Geeta Gurung likes her job, but loathes the amount of time she needs to spend to get to work in the morning and then back in the afternoon.
The public transport system in Kathmandu is neither efficient nor safe, complains Gurung, a receptionist by profession. The microbus are crammed with people day in and day out.
"Standing up, we need to cling on to whatever we can get hold of on the buses that more often than not, are over-speeding," adds the 27-year-old. Gurung is one of the thousands of people living and working in the capital who find daily commuting unreliable and dangerous at times.
"For people like us who don't earn enough to afford an apartment flat inside the ring road, travelling to work is a big ordeal. As the buses do not have a fixed schedule, we are sometimes very late for work and sometimes reach our workplace way ahead of time," says Hari Mahat, a bank teller by profession."
There is no queue system at pickup points. The young and the able-bodied hustle their way in and the frail and the elderly keep waiting for hours, especially during the peak hours, he adds.
Saroj Sitaula, treasurer at National Transport Entrepreneurs Federation of Nepal, agrees that passengers are facing difficulties in their daily commute. But bus operators are not the only ones to blame, he says. "The passengers are always in a hurry. They do not even want to wait for a few minutes. They even ready to put their own and other people's lives at risk."
"We cannot do anything to stop bus operators from ferrying passengers beyond the vehicle's capacity," a Traffic Police official said on condition of anonymity. "The law is such that vehicles that cover a distance less than 20 Km can ferry passengers beyond their capacity, provided the door is slam shut."
DSP Pawan Giri, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police Department disagrees. "It is illegal to ferry passengers beyond the limit stated in the vehicle's bill book," he says. "However we have not been able to implement the law due to resistance from the bus operators. But, this does not mean that buses can allow passengers to travel on rooftops. We are also cracking down on buses that stop for passengers wherever they want."
"Government officials are responsible for making the public stand in queues to board the bus," say transport operators passing the buck to Traffic police, which officials say is already stretched thin.
"Traffic police personnel are spending more than 12 hours a day on the road. They are already doing a plethora of things such as cleaning the drainage, cutting down over-grown trees -- just to make traffic movement smooth. Even if we did deploy personnel to make people stand in queues, they will stop doing so if police personnel are not around," adds DSP Giri.
Divided on who is to blame for the state of public transport in the Capital, passengers, transporters and officials agree that commuting in the city is becoming difficult by the day. They also have solutions to offer.
Transport association Treasurer Sitaula says changing office hours in the government and governmental sectors could help reduce stress on the transportation system. "The public transports are crammed with people only during the morning and evening rush hours. Other times buses are running with only a handful of passengers on board."
DSP Giri says the whole urban culture needs to be changed to make the transport system safe. "The public should act responsibly and respect others rights as well. Until this happens, things will not improve, regardless of the efforts we put in."
Geeta on her part states that all she wants is that bus operators treat passengers 'humanely'. "Would they treat their own mother or sister the way they treat us," she asks. "Well there were re "Well, media reports say the government is preparing to build a metro system for the city. I am hoping against hope that the metro system will be operational in ten years commuting would become easier." nepalnews.com