By Aashish Mishra Kathmandu, Aug. 19:It was 8 o’clock in the evening and Krishna Chhetri was getting dressed for office. His shift starts at 10 pm but he was hurrying to leave because he has to walk five kilometres from his home in Sorakhutte, Kathmandu to his workplace in Chuchchepati, something that takes him around an hour and five minutes.
The 39-year-old who works as a night watchman at a bank does have a motorcycle but he cannot use it because of the restrictions on vehicular movement after 8 pm. “So, it’s either walking or staying at home but the latter isn’t an option,” said the father of two.
It is a similar story for 19-year-old Tulasa Ranjit too. She clerks at a department store in Gwarko, Lalitpur from 3 pm to 9 pm and because of the restrictions, has to walk more than 30 minutes to her house in Nakhipot. “Walking at night makes me feel unsafe and I am also physically exhausted by the time I reach home. But what else can I do when there are no vehicles allowed on the road!” she exclaimed. In order to stem the spread of the coronavirus and control the rising infection rates, the three District Administration Offices of Kathmandu decided last week to ban all non-essential public and private vehicles from the valley’s roads after 8 pm till August 24. This has made it difficult for night-shift employees to get to and return from work, said Yugesh Sharma. Sharma is a self-employed janitor who travels to several offices at
night to clean them, carry out maintenance works and make them ready for the next day. “I move around all night between destinations which are far apart to do my work,” he said. “Before the night-time prohibition, I used to drive my van and manage eight to ten offices a night. Now, since I have to walk, I can’t cover more than two.” Sharma further added, “Without the van, I can only take as many tools as I can carry in my bag. This means that I have to leave many tasks incomplete. All this curtails my income which was just starting to recover after the quasi-lockdown of earlier this year.”
Chhetri is also worried about his finances. “Walking to the office every night is not feasible. For instance, I will not be able to walk such a long distance when I am sick or when it is raining heavily. So, I will be forced to take leave which will ultimately diminish my pay.”
The night-shift workers that The Rising Nepal talked to feel that the administration should make exceptions for those who are commuting to or from workplaces. “We can be asked to show proof or have our offices write formal letters detailing our shift hours. A blanket ban is quite unreasonable,” Ranjit exclaimed. “I know we are in the middle of a perilous pandemic but it seems that the authorities introduce restrictive provisions while doing nothing to minimise the pain and suffering those provisions unwittingly cause,” Chhetri complained.