They had to back down. We had to make them back down. The other way round would be a great injustice, mockery of rule of law. That syndicates and cartels along the Araniko Highway finally bowed down to government’s ruling is indeed good news. The actors running this illegal show had literally challenged the country’s law and order. The cartels acted as if they are above the law. It is a great relief that they have now stopped their protest. They had nearly crippled transportation along the highway for the past few days simply because Mayur Yatayat, another transportation company, was providing better services to the people in reasonably lower fares. As many as 11 committees of transport cartels had not only halted their services, but they also vandalized some of Mayur’s buses and threatened to prohibit the company from carrying out its services.
The government had to deal with coercive tactics of cartels with iron fist. Wisely, it granted temporary route permits to 25 vehicles belonging to five different transport companies to operate along the Kathmandu-Banepa route. Department of Transport Management (DoTM) warned of revoking route permits of the buses belonging to the cartels if they did not resume services, apart from introducing a new Transport Management Directive whereby newcomers are not required to produce recommendation from the existing transport committees to get route permits. Soon vehicles of other companies started to operate services with escorts from police. The cartels were rightly pushed to the corner. This marks a big step towards ending syndicate and cartel system. However, we must bear in mind that government action has only mellowed them down. Their threat to stage stronger protests across the country shows they are not yet ready to play by the rule of law.
The transport cartels are holding their central council meeting on April 9, for which they have already summoned heads of 305 transport committees across the country in a bid to fight back government’s just action. Given the past track record, and the strong nexus, they might indeed go ahead with unruly act. In that case the government must be prepared to handle the situation as effectively. If we fail to prevent them from staging another obstruction show, they will be emboldened. We should also be meaningful of the fact that syndicates and cartels are not limited to transportation sector alone. It is deeply rooted, from the top right down to the bottom, virtually in every sector. Their nexus is so entrenched and extended that few attempts of past governments made no difference. We even have the record of businesspersons uniting to prevent government officials from monitoring the market, there are even cases of officials being manhandled by business people. Thus this fight against cartel and syndicate must not stop here and now. The government should keep working, leaving no stone unturned, to completely dismantle this nexus. Government action against cartels on the Araniko Highway is commendable, but it needs to keep a close eye, be cautious and prepared to deal with any kind of unruly behaviors they or other cartels might resort to, to undermine the whole system.