It is an everyday scene. A crowd of passengers stands at the edge of the footpath along the Nepal Airlines Cooperation (NAC) building, gazing fixedly in the evening light at microbuses coming from Sahid Gate.
Their sole purpose is to catch a microbus home. But the way the passengers jostle to get on the microbus, catching a ride is nothing less than a battle.
The moment a microbus arrives, the passengers rush to it and scramble all out to get inside.
Though the conductor tries to make way for disembarking passengers, hardly anyone listens. They just keep pushing against those struggling to get out.
“There is not a single day I have commuted comfortably in a microbus in peak hour. It doesn´t matter whether you get a seat or not, your hassle will not be any less,” said Sangita Devkota, who commutes between Dhapasi and Sundhara. On Wednesday evening, she had already waited for an hour to catch her microbus.
She said passengers can neither sit nor stand comfortably as the microbuses are already overcrowded when they arrive. “Secondly, even though the microbus is already crammed with people, the conductor never stops squeezing in more passengers. It makes commuting a daily agony but what other option do we have,” she lamented.
Hundreds of passengers commuting by microbus face similar hardships. Women passengers report sexual harassment. But the government has paid no attention to the festering problem.
According to the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE), there are currently 1,200 microbuses in Kathmandu Valley. And around 900 microbuses operate on a regular basis. This, according to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD), is less than required for the total number of passengers commuting by microbus on a regular basis.
The microbuses commute from RNAC to numerous localities, including Chhauni, Halchowk, Swyambhu, Balaju, Banasthali, Chabahil, Dhapasi, Boudha, Jorpati, Purano Baneshwor, Sinamangal, Maharajgunj, Bhatbhateni, Dhumbarahi, New Baneshwor, Koteshwor, Mangalbazar, Gwarko, Budhanilkantha, Tokha, Kapan, Kalimati and Kalanki.
“Compared to the population of daily commuters, the number of microbuses is low, and so passengers have been facing the squeeze,” said SP Basanta Kumar Panta, spokesperson of MTPD.
He said at least 1,500 microbuses need to ply the roads of the Valley every day to ease the crowding.