Monday, 29 November, 2021

Unfair Fares

Bini Dahal

Two weeks into physical classes and I cannot help but let out a big sigh. Waking up too early in a chilly morning is not even that much of a concern. Rather paying extra bus fare is. It took me multiple trips back and forth, college and home, a few newspaper articles and friends to realise I was paying more than the required amount of bus fare. I was well aware of the government raising the price of petrol and diesel. So, obviously, the public transport stakeholders would not keep quiet about this situation.

But the way the fare is set is really ambiguous in nature. Based on kilometers covered by the public bus, the fare has been set in amounts ranging from Rs. 18. However, we cannot easily pay this amount as people use more paper notes than coins. And also, banknote denominations of Rs. 1 and Rs. 2 have been discontinued. So, people have no option but to pay Rs. 20 and not get back the changes as well.

None will say anything on this -- neither the passenger nor the government or other concerned stakeholders. This is a big profit for the bus operators and a loss for the general public. A question arises: if buses charge more, why cannot passengers try paying less? Obviously, this is just an imagination. With the government being apathetic towards the matter, the bus operators are busy doing whatever they want. Also, the whole situation has become so much that passengers fear for clashing with the bus drivers and helpers. So, instead of wasting their energy, they just pay whatever is demanded.

Online news reports have presented how 80 per cent of passengers are victims of this fraudulency daily. On a daily basis, some two million passengers don’t get back Rs. 2. Small drops make ocean and this way, as much as Rs 1.46 billion can be easily stripped off the passengers annually.
When I have a conversation on how much I pay for the bus fee, I get told a lot for being too innocent and not arguing with the conductor. It’s not like I have not tried. I used to argue a lot and had to face the wrath and rough words of the bus helpers. Being fearless, using bad words, and arguing -- that too for Rs. 2. The bus helpers do not have the change to give back. But in the name of price hike, they unilaterally demand more from passengers.

And the whole idea of charging passengers based on the kilometers travelled might be a great idea. But who will look into this? The frustration is so high. Recently, during Dashain, my cousin sister blessed me with a wish to get both the scooter and car driving license. Despite being a scared cat, the unfair nature of public transportation is forcing me to think that I should truly excel driving for my own good.

If this kind of activity continues, maybe the Dashain blessing will come true for me. But again Kathmandu’s traffic jams and rash driving ways are a story of their own. The frustrating cycle seems to have no end. This is why I sometimes wish I had a transportable house. I could place it in the university area or workplace and reach my destination without any hassle.