

According to DoTM Spokesperson Upadhyaya, 1,815 tickets were sold on the first day.

Published: 23-09-2018 07:49

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