By Keshabraj Poudel, Kathmandu, Sept. 25: In the previous years, Prakash Dahal, a transport entrepreneur, used to be busy from the month of August.
With 20 public transport vehicles of his companies, Dahal used to manage transportation services from Kathmandu to different districts of Terai on a daily basis.
As the transportation business used to thrive especially before the Dashain, Dahal's family members would help him in issuing tickets and managing his business.
Dahal has opened a ticket counter each in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Banepa and they all would be crowded with passengers before Dashain.
But this year, his business has dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not even a single ticket has been issued from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Banepa-based counters until now.
Even though the government permitted the resumption of long-route transportation services, all the ticket counters have worn a deserted look.
Dahal, who was hopeful that his business would resume after the end of lockdown, has not been able to operate even one bus post lockdown.
Yogendranath Karmacharya, President of the Federation of Nepali National Transport Entrepreneurs, said that for this year, they had not thought about pre-booking for long-route vehicles yet.
"The vehicles are compelled to run empty. I think pre-booking will not be needed this year," said Karmacharya.
The federation has not reached any conclusion about pre-booking service, he added.
"Due to the lack of passengers, the majority of long-route vehicles are not able even to cover the fuel cost. The decision about pre-booking will be taken on the basis of the number of passengers using public transportation services within a week," said Karmacharya.
In the previous years, over two million people used to leave the Valley during Dashain.
But this year, buses en route to Kanchanpur are carrying only 10 passengers, he added.
Not only the long-route vehicles, those moving within the Valley are also facing the same problem.
"Even though we are providing services in lesser fare than prescribed by the government, the passengers aren’t willing to use public transportation amid COVID-19 scare," said president Karmacharya.
Currently, around 305,000 public vehicles are in operation in Nepal of which, over 100,000 are long route vehicles, said Rabi Rimal, general secretary of the federation.
Rimal said that most of the long route vehicles had not come into operation yet.
"The passengers will not be able to afford a 50 per cent increase in transportation fare. The drivers and conductors of long route vehicles are able to manage their food with the collected fare. The entrepreneurs themselves have to bear the fuel cost," said Rimal.
"I think the public transportation services will not come into operation this year," Rimal added.