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Since March last year, around 30 senior citizens have been staging a sit-in protest on the premises of the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), first at Koteshwor and now at defunct trolley bus station in Minbhawan in the Capital, demanding a blanket 50 percent discount for the elderly in public transport. The government, however, has been callous in its response. The Senior Citizens Act 2006 stipulates that every public vehicle reserve two seats for people over the age of 60 and grant them 50 percent concession in fare. Accordingly in April 2011, the Supreme Court issued a mandate to the government to ensure the implementation of the Act. Unfortunately, the provision has been interpreted differently by different readers. The members of the Struggle Committee and managers at Sajha Yatayat believe that two seats should be reserved for the elderly while giving fare discount to all above the age of 60. The government and the rest of the transport committees, on the other hand, believe that both seat reservation and fare discount apply to only two senior citizens. In its working procedure, drafted after the start of the sitin protest, to ensure fare discount for the elderly, the government keeps to its interpretation. “This misinterpretation of the provision has only created a divide among the elderly. When five elderly walk inside a bus and only two are allowed a fare discount, who is to say who pays in full and who pays in half. This is not respect, this is discrimination,” says 65-year-old Maha Prasad Parajuli, chair of the Struggle Committee. The government, however, is unwilling to budge. “We’ve already given 50 percent discount to two senior citizens travelling on a public vehicle. We don’t own public transport to grant concessions to all above the age of 60,” said Mukti Bahadur KC, a director at DoTM. The Struggle Committee vows to continue the sit-in until its demands are met. Their other demands include free medical treatment for the elderly and an increment in the oldage allowance from Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 a month.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, (January 6th, 2014)
Compiled by: Janu Rai

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