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Senior citizens’ protest for concession in public transport continues

NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, May 11: It´s been more than two months since some elderly people started protest demanding that they be given concession in public transports as guaranteed by the Senior Citizens Act, 2006.

As per the act, anyone who is 60 years old or above is entitled to a 50 percent discount in public transports. The Supreme Court has also issued a mandamus to the government agencies to ensure the rights of elderly people.

A group of senior citizens have been staging sit-in to put pressure on the government to implement the same provision.

However, no government officials have come forward to offer them even sympathy. Instead, they were harassed by the police some 15 days ago for staging protest.
Dhana Maya Sunar, 68, started visiting the Department of Transport Management every day with a hope that the government officials would someday address the problem.

Sunar lives along with her husband in Jadibuti, Kathmandu, whereas her three sons have been living separately. She shared that though people notice aged people traveling in public transport miserably, they rarely bother to vacate seats for them.

While participating in the protest, around half a dozen elderly fell ill because of pollution and scorching heat.

Goma Tiwari, 63, suffered from nausea, vomiting and joint pain.

Tiwari has been living with her family in the squatter settlement on the bank of Manahara for the last 13 years. Her 68 years old husband is a shaman, whereas the sons are laborers.

“We have become old and desire to visit holy places. But we cannot afford transport fares as they are too high,” she said, adding, “If I and my husband decide to visit Budhanilkantha, we´ll have to spend more than Rs 100 in two-way fare. I have not even visited even the temples in the Kathmandu Valley as whatever my sons earn is just enough to meet our daily expenses and my grandchildren´s education,” said Tiwari.

Chairperson of Himalaya Old Age Home Sarala Panthi was injured along with other elderly during the police intervention against the sit-in program.

“Security personnel used abusive words and told me that I should not support the elderly as I am not old,” said Panthi, who is 43 years old.

According to her, the police also warned her to stay away from the protest site. “Despite the threats, I went to the protest site but things haven´ changed,” she said.
The only time government representative paid them a visit during their two months protest was on the same day of the police intervention. The Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Chhabi Raj Panta and the government secretary Tulasi Prasad Sitaula had visited them following the clash.

Though the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division is currently monitoring the implementation of reserved seats in public vehicles in the Valley, the condition in the rest of the country is pathetic, said Purushottam Tiwari, 64, of Bhaktapur, another participant of the protest.

Chairperson of the struggle committee Maha Prasad Parajuli claimed that the DoTM officials behaved rudely with them saying that their protest was useless.
The population of senior citizens who are dependent on their children is growing in the country, said Parajuli.

As per the National Census 2011, people who are 65 or above represent 8 percent of the country´s population.

Likewise, of the total population of the Kathmandu Valley, 6 percent are above 60 years of age.

However, the DoTM officials said that it was not possible for them to implement the concession rule as most almost all the public transports in the country are run by private entrepreneurs.

There are around 25,000 public vehicles in the country including 15,000 in the Bagmati zone alone.

“We have several times directed the transport entrepreneurs to provide discounts to the passengers who show senior citizen card,” said the DoTM Director Chandra Phuyal.

The geriatric community is also preparing to go on hunger strike if their demands remain unaddressed by May 5. “Our relay hunger strike will be followed by fast-unto-death if our demands remained unheard,” added Parajuli.

The youth volunteers also joined hands with the elderly people. A group of students of Trichandra College are accompanying the elderly people in the protests since Monday.

Meanwhile, the Transport Entrepreneurs have said that they are not in a position to give 50 percent discount to the senior citizens.

“Had the government said that the discount be given to people who are 70 years of age or above, we would have happily accepted it,” said Dharma Rimal, chairman of the Bagmati chapter of the Federation of Nepalese Transport Entrepreneurs (FNTE).

He added that the public vehicle entrepreneurs had earlier proposed with the DoTM to be flexible on vehicle tax. The entrepreneurs are currently paying 300 percent in tax for the vehicles that are imported from India or other foreign countries.

Rimal further claimed that the entrepreneurs are “serving” the low profit business as they are already providing 33 percent discount to students.

Source: Republica Daily
Published on 2013-05-11 07:00:04
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About nirjanasharma

Journalist.

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