KATHMANDU, APR 08 – My name is Niraj Baniya. I am 35 years old and work as a cabby. On Tuesday, I escaped death but the cab, which was my only source of income, is destroyed.
I was aware of the banda enforced by the 30-party opposition alliance. But I thought it would be enforced in Kathmandu only after 5 in the morning. Therefore I picked a relative who was flying to the UK at 4am from Nakhipot, where I live, and reached the Tribhuvan International Airport half an hour later.
While returning, two boys in their early twenties signalled me to stop the cab in front of the Bhatbhateni Supermarket near Balkumari Bridge. The boys said they needed to take a patient to Patan Hospital and asked me about the fare. I said they could pay me less as I was going to the same direction. Then one of them opened a rear door and instead of sitting there, he threw a bottle which I think was filled with petrol. Then the other boy lit a lighter and threw it towards the bottle on the seat. Suddenly, a fire started. Luckily, I had not fastened my seat-belt so I got off the cab right away. Still, the fire caught a bit of my hair. I realised I could have been burned inside the vehicle had I not managed to step out on time.
As the cab engine was in neutral position, it slid downwards and came to a halt after it hit a concrete drainage pipe. A few policemen were nearby, but they just looked on and the boys fled the scene. Within a few minutes, the cab was completely destroyed and only its skeleton was left. My driving licence, citizenship card, bluebook, a mobile phone and Rs 9,000 in cash also burned with the cab.
Initially, I just thought of saving my life. Now, I realise I have nothing left. I have no idea what to do next as I don’t have any other skills. I drove the cab on rent for four years and then bought it six years ago for Rs 1.5 million. I still owe the owner Rs 800,000. The cab was the only source of income my four-member family. I used to drive it throughout the day; sometimes even at night. This is how I was able to send my children to school. My son is an 11th grader and my daughter studies in the third grade.
I had come to Kathmandu a decade ago from Hetauda for my children’s education. Now this city has become an unsafe place to live in. It’s time to pay the children’s admission fees as the new session is about to start and I need to manage house rent and other daily expenses. Besides, I also have to pay this year’s dues to the cab owner. I need to earn over Rs 40,000 each month to manage all these expenses. But, I have no option left as the cab has been torched. All my dreams have shattered.
Burning my cab may be a trivial thing for politicians and the protesters, but they have ruined my life as well as the future of my children. I am helpless as I can neither live here nor go back to Hetauda.
I heard that many vehicles were destroyed on Tuesday. This is unjust for people like me. Police took photos of me and the cab.
They also asked me to fill out a form and said I will be compensated. However, I am not sure I will be getting any help. I just want my cab back and nothing more. I think people like me should get a safe environment to work, but a common man’s voice always goes unheard in this country.