KATHMANDU, April 6: Following the government's aggressive stand against transport syndicates, the cartels along the Arniko Highway resumed their bus services on Thursday, discontinuing their recently-declared strikes for an 'indefinite period'.
When 11 committees of transport cartels along the Arniko Highway halted their services on Wednesday, the government gave temporary route permits to 25 vehicles belonging to five different transport companies to operate along the Kathmandu-Banepa route of the highway. The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) also warned of revoking the route permits of the buses belonging to the cartels if they did not resume their services.
As vehicles of other companies operated along the highway to nullify the impact of the service-halt by the cartels, and the DoTM, too, warned the cartels of action, the protesting transport committees were left without a choice on the matter and operated their vehicles as usual on Thursday.
Unlike before, the protesting transport entrepreneurs did not obstruct vehicles of transport companies outside their cartel as the situation remained relatively peaceful. Only at one instance, three vehicles of Kavre Minibus Committee obstructed a bus of the new competitor Mayur Yatayat at Ratopul of Banepa in the evening while it was en route to Panauti. However, police immediately intervened and resolved the situation.
The situation had turned sour after the DoTM issued route permit to Mayur Yatayat to operate its buses on the highway that has been in a strong grip of the transport syndicate. With the permit, the company had started operating its 24 vehicles on the route from March 15. The buses make a round of the Ring Road and then ply on the Kathmandu-Banepa section of the Arniko Highway while offering lower rates and other benefits to the passengers.
The cartels, which have managed to prevent new companies from operating their buses on the highway, took this as a challenge to their over four decades of monopoly and resorted to obstructing and vandalizing buses belonging to Mayur Yatayat. They demanded that the government immediately revoke the company's permit.
While the cartels resorted to obstruction and protests, the government, on April 2, introduced a new Transport Management Directive under which newcomers are no longer required to produce recommendation from the existing transport committees to get route permits for public vehicles. This greatly weakened the position of the transport cartels and has been taken as a major stride towards dismantling transportation cartels across the country.
Although the cartels along the Arniko Highway retracted its steps in defeat on Thursday, they have vowed retribution after holding their Central Council meeting on April 9.
“We are not backing down. There will be more protest programs,” said Bijay Bahadur Swar, Senior vice-president of the transport entrepreneurs' umbrella body Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs. “Heads of 305 transport committees across the country have been summoned for the council meeting. The meeting will decide on the course of action and strategies to move ahead.”