KATHMANDU, June 19: It has been nine months since Sunil Bada of Bungamati, Lalitpur received his renewal chit. But he has not yet been provided with the ‘smart license’.
Despite having made several trips to the Transport Management Office, he has not been able to accomplish the work. “This is not a chit, it is a cheating done against service recipients,” complained Bada who was found amidst a crowd of service recipients that had come to Ekantakuna on Wednesday to acquire their smart license. “Every time we come here, it feels as if our time and money are being looted.”
Due to delays in the office, Bada was forced to return home empty-handed on Wednesday too after waiting in line for a long time. “The problem is not that the work did not happen today,” he said, “It is that we do not know when the work will get done.”
Bada is just a case in point. Tens of thousands of service recipients are suffering due to the mismanagement in the transport office. Their chits, made up of paper, have now become tattered after the long wait for the license. “They say that we would have to pay a fine if the letters get erased,” said Shobha Chand, another service recipient found at the transport office. “I'm tired of coming here,” said Chand, who deposited the fee a year ago.
Transport specialist Ashish Gajurel perceives the failure to distribute smart licenses to the service recipients on time to be a height of mismanagement. “I have been with the chit for 10 months now,” he says, “I have had to suffer a lot from this.” He believes that this problem has arisen due to an imbalance between supply and demand. Even if the transport office cannot print the license itself, he stresses the need to outsource the task to the private sector to free the service recipients from this hassle.
Since the smart licenses have not been printed as per the demand, many drivers who have passed the trial and received approval for the renewal of their licenses have not been able to get the new licenses. After delays in printing the licenses, the Department of Transportation Management started giving trial licenses (chits) to the drivers who have passed the trial and received approval for the renewal of their licenses. But lately, even this has been stopped due to a lack of budget.
The Department of Transport Management, which has its office at Minbhawan in Kathmandu, and the Transport Management Office in Ekantakuna, Lalitpur blame each others for the delay in the distribution of the smart licenses.
It appears that the lack of coordination between the two offices under the federal government and the state government seems to have created an uneasy situation. Achyut Raj Regmi, Head of the Driver's License Branch of Transport Management Office Ekantakuna says, “It's not our job to print the license. It is the job of the Transport Department.” “We distribute the cards once they are sent from there,” he says.
Ishwari Dutt Paneru, Information Officer at the Department of Transport Management, said that the gap between demand and supply could not be filled so soon even though the Department was continuously printing cards from 6 am to 10 pm. “One machine has to print cards for offices across the country,” she said, “We are working day and night to bring balance.” Stating that the number of backlog cases stands around 150,000 cards, she expresses confidence that the problem will be solved soon.
Paneru claims that the card meant to be issued within December 2021 would be provided within the next 10 days. “The demand for Ekantakuna, Gandaki, Butwal and Nepalgunj are a bit higher,” he said. “These problems will be solved soon.” He is of the view that had the concerned transport office managed the trial cards, such a complex problem would not have arisen frequently.
Paneru says that the trial cards are easy to carry and check and are also equipped with a QR code which makes it easier for the traffic police as they can check the card from their mobile phones on the road itself. “For the new license holders, this card would have worked for a year,” he said, “In the meantime, the other cards could have been readied.”
Transport specialist Gajurel says that the service recipients should not be troubled anymore. “It is the responsibility of the department to reduce the inconveniences of the service recipients by purchasing more machines,” he said. “One cannot escape by pointing at the other.” He is of the view that if the private banks can prepare ATMs and other smart cards within a few days, the government bodies, too, should be able to prepare such cards. Regmi, the Head of the Driver's License Branch, says that the trial license (chit) has been stopped due to a lack of budget. “I have just come here,” he said, “I will work towards a solution by coordinating with the provincial ministry.”