New taxicab permits on hold due to oppositionThe government’s plan to distribute 1,500 taxicab permits to earthquake survivors as part of a relief package has lain in limbo due to opposition from several quarters.
The government’s plan to distribute 1,500 taxicab permits to earthquake survivors as part of a relief package has lain in limbo due to opposition from several quarters.
Survivors of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake have been waiting eagerly for the government to issue the prized licences by holding a lottery, but it has not happened due to one reason or the other.
The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has received around 149,000 applications for 1,500 permits to operate taxicabs in Kathmandu.
While the application process itself was delayed on several occasions, the department has not been able to hold the promised lottery even though three months have passed since applications closed.
The DoTM has announced dates for the lottery three times, but it had to be cancelled each time. The latest date of June 21-23 is likely to be changed too.
The department was inundated with 149,000 applications for 1,500 taxi permits, leading to delays as the staff were hard-pressed to process the piles of paperwork.
At the same time, pressure from interest groups has been preventing the government from moving ahead at the desired pace.
The plan to issue permits was put on hold recently due to the first phase of local elections as the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that it would not be possible to deploy security personnel before the polls, and the Ministry of Finance too said that it could not provide funds or spare officials.
The election code of conduct too affected the process.
Frequent changes in the date of the second phase of local elections have too hindered the government’s plan. While the DoTM has published the fourth notice to hold the lottery from June 21-23, the government has rescheduled polls for June 28.
“We have been trying our best to hold the lottery at the earliest possible. Frequent changes in the election date has made it difficult for us to hold the event,” said Rup Narayan Bhattarai, director general of the DoTM.
He added that the department could only move ahead after getting the approval from the government and the Election Commission.
Since the government is focused on holding the election, it seems unlikely that the fourth attempt to hold the permit lottery will succeed.
Apart from procedural delays, political meddling and pressure from taxi operators are said to have delayed issuance of the taxi permits.
“There’s a lot of pressure from taxi operators. Likewise, political parties, especially the opposition, are against holding the permit lottery stating that it could influence voting,” a senior DoTM official told the Post.
Meanwhile, earthquake survivors have filed an application with the Transport Management Office, Bagmati to hold the lottery on time. “It has been a long wait, and we have lost patience. We urge the government to hold the lottery as soon as possible,” they said in a statement.
Bhattarai said that the department, despite understanding the plight of the earthquake survivors, had not been able to hold the lottery due to frequent shifts in the government’s position. “We have conducted several rounds of meetings with the earthquake victims. However, the situation is beyond our control,” he said.
There are currently 8,500 taxis on the streets of the Kathmandu Valley including the 2,850 new taxi cabs registered last year, according to the DoTM. As of mid-2015, there were 5,650 taxis in the Capital.
The government opened registrations for new taxi cabs in 2015 for the first time in 15 years.
The Ministry of Transportation and Physical Infrastructure has repeatedly planned to issue permits for new taxis in Kathmandu, but it had to back down following strong opposition from taxi entrepreneurs and their associations.
Among the 2,850 new taxi permits issued last year, 1,850 permits were provided to regular applicants while 500 permits were set aside for earthquake survivors and affected families. Another 500 permits were allotted to companies willing to operate deluxe and super deluxe taxis.
As per DoTM statistics, there were 7,500 taxis in Kathmandu in 2000 when the Valley’s population was estimated to be 1.3 million.
The Capital’s population, including the floating population, is expected to have exploded to around 4 million today.