In previous years a large number of people used to leave Kathmandu valley to celebrate Dashain in their hometowns. However, the number dropped significantly this year as many people had already left the valley before the lockdown was imposed and most of them have not returned yet as many people are hesitant to travel long distances in public vehicles due to the fear of being infected with the coronavirus.

“Over 2.5 million people used to return to their homes through public vehicles to celebrate Dashain in the previous years but this number was very low this year,” said Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese National Transportation Entrepreneurs.

According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD), around 900,000 people have left the valley since October 17 and 800 people have entered the valley during the same period.

Talking about the dismal state of transport operators, Sitaula mentioned that less than 50 per cent of long-distance vehicles were in operation during Dashain this year and moreover these vehicles too did not receive passengers like in previous years. “Since we have to also spend money on vehicle maintenance, staff and fuel, there was not much profit for transport entrepreneurs this year,” Sitaula added.

“An average of 4,000 public vehicles were operated daily during this year’s festive season while a total of 168 public vehicles were penalised for overcharging passengers,” informed Superintendent of Police Rameshwar Prasad Yadav, spokesperson for MTPD.

Now that Dashain is over, people who had left the valley to celebrate the festival are gradually returning.

According to SP Yadav of MTPD, an average of 20,000 people left and around 17,000 people came to the valley before Dashain whereas an average of 23,000 people are returning to the valley and 21,000 people are leaving daily at present.

Currently, people returning to the valley are more than people leaving, he added.

The scenario is similar for the domestic airline sector too. As per Raj Kumar Chhetri, spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, there are more passengers coming to Kathmandu than those departing.

The number of people arriving started rising from October 28 as soon as the Dashain holidays ended.

“Over 3,000 passengers used to fly out of the valley and only around 2,000 passengers used to come to the valley before Dashain but there has been a reversal in that trend now,” said Chhetri. The number of passengers departing stood at 2,991 and those leaving stood at 2,994 on October 28. However, the number of passengers departing went down to 2,714 while the number arriving increased to 3,673 on October 31.

As per Captain Rameshwar Thapa, president of Airlines Operators Association of Nepal, the flow of passengers this year was pretty good in comparison to last year’s Dashain.

“Although total number of domestic flights decreased as compared to last year, airline operators are satisfied with good occupancy in flights that are in operation.”

“The domestic flights are operating with an average of 90 per cent occupancy at present which is a good figure given the trying times,” said Thapa.

As per Chhetri, there used to be around 250 daily flights in the previous year but now only around 145 daily flights are being operated.

A version of this article appears in print on November 02, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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