KATHMANDU, April 2: In a bid to break transport syndicates highly prevalent in the country, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) introduced a new Transport Management Directive on Sunday, promising serious action against syndicate operators.
Under the new directive, those planning to get route permits for public vehicles no longer have to bring recommendation from the existing private transport committees registered at the district administration offices.
No need for newcomers to secure recommendation from transport committees has been taken as a major step forward to break the existing transport syndicates prevalent across various routes of the country. The move is a major reversal from the old Transport Management Directive, 2004, that had mandated newcomers to get permission from the transport committees.
Instead of getting a recommendation from the transport committees, those wanting to operate public transportation now have to register a company and come under the Companies Act, 2006. With this, transport entrepreneurs violating any law would be punished as per the Companies Act, according to Rupanarayan Bhattarai, director general of the DoTM.
“The directive has been introduced after incorporating suggestions from all the sides. With this, we will no longer tolerate any form of transport syndicate,” said Bhattarai. “We are fully committed to implementing the directive. Stern actions will be taken against those refusing to abide by it.”
The new directive comes into effect at a time when transport syndicates along the Arniko Highway have threatened a newcomer Mayur Yatayat Transportation Service to stop its operation along Banepa-Dhulikhel route of the highway. As many as 14 transport committees that operate along the Arniko Highway united against Mayur Yatayat as the newly introduced transportation service posed threat to their strong syndicate empire.
Mayur Yatayat has been operating along the ring road of the Kathmandu Valley. It also operates buses between Koteshwor of Kathmandu and Banepa along the Arniko Highway. The DoTM had issued the route permit for 24 buses of the company on March 15, which has caused a huge uproar among the transport syndicates operating on that route.
The syndicates oppose anything that poses a threat to their four decades of monopoly on the highway. The committees there have been running mostly old vehicles within their strong syndicate system. They saw it as a big threat when the new transport company launched well-facilitated buses and that too at a lower fare.
However, it has not been easy for Mayur Yatayat to operate against the syndicates. On March 19, some unidentified group of assailants pelted stones at three buses of the company at Sallaghari of Bhaktapur. Likewise, the syndicate committees resorted to halting all their transportation services, demanding that the government revoke the rout permit issued to Mayur Yatayat.
On Sunday when the government introduced the new Transport Management Directive to crack a whip on the syndicates, the committees also halted their bus services along rural routes of Banepa. Kavre Bus Committee and Kavre Minibus Committee, which represent syndicate along the highway, halted their services.
With this, transportation along Kamidanda, Dunkharka, Shankhubeshi, Kushadevi-Shayle, Bansdole, Rabiopi, Shera-Ghimire Gaun along with dozens of destinations has come to a grinding halt, confirmed Prem Bahadur Timilsina, chairman of Bethanchowk Rural Municipality.
“We are not protesting because we fear competition,” said Bijay Bahadur Swar, senior vice-president of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs, an umbrella body of the country's transport entrepreneurs that protects 'interest' of its members, including the transport cartel along the Arniko Highway.
Refusing accusation of syndicate, he said, “Our objection is that the government provided the route permit without doing research on the road condition, road capacity and number of existing public vehicles already operating along the highway.”
On the other hand, DoTM DG Bhattarai warned of revoking route permit of those committees halting their service. “They have pledged to serve the general public and so they cannot halt their services arbitrarily on their will. We will respond by revoking their route permits. Their autocracy will be tolerated no more,” he said.
The new transport management directive promises tough action against transport cartels. The Supreme Court had also ordered the government and the agencies concerned to put an end to transport syndicates. However, the cartels have resisted all attempts from the government, proving to be a tough nut to crack. Only time will tell how the new directive and the government's renewed determination fare against the proven resistance of transport cartel.