KATHMANDU, Nov 21: The government has banned the use of private vehicles for public transport, apparently with a view to restrict various popular ride-hailing services currently in operation in Kathmandu Valley.
The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) on Tuesday issued a fresh public notice not to use private vehicles for public transport and threatened to take action against those violating this ban.
Section 8 of the Motor vehicles and Transportation Management Act 1993 states that private motor vehicles cannot be used for public transport services. Similarly, according to Section 12, vehicles registered for one purpose cannot be used for some other purpose.
“We received complaints regarding the use of private vehicles as public transport. Since this is against our laws, we had to issue a public notice,” said Director General at DoTM Gogan Bahadur Hamal. Hamal did not say who made the complaints.
In January, a number of Tootle and Pathao riders were arrested by police who claimed that these services were not legally registered.
But the general public staged a series of protests against the police action and Prime Minister KP Oli himself later intervened to allow the use of ride-hailing services.
DoTM Director General Hamal said, “We will go by the law. We are currently monitoring the situation and we’ll take a decision how to deal with these services once we complete our monitoring.”
Representatives of companies operating ride-hailing apps in Nepal have criticized the government’s move, saying it’s a slap in the face of innovation in business. “The same thing happened last time. It is the responsibility of the government to come up with new laws rather than give us such trouble time and again,” said co-founder and CEO of Tootle, Sixit Bhatta.
Bhatta said when Prime Minister Oli allowed the resumption of their services, DoTM officials agreed to come up with new regulations by mid-April to govern such services. “I wonder why they haven’t done so. We have already said that we are ready to abide by such regulations,” he further said
Manager at Pathao Shashank Thapa said this is an old issue which the government has raked up again. “It’s innovation versus regulation. The existing Transport Act is obsolete. This latest government move will affect thousands as Pathao is a source of income for many. The customers will also be affected,” he added.
The DoTM move has discouraged people like him from innovative start-up initiatives, Thapa said adding, “We are working with other similar services to resolve the matter.”
Ordinary people who have been using ride-hailing service have also taken strong exception to the new ban. “These ride-hailing services are not only customer-friendly but also highly affordable. These government should come up with new rules to streamline them if necessary rather than an outright ban,” said Madhusudan Ghimire, who uses Tootle on a regular basis.