The transportation has been completely halted in Dolpa district since the government imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 24, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, people are facing hardship to travel from one place to another. Most of the places are beyond the access of public transport. However, some are in limited access. Meanwhile, transport entrepreneurs are found arbitrarily charging fare from passengers. Mainly, jeep operators are charging high fares to passengers taking the benefit of lockdown these days. The jeep passengers travelling to and from the district headquarters, Dunai, from various places in the district are compelled to pay high fare. It is said that the locals in the district are paying high fares for short distance as they have no alternative to travelling by paying high fare.
The jeep operators along the road section from Dunai-Supani, Supani-Dunai, Dunai-Jufal and Jufal-Dunai are charging high fares. Locals complained that they were paying Rs 1,600 per head to and from Dunai though it’s short distance. Bharun Sarki of Tripurasundari-1 complained that they were paying the amount for a jeep ride on only 14 kilometers distance whereas the fare is Rs 150 per person for the same distance in Terai. The district administration office has permitted to travel three passengers in a single vehicle maintaining social distancing. But the transport entrepreneurs are found carrying six passengers violating the DAO directives, said another local Ramesh Pariyar. He added that they were travelling by paying Rs 350 for the same distance before the lockdown but now transport operators are charging fare arbitrarily. Traffic police annoyed
The unruly and rowdy behaviour of jeep drivers have caused nuisance to one and all in Dolpa including the traffic police personnel. They arbitrarily ply their vehicle on the road and hardly comply with the traffic rules. When the traffic police attempt to take action against them for violating the traffic rules, they tend to get annoyed and harshly retaliate instead, said one of the traffic personnel in Dolpa. “It’s very difficult to work in Dolpa. According to the rule, we can not allow public vehicles to operate but the private vehicles have been allowed to ply the road on the even-odd number plate basis since the lockdown was eased.” He further shared that vehicle with red number plate (private ones) have been providing public services in Dolpa right under the nose of the traffic police. He explained, “The drivers have been charging exorbitantly with the passengers. We try and convince them to charge a fair fare fixed by the stakeholders but to no avail.” He expressed his dismay that when they try to take action against such unruly drivers, the drivers make the local people’s representatives intervene on their behalf and pile pressure on the traffic police to exempt them from facing action. CDO of Dolpa Suresh Sunar said that they will soon hold discussion about exorbitant fare and take necessary action.
The locals opine that they were forced to pay expensive fare because of the government employees in Dolpa. According to them, the government employees reserve the vehicle and offer a handsome price for the service. The jeep drivers are thus more eager to ferry government employees instead of commoners. An employee pays Rs 4000 to Rs 5000 to reserve a jeep, according to the vehicle entrepreneurs here. The local government and District Administration Office are overlooking the ongoing situation, complain locals. Civic Society Dolpa’s Chairperson Sher Bahadur Budha shared that Tripura Sundari Municipality, Thulibheri Municipality and local administration have not been tightening the noose against the erring jeep drivers. Although a fix fare has been prepared for different routes and stations, due to its lax implementation the locals are forced to pay through their nose.