October 1, 2016 04:40 PM NPT
By: Manoj Karki
KATHMANDU, Oct 1: The Nepali capital Kathmandu was forced into a gridlock for two continuous days this week. Though traffic jam has now become a norm of the valley, the reason behind the same on Wednesday and Thursday was quite different and unusual.
Travelers and commuters were forced to spend hours inside their respective vehicle in mid-day heat while others took the option, out of compulsion, of travelling by foot to their respective destination. And that was thanks to the taxi drivers of the valley, who used their vehicles to block various intersections in the valley, bringing the traffic to a standstill almost throughout the day.
And the reason behind the taxi drivers taking to the streets along with their vehicles was against the alleged ‘excesses’ by traffic police. The excesses included the traffic police efforts to initiate action against the taxi drivers who fleeced their passengers, the reason behind their survival. Responding to widespread and long-standing complaints of the passengers against the taxi drivers in the valley, the traffic police has finally woken up and started booking the taxi drivers who do not use the fare meter, reject going to places of the passengers’ choice and ask for something additional to that the fare meter shows.
Though taxi drivers had been facing action of traffic police in the past too on several occasions, they were very angry this time because traffic police had initiated a SMS service, allowing passengers to immediately report to traffic police in the event of being cheated by any taxi driver. As a result, more and more taxi drivers started falling into the police action net and hence leading to them uniting against the act of the traffic police. Aided by unions affiliated to parties trying to establish some ground in Nepali politics, the taxi drivers and their associations alleged that the traffic police were harassing them for no reason.
In a show of strength, most of the taxis plying in Kathmandu valley were seen gathering at various points in the valley and hence taxi service was not available for the general public. With passenger buses not as good as it should be, the absence of taxi service was hardly felt in the valley, with people needy immediate transportation to hospitals and for other essentials were severely hit.
This is not the first time however that transport workers and entrepreneurs have taken to the streets against the action of the traffic police to enforce the traffic rule and the rules of fair business on them. Some months back, the passenger bus transport entrepreneurs enforced a shutdown of all means of public transport in protest action the decision of the traffic police to increase the amount of traffic penalty or fine. As low fine seemed to have not worked against the traffic violators, the traffic police decided to increase the fine amount to discourage them. The effort was already showing immediate impact. But the transport workers and entrepreneurs had other ideas.
The increment in the amount of penalty was done through a regulation introduced as a law by the state. So in protesting against it, the public transport entrepreneurs were saying that we do not follow the law or that we must be allowed to violate the law.
It was a similar act of the taxi drivers, who were indirectly saying to everyone that we must be allowed to fleece our passengers and we will run as per our own liking.
We can choose where to go and where to not go, fare meters are just a show piece and even if we use them we will take some extra amount in addition to what the fare meter shows at the end of the travel. Because we are the ones on the wheels, and we show the path ahead.
Though both the acts did not lead to any changes as far as the decision of the traffic police is concerned. It does speak a lot about how we operate trade and commerce and the service industry in the country. And whether it’s the transport sector or the food or garment or even the medical sector, the consumers are always at the receiving end. With very little or no accountability on part of the traders and businessmen and women in the country, the Nepali consumers have long been suffering at the hands of their fellow countrymen and women in the name of commerce or business.
‘Commerce without morality’ was described as one the seven greatest social sins by Mahatma Gandhi but that does not seem to apply in Nepal, as traders continue to commit the sin and do it without any hesitation and by speaking out loud in favour of it. RSS