Public vehicles overcharging passengers in BajhangAlthough the local administration has fixed the rate for public vehicles driving on blacktopped roads at Rs5 per km and on dirt roads at Rs8 per km, most of the jeeps charge eight times more.
The Dungi Bazaar-Kailash dirt road in Bajhang is just 8 kilometres long. But the fare for travelling on this road in a public vehicle is Rs500 per passenger which is eight times higher than the fare ceiling fixed by the District Administration Office.
According to the District Administration Office in Bajhang, public vehicles should charge Rs8 per kilometre on a dirt road as transport fare. “I have been paying Rs500 (one way) while travelling through the Dungi Bazaar-Kailash road. But, according to the rule, the transport fare should be just Rs64,” said Surya Khadka, one of the passengers travelling in a jeep. “We know that the drivers are fleecing passengers but they become unruly and misbehave with us if we refuse to pay the fare fixed by them.”
Despite the ceiling fixed by the authority, public vehicles driving on dirt roads in Bajhang district are known to charge transport fare as they see fit. The locals of Khaptad Chhanna, Durgathali, Surma Rural Bungal, and Jaya Prithvi municipalities say that they have been charged hiked fares on public transport. “There’s no fixed rate. Jeeps that run on these routes charge an arm and a leg as fare. They take advantage of our helplessness,” said Bam Bahadur Snehi, blaming the District Administration Office of inaction against public vehicle operators and drivers.
After consultation with various transport entrepreneurs in Chainpur a year ago, the District Administration Office had fixed the transport fares for public vehicles driving on various types of roads. It had fixed the rate of Rs5 per km on blacktopped roads at and on dirt roads at Rs8 per km.
Dabal Bahadur Singh, ward chairman of Khaptad Chhanna Rural Municipality Ward No. 2, said that the executive meeting of the local unit had also decided to take action against vehicles overcharging passengers some five months ago. “However, the decision has not been implemented yet,” said Singh. “It’s getting increasingly difficult to implement the decision since most of the people’s representatives in our municipality are also vehicle operators.”
The local administration is preparing to take action against public vehicle owners, operators and drivers, says Umesh Pandey, chief district officer. “We have been receiving complaints that most public jeeps are fleecing passengers in the rural road networks. We have also notified the local units concerned to take stock of the situation.”
Out of 12 local units in the district, 11 are connected to road networks. “It has also come to our notice that most of the jeeps are operating without route permit on the newly-opened routes in rural areas,” said Pandey. “It’s the local units responsibility to monitor unlawful activities in their respective areas. The local unit is the authorised government body to issue route permits to drivers.”
The locals of rural areas in Bajhang say that in light of the local unit’s inaction, they turn towards police to keep a check on unruly drivers and their fleecing ways. “We expect the police to intervene but police personnel in the area don’t even bat an eyelid when the drivers charge us extra,” said Balu Giri, a local of Jaya Prithvi Municipality, “This daylight robbery takes place right in front of the police’s eyes but they don’t do anything about it. This is also why the jeep drivers feel emboldened to loot passengers,” he said.
There are more than 200 jeeps operating across Bajhang district.
Amar Dhami, a jeep diver of Dungri-Masta road, said that transport entrepreneurs risk their new vehicles on dirt roads and that it is a high-risk endeavour for them. “Majority of the roads in remote areas are in bad condition. We put our vehicles at risk of mechanical failure on these roads and that is why we think we must charge more than what is fixed by the District Administration Office,” said Dhami. “The price they have fixed is not enough.”