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The Resurrection Of Sajha Yatayat

I bet all of us, the post 90’s generation, remember the famous song – “Sajha Bus Ma Jo Pani Chaddacha”, that made popular by comedian cum singer Mr.Haribansha Acharya. Staying true to the interesting lyrics of the song, Sajha Yatayat was indeed once a backbone of the public transportation system in Kathmandu Valley. Sajha Yatayat, a cooperative public transportation organization, was established back in 1961/1962 with a mission to provide affordable and efficient public transportation to the citizens of Kathmandu Valley as well as inter-district travellers. The trademark blue-coloured Isuzu and Mitsubishi buses could be seen running in almost every part of the country. Even my childhood memory is still afresh with the vivid memories of shuttling around in these blue buses. But sadly, over the course of decades, just like most companies run by the government, the massive fleet of 183 buses gradually got reduced to a few ones, thanks to the excessive bureaucratic and administrative turbulence within the organization.

 

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However, in 2003, the company saw some light when the authorities decided to revive it back. Sajha Yatayat sprung back into action. Inter-district public transportation was started under the banner of Sajha Yatayat. In the Kathmandu Valley, 50 buses traversed the route around the Ring-Road. Similarly, 20 inter-district micro-buses also came into operation. In the same time, Sajha Yatayat started bus service from Kathmandu to Lhasa (China) and New Delhi (India) too. But, the company could not continue for a long time yet again and ultimately faced a closedown.

 

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Then come 2011, the Board of Sajha Yatayat along with Nepal Government’s Ministry of Labour and Transport made a strategy to revive this dysfunctional public transportation organization once again. The main reason to revive this organization was to make public transport more affordable and accessible in the context of rapid population growth and urbanization. In the same year, the organization was revived to its genuine cooperative status, with the election of the majority of the Board Members (five out of seven) by election from the general body and two ex-officials from Nepal government’s Department of Road Transportation and Department of Cooperatives. Both long-term and short-term plans based on sustainability and profit-maximisation has already been put into place. The short-term strategy of the newly revived Sajha Yatayat is to start public transportation service in Kathmandu Valley. This service is expected to start anytime soon because the company is only waiting for route approval from the Department of Transport Management (DOTM). This service will be available in two different routes of the capital. Out of the 50 ordered buses, 16 have already arrived in the capital. Similarly, its medium strategy is to start inter-district services and expand urban services in other parts of Nepal. It will also start carrier services to neighbouring countries. The long-term strategy of Sajha Yatayat is ambitious as it seeks to provide multimodal (efficient diesel buses, electric trains and rails, tramways, ropeways, etc.) transportation services and operate from various regions/provinces of Nepal in the near future.

 

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No doubt, due to rapid and unplanned urbanization, the traffic system of Kathmandu Valley is slowly coming to standstill. Urbanization has led to a rapid population increase in the capital city. The public means of transportation are not adequate enough to serve the everyday commuters and due to the lack of coordinated and efficient public transportation system, most commuters are switching to private means of transportation. Thus, if nothing is done to fill this void, vehicle ownerships in the two-wheelers and four-wheelers segments are projected to grow massively in the coming years. So to relieve the traffic congestion in Kathmandu Valley, Sajha Yatayat has a major challenge ahead of them. But if work is done genuinely and efficiently, then there really is no stopping them from providing an exemplary and affordable public transportation service for the urban as well as the inter-district travellers. We highly hope that Sajha Yatayat truly succeeds in standing out as a fine example of an efficient public transportation and wish the team all the best in their endeavours.

 

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In the meantime, Team Autolife also caught up with Mr Padam Lal Maharjan, the Executive Officer of the newly-revived Sajha Yatayat to elaborate more on their upcoming services. Below are the excerpts:

 

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AL: Congratulations for reviving Sajha Yatayat once again. Tell us more about the service.

Padam Lal Maharjan: In the first phase, we will provide public-bus service alongside two routes of the Kathmandu Valley. The first route will be from Lagankhel- Maharajgunj/ Gongabu and the second route will be from Kalanki-Airport. In this phase, we will operate 16 buses. The buses will run from 5am till 11 pm. In the peak hour, we’ll operate more buses in around 15 minute’s time-frame. All the buses have 55 seats with extra supporting hand straps available for 15 standing passengers.

AL: How prepared are these new buses to handle the daily hustle and bustle of the city in the long-run?

Padam Lal Maharjan: We have invested nearly NRs.60 million for the new buses and there have been other investments from various donor agencies too. These are all TATA buses and everyone is familiar with the reliability of this manufacturer. Furthermore, every single detail was taken care of while making the body. The body of the bus was made at Automobile Corporation of Goa Limited (AGCL) and higher emphasis has been put on quality, safety, productivity and reliability.

AL: Since this is a public transport vehicle service, what kind of efforts are being made to make this service safe and secure for all?

Padam Lal Maharjan: All buses are equipped with two CCTV’s camera for the safety of the passengers and there’s a fire extinguisher at the back. There are two separate doors for entry and exit with an added emergency back-up door in case of emergencies. Likewise, there are seatbelts in every seat. Similarly, they are also fitted with flat LCD televisions which will display safety messages and advertisements.

 

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AL: Apart from these features, what other areas have Sajha Yatayat focused on?

Padam Lal Maharjan: All our staffs have been outsourced by a private recruitment agency through a very competitive and transparent enrolment procedure. Our mechanics have been specially trained at Sipradi Trading Private Limited, Kathmandu to ensure proper and regular maintenance of the entire fleet. A service station is based in Pulchowk and in the case of vehicle breakdowns, there is also an on the move Tata Mobil Pickup which will cater to emergency maintenances on the road. All the selected drives too have a minimum of five-years of driving experience. Similarly, the bus conductor will all be SLC graduates. Since we believe ourselves to be an equal opportunity provider, we have also hired female bus conductors. Likewise, all the employees of the bus service have been provided with personality training to behave properly with the passengers of the bus.

AL: Finally, how different will the bus fares be from other various services in the country?

Padam Lal Maharjan: Well, we are yet to fix the exact fare figures as we are still waiting for response from the Department of Transport Management. But, the citizens can be assured that it won’t be expensive at all. Our main focus is to keep the fares as low as possible.

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