It was a already a mesmerizing journey on the first day. Getting to travel on the roof of a public transport was a dream come true to me, and I was very much enjoying the scenery of Kathmandu, the travelers’ wonderful tales and the fresh air, which to be honest, I would have never known had I been sitting inside of the bus.
Even though the air in Kathmandu is not quite that fresh due to the dust from incomplete road constructions, there was still a feeling of joy and excitement in viewing the Capital city from every angle possible, with no one blocking my ability to see the magnificent view. The roads were merely occupied by the vehicles and the gust of cold air entering me provided a sensational feeling. After nearly half an hour of the rooftop ride, I finally reached my destination and the backstairs of the vehicle helped me down. Even with all the dust and pollution, there was still a glorious smile on my face, which usually only appear when I achieve something victorious, or something I had been dreaming of.
The next day, I had to attend a meeting with the people of the Rotary club and I was getting pretty late. I only had about 15 minutes before the club assembly started, and I couldn’t wait any longer to get a seat or a decent place to stand. There came a bus, filled with passengers inside and some were already on the roof. Since there was not enough space inside the bus, my instincts told me to take the rooftop ride once again. But this time there was not that mesmerizing feeling about it, as I remembered looking at myself in the mirror the day before and I knew that this five minutes journey was going to make me look really, really dirty. I dropped immediately at the stop and was extremely upset that my day didn’t start the way I expected. My appearance didn’t suit the place where I was going, and I wished that it would never happen again in my life.
The Indian Embargo
The same routine continued everyday, and even today I had to face the same problem and I see no escape from it. It’s not just a day or two that this problem is present, and I’m not the only one facing this inevitable scenario. A bus with a capacity to accommodate 40 people is now averaging 60-70 passengers, not because of greed, but because of the present situation in the country. Where I live, there used to be a bus almost every second minute, but that’s in the past. Due to the acute shortage of fuel, it takes at least 5-6 minutes for a vehicle to arrive once one has passed, and everyday, the number of vehicles running is decreasing as the Raxaul (Primary India-Nepal border) is still blocked and the Nepal-China fuel deal is yet to be finalized. In such a situation, the rumors of India trying to oppose the fuel deal is on everyone’s mind, and if this happens, we Nepalese will be the most affected.
The rooftop rides is not the only problem in public transportation due to this shortage of fuel. The number of pickpockets is increasing everyday and physical harassment toward both women and men is also increasing exponentially. Due to the overcrowding inside the vehicle, no one can clearly distinguish anyone else’s hands, or intentions. The pickpockets, who are clever enough to snatch people’s purses and valuable materials are making good money doing it. Sometimes, the innocent passengers even get embarrassed by the bus drivers for not paying the small fare, without thinking that the poor victims ended up with no money at all after their purses are snatched.
Physical harassment is something we’ve been dealing with in public transportation for a while, and now due to the overcrowded buses, the problems are at an extreme level. Guys touching girls’ private parts, and some girls don’t even seem to notice it most of the times because nowadays, everyone is touching everyone else standing along with them. Somehow, even if the guilty party is caught, the person blames it either to the crowd in the bus or the reckless driving of the driver, so most of them get away with no consequences. This isn’t exclusive to women though, even the men are harassed sometimes and once, I myself have been the victim. But I couldn’t do anything to it because there were at least 7-8 people standing in a bunch around me. I couldn’t clearly distinguish the offender and my primary focus was more to get some fresh air from the window that was open, than to try and notice who was trying to be naughty with me.
Everyday, in newspapers and news channels, we often hear about fatal bus accidents, and that too is really unfortunate. People are losing their life by, electrocuted by jumbled up wires between the poles, falling down from the micro bus along with its sliding door, crashing with another bus that was loaded so heavily that the brakes couldn’t even stop the vehicle in time. People are still facing fuel crisis issues due to the Madhes Protest, which is not allowing the Raxaul to open up again. On top of that, the black fuel market is at its peak. People are paying much higher rates to get fuel for their vehicles. Gas that normally costs $1.04 per liter now goes for up to $10 a liter, and some people are not even able to get any at all. In this critical situation, the average cost of petrol has reached an average of $3.50 per liter on the black market, and there is no guarantee that the fuel you receive is pure enough to smoothly run your bikes or cars. Tarpin and other materials are mixed in the fuel, which causes engine failures, engine start problems and ultimately causing the vehicle’s engine to stop working, so much so that the number of bikes and cars in garages have increased significantly. While the income streams are either the same or even contracting, the expenditures have expanded up to three times and the purchasing power of the Nepalese people is going down drastically.
While citizens are facing such an immense problem, the government still doesn’t seem to take it seriously. Sometimes all we can do is blame the government, and demand action. People are even becoming suspicious of the government’s ability and intentions as we hear that fuel is entering the country almost everyday, but the petrol pumps at gas stations are still closed. This puts the whole blame on the government, and they have to account for all the incoming fuel and provide it to the citizens, which is basically not happening in the present context.
If this fuel crisis is to continue for the next few months, the day might come when people will literally fight with each other to get in the a bus as if they were winning the lottery. The problem has to end as soon as possible and the government needs to do something about it, or all Nepalese will suffer the consequences.
We really have suffered enough from last year’s devastating earthquake, and we are in no condition to bear the brunt of this fuel crisis, it would be the worst thing that can happen to us.