Bhaktapur, Apr. 2: Bus stops along the Araniko Highway still see crowds of people seeking a way to escape from the Kathmandu Valley despite the direction of the government to stay indoors. The Araniko Highway that passes through Bhaktapur and Kavre is used to reach Sindhupalchwok, Sindhuli, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Khotang as well as the districts of the eastern and central Terai. Most people who had come to the valley from various districts and were working as taxi drivers, factory workers, labourers in brick kilns, and daily wage earners were found seeking ways to escape the valley after the extension of lockdown period. They complained that it was useless to stay in the valley as they did not have any source of income.
Pravu Tamang of Sindhuli district, who was at bus station of Madhyapur Thimi, said he was willing to go to his village with family rather than stay in Kathmandu without work. “Who will give us food during this crisis in this city; at least we will not face shortage of food and shelter in the village,” Tamang said. He was waiting for any bus that could carry him up to his village or at least up to Banepa. “From Banepa, I will manage another one,” he added. According to Traffic Police In-charge of Bhaktapur district Suman Neupane, the long route vehicles have stopped plying since Tuesday. The vehicle passes have only been given to three districts – Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu - for an emergency purpose from Tuesday but issuing passes to the long route vehicles was stopped for now till further decision. Earlier, in coordination with the Chief District Offices, the vehicle passes were given to a few buses to carry people who were willing to go to their villages, he said. Those working in the brick kilns and daily wage workers were allowed to go to their villages until Monday, he informed. The traffic police office in Bhaktapur is going round all the time to inspect the situation, and if anyone is found not following the order, they will be punished, Neupane said. Binod Bhasima of Nishchal Medical Hall near Madhyapur Thimi said he had seen three-four buses on Tuesday carrying passengers. He said that he was opening his medical shop daily to serve people who are in need and had seen crowds of people getting in the buses mostly in the evening time. Rishi Ram Dhungel, Traffic Police personnel at Thimi Traffic Office, said that people were still crowding the bus stops even after the direction of the government to stay at home. Around 100 to 150 people are leaving the valley from Bhaktapur, mostly for nearby districts like Sindhupalchwok, Dolakha and Kavre, he said. Vehicles are carrying passengers exceeding their seat capacity, he informed. Shanti Limbu, who was waiting for a bus to Kavre, said that she had been waiting for half an hour. She said she wanted to go home as her children were already there. As a worker at a garment factory, it is hard for her to stay in the valley without any earning. “My remaining money has finished, I don’t know what will happen if I stay here,” she said with a sad face. Staying in the valley is not easy for daily wage earning workers and low-income people. The village is their first choice when they face any difficulties during the time of crisis.