After criticism, government mulls embossed number plates in Devanagari scriptDepartment of Transport says it has already asked the contractor to see if it is possible to print embossed number plates in Devanagari.
Amid a long-running controversy and language experts questioning the use of the Latin script instead of the Devanagari on vehicle number plates, the Ministry of Transport is holding consultations to see if it is possible to replace the script.
Devanagari is the script of Nepali, Hindi and several South Asian languages.
The issue had heated up after the Department of Transport Management under the Ministry on June 3 published a notice making embossed numbers mandatory from July 17 for all vehicles operating in Bagmati and Gandaki provinces.
After the decision drew widespread criticism and was also raised in Parliament, the Department of Transport Management published another notice on June 7 clarifying that embossed number plates are not immediately mandatory for all vehicles and that the June 3 notice was based on a notice in the Nepal Gazette published in November last year.
The ministry on July 4 formed a committee to study the possibility of using the Devanagari script on number plates.
“Immediately after being appointed as Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Mohammad Ishtiyaq Rayi, had held a meeting at the ministry last month and formed a special study committee to review the number plates,” said Suresh Raut, the newly appointed director general of the Department of Transport.
Spokesperson of the Ministry Shiva Prasad Nepal said the committee has written to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for further consultations on the issue as the Supreme Court, acting on a petition, had earlier given nod to the use of Latin script on the number plates.
“We are still in consultation with the stakeholders. And if there is a consensus to change the script, then we will proceed accordingly,” said Nepal.
In 2018, a single bench of Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli issued an interim order to stop the distribution of embossed number plates after environmentalist Bharat Basnet filed a petition demanding that only Devanagari script be used on the number plates.
But a year later, in December 13, 2019, the Supreme Court vacated its stay order paving the way for the resumption of distribution of embossed number plates while many still questioned why can’t the Devanagari be used when countries have been issuing number plates in Arabic, Bengali, German and French languages.
“Since the contract for printing the embossed number plates in Latin script has already been issued and printing is already underway, we are also discussing the costs involved for replacing the number plates,” said Nepal.
He said there is still confusion about using the Devanagari script on number plates.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transport said it has already asked the contractor to see if it is possible to print embossed number plates in Devanagari and inform the department about technical constraints, if any.
“We have asked the contractor, a US-Bangladesh joint venture, to study the possibility and the costs involved, for replacing the number plates,” said Raut.Data from the Department of Transport show only 25,000 vehicles including government vehicles have received embossed number plates so far. Government agencies own an estimated 40,000 vehicles. Earlier, in his conversation with the Post, Namaraj Ghimire, former director general of the department, had said the department was working to install embossed number plates on the country’s all 2.5 million vehicles in the coming 15 months.