Proposal to allow 20-year-old vehicles also draws fire
KATHMANDU, Sept 27: Lawmakers on Tuesday grilled Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghuvir Mahaseth for acting contrary to the anti-syndicate drive and letting down the general public.
Minister Mahaseth came under fire for his latest moves including the hiking of transport fares when Dashain is fast approaching and signing the fare hike agreement with a federation of bus operators that has already been declared void, as well as his failure to address the need for insurance coverage for serious road accident injuries .
At the meeting of parliament's Development and Technology Committee on Tuesday, its Chairwoman Kalyani Kumari Khadka also grilled the minister over the legal grounds for working with the bus operators federation to fix transport fares.
Khadka likewise criticized Mahaseth for releasing money from the frozen bank accounts of transport entrepreneurs' committees even though the law says the assets of such scrapped entities come under government ownership.
Lawmaker Durga Paudel said, "We have not seen any changes in the syndicate system in the transport sector despite the big announcements that were made, and the situation is now almost back to square one.” The decision to hike bus fares on the eve of the festival season is another setback for the public, added Paudel.
Damodar Bhandari, another lawmaker, also questioned the fare hike and the claim by the government that the transport sector was now more competitive and syndicates had ended.
A proposal to lift the ban on vehicles that are 20 or more years old was another point that the lawmakers took issue with during the meeting.
Committee Chairwoman Khadka alleged that the ministry was acting under the influence of transport operators in preparing to lift the ban on 20-year-old vehicles. “What is behind the government's move to revoke the ban on vehicles that compromise passenger safety and emit polluting smoke?” Khadka asked.
Mahaseth responded to a few of the questions raised by Chairwoman Khadka. He said that the federation of bus operators was an umbrella organization not to be confused with syndicates like Narayani Transport Association and Bagmati Transport Association. “So our dealings with the federation were legal,” he claimed . “We are not the authority for releasing money from frozen bank accounts but we are represented on a committee at the Ministry of Home Affairs which is releasing the money to pay the hospital bills of injured passengers,” he also said.
Ministry Secretary Madhusudan Adhikari responded to the other queries. Lifting the ban on old vehicles was considered as sturdier vehicles are in use in the hill areas than those generally available in the market, he said.