If the transport entrepreneurs halted their services, the government plans to commandeer the vehicles and operate them using security personnel.
KATHMANDU, April 19: In response to the government's tough stance against the transport cartels, five national federations of transport entrepreneurs on Wednesday jointly announced a series of protests, including an 'indefinite' nationwide strike.
Just a day before, the government took a bold decision not to renew the registration of transportation committees, effectively ending their legitimacy. A few weeks ago, the government had also revised and amended the Transport Management Directive 2004, forcing transport entrepreneurs to operate under the Company Act instead of operating on the recommendation of transport committees.
With this, the transport committees would no longer be able to impose their monopoly in the country's highways, prevent competition, and collect fees from new vehicles, all of which would cut illegal incomes of the existing transport committees.
Following the government's series of efforts to dismantle the transport cartel, the transport federations held simultaneous press conferences in all seven provinces of the country to announce their protest against the government's 'unilateral' move.
The five transport federations -- National Federation of Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs (NFNTE), Federation of Truck Transport Entrepreneurs Nepal, Federation of Nepal Petroleum Transport Entrepreneurs, Transport Entrepreneurs Federation Nepal, and Nepal Petroleum Dealers' National Association -- condemned several of the government's moves against organized transport committees.
The transport entrepreneurs said they would submit memorandums to the prime minister and provincial ministers on April 20; hoist black flags on their vehicles on April 21; submit memorandums to leaders of transport-related bodies on April 22, and hold corner meetings on April 23 and 24.
Furthermore, they also plan to operate vehicles without any schedule on April 25 and 26 and operate vehicles without queue system on April 27 and 28.
The federations also plan to picket all the transport offices across the country on April 29; rally support for their demands on April 30, May 1 and 2; ground their vehicles on March 4; and if their demands go unheeded, they plan to hold a meeting of their joint joint struggle committee on March 5 to discuss new protests, according to the federations' joint statement.
“From March 10 onward, we'll stop operating vehicles accross the country until further notice,” said NFNTE chair Yogendra Nath Karmacharya, who is also the coordinator of the struggle committee.
'Govt threatens stringent actions'
In response to the protest plan of the transport federations, the government has threatened to slap transport entrepreneurs with legal actions if they do anything in violation of the law. As the transport sector falls under essential services, the government can suspend the registrations of the transport committees if they obstruct their services.
Likewise, the government can freeze the bank accounts of transport entrepreneurs involved in the protesting committees and scrap their route permits, informed Tulsi Ram Aryal, spokesperson for the Department of Transport Management. If the transport entrepreneurs halted their services, the government plans to commandeer the vehicles and operate them using security personnel.
The government's war on syndicate got a fresh start a few months ago after transport cartels along the Araniko Highway obstructed a newly-introduced Mayur Yayatat from operating its vehicles on the highway. Increasing public outcry against syndicates and increased media coverage brought the severity of the issues to the fore. Following this the new government led by KP Oli decided to beef up efforts to dismantle transport cartels that have prevailed for decades.
Labor union not to support entrepreneurs' protests
Laborers working in the transport sector have so far not supported the protests of the vehicle owners they work for. They are in favor of Company Act as they would get the government-set minimum wage, appointment letter and provident fund among other things.
“We had put forth various demands including wage increment with the federations, but they have refused to entertain the demands,” said Bhim Jwala Rai, central chairman of Independent Transport Workers Association of Nepal, a trade union affiliated to the ruling CPN-UML. “But the new directive issued by the government is laborer-friendly and benefits us, which is why we support it.”