KATHMANDU, Feb 13: Public transportation in the Kathmandu Valley came to a grinding halt for several hours on Monday afternoon due to a massive protest launched by transport entrepreneurs against the 'excesses' of the traffic police.
Operators of public transport vehicles blocked roads at various sections of the Ring Road on Monday afternoon accusing the traffic police of charging exorbitant fines needlessly.
The transport entrepreneurs argued that the new traffic rules are not in the interest of public transportation. As per the new rules, the traffic police in the valley had been charging fines of Rs 1500 for traffic rule violation, up from Rs 500 for the first-time offense. The government authorities, however, revoked the decision following the protest.
The transport entrepreneurs also complained that the traffic police have been charging fines even for parking vehicles on the roadside, which they say is "too much".
The agitating transportation operators have demanded they should be allowed to park anywhere in absence of organized bus stations. They said that the protest was against the new traffic rules.
One social media user Sama Thapa wrote that ambulances carrying patients were halted and elderly people were affected by the protest while passengers going to the airport were dragging their suitcases.
“Today, while returning home from the office, a brutal example of chaos was seen on the road. There was a roadblock in places where the vehicles were parked in protest of the transporters against the traffic rules,” Thapa wrote on Facebook.
According to Thapa, the transport entrepreneurs had blocked the road next to Maharajgunj Police Circle but the police personnel were watching helplessly.
Manoj Bahadur Nepal, one of the protesters said, “According to the new rule, the fine which was previously Rs 500 has increased to Rs 1500.”
Some of the protesters insisted that the traffic police needlessly book them just to collect fines on the pretext of disobeying traffic rules.
Another transport entrepreneur said that the protest started at 4PM and was called off at 6PM as per the instruction of the Independent Transport Workers Association of Nepal. Nawaraj Ghimire, senior vice-president of the Independent Transport Workers Association of Nepal added that there will be a total barricade on Tuesday.
Ghimire said that the association has instructed transportation entrepreneurs to conduct peaceful protests by not operating any public vehicles.
The transport entrepreneurs have also announced plans to suspend public transport within the Kathmandu Valley until another notice.
The Independent Transport Workers Association of Nepal, the All Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs Association and the Nepal Transport Workers Union issued a joint press statement saying that they will not operate public vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley as a sign of protest.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) Tulsi Nath Gautam has admitted the government’s mistake in increasing fines for traffic rule violations.
Gautam said that the department has already amended the rules and the fine of Rs 1500 is no longer applicable.
“We have already imposed the previous rules for fine in case of traffic rules violation,” said Gautam.
According to informed sources, the agitating protesters even set a police beat in the Balaju area on fire and also torched a police van.