Mayor Balen’s Dictatorship

Published On: January 20, 2024 07:32 PM NPT By: Saroj Bhattarai

Since Mayor Balen Shah took charge of the Kathmandu metropolis, he has made attempts to beautify the capital city. The streets of the city are being made wider, green and colorful. The footpaths have started to look clean. It has become easier to walk. Road congestion has decreased somewhat. In the space of one and a half years, those who set foot in Kathmandu have started to feel that the city has become civilized and modern. But not everyone likes the changed Kathmandu, as there are also many people who are dissatisfied with Balen's working style. Those who are not allowed to sell goods on the sidewalks and streets are angry with Balen. A campaign has started in support of them and against the metropolis. Few days back, a demonstration was held in front of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City office in the name of the underprivileged. The protesters were chanting the song 'Garibko Chameli Bolidine koi chaina' which is the same song that Balen used to sing while campaigning for the mayor's candidacy. Anger is also brewing as the metropolis does not allow people to make a living by selling goods on the sidewalks in Kathmandu. While praising the campaign started by Balen to change the appearance of Kathmandu, there is also criticism that the beauty of the city cannot be improved by devaluing the working classes within the metropolitan city. There are also many people who say that the metropolis has wasted time and money on unnecessary glittering, decoration and traffic on the streets by driving the destitute poor from the sidewalks.

Everyone agrees that the sidewalk is not a place to do business, it is a way to walk. If a merchant walks with goods, the pavement belongs to him, but if someone tries to sit and sleep on the pavement, the pavement is not for this purpose. Before Balen Shah, there was widespread demand that the sidewalk business should be controlled, complaining that vehicles, passengers and pedestrians were being harassed by those doing business on the footpath. But when the mayors at that time ignored and did not take strict measures, everyone except the pedestrians on the sidewalk ran wild. As soon as he became the mayor, Balen tried to bring all those involved in parking vehicles, running ticket counters and traders doing arbitrary business on the sidewalk under the rule of law. A section of the society strongly believes that the livelihood of the urban poor matters more than the beauty of the streets and the city and that the goods on the sidewalk are cheaper and easier to buy than those in shops. The mayor, who is responsible for organizing the metropolis, must know that in all the modern cities of the world there is business on the streets. There is a certain place for travelers to sit on the road lined with flowers. There are also places designated for shops to sell tea, coffee and snacks. But such shops are attractive and organized. This can be done in Kathmandu too, by designating a certain place for the urban poor. In this way, the metropolis can collect a certain tax from doing business in a certain place.

Business is done by paying rent and business tax at the roadside shutters, but those doing business on the sidewalk in front of the same shutters do not even seem to have registered their business. But some of those who do business on the sidewalks do business and earn more money than the shopkeepers. Those who do business in shutters by paying rent to landlords and taxes to the state are also of the same class as those who do business on the streets. It is not fair that one poor class should pay tax but another poor class should not pay tax.

The vote and contribution of small traders and businessmen contributed significantly to elect Balen as the mayor. But it is alleged that he does not want to listen to these groups and does not even try to sit down and discuss with them. His city police have been showing brutality against vendors doing business on carts, bicycles and people doing business on the sidewalks. In the name of arresting them, the city police are harassing them and damaging their goods. Small traders and businessmen have been demanding to create a conducive environment. According to their demand, the city will not be ugly if they allow them to do business at a certain time by designating a certain place. They argue that their business does not affect the movement of vehicles. 

The KMC should ensure that the goods sold should be healthy and of good quality. And the merchant has to pay tax to the metropolis for selling the goods. Street business is also the beauty and necessity of the city. Even now, there is no obstacle for those who trade vegetables on their backs using Doko, Thunse and Kharpan. Rather, business should be allowed on certain roads and times. If the KMC makes the street business organized, the street traders will definitely thank the mayor instead of criticizing him.

As in other cities of the world, allowing business to be done on the streets of Kathmandu by specifying a certain time and place will not only benefit the poor, but also benefit the city.


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