KATHMANDU, June 15: The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) on Thursday afternoon announced a hike in the fares of public transport by as much as 12 percent effective from June 16. But following a huge public outcry, the DoTM withdrew its decision later in the evening.
One of the main reasons the DoTM cited for the hike was increased fuel prices. But is that really the case? The evidence on the ground suggests 'no'.
Fuel prices have decreased since DoTM's last review of public transport fares in September last year
“The DoTM had cited, among other reasons, an increase in fuel prices for the increase in public transport fare,” said DoTM Information Officer Tirtha Raj Khanal. The change in the prices of fuels amounts to 35 percent in the fare review process of the department.
Khanal's claim contradicts the fact that petroleum prices have actually decreased over the last nine months. A notice published by the DoTM following its last review of the fares on September 23 last year, had increased the fares by 10 per cent, quoting the price of petrol to be Rs 114 per liter and that of diesel to be Rs 101 per liter.
But as of Thursday, the price of petrol was Rs 110 per liter and that of diesel Rs 98.5 per liter. Interestingly, the government's argument favors the transport entrepreneurs who have been demanding a hike in transport fares claiming that the prices of fuel and machinery and labor costs have increased.
Various organizations working for the protection of consumer rights have condemned the government's attempt to increase the fare of public transport amid a decrease in the fuel prices. “It has not been even a year since the government last increased the public transport fare,” general secretary of the Consumers' Welfare Protection Forum, Baburam Humagain told Republica, “It is an outright outrageous move from the government to increase the transport fare while the fuel prices have dropped.”
The government tried to hike the fare following an instruction by the Development and Technology Committee (DTC) of parliament. “According to the instruction of the parliamentary panel, the department had increased the fare,” Khanal told Republica.
DTC's instruction was allegedly influenced by transport entrepreneurs.