Fake card holders take bus operators for a rideOn Kathmandu’s buses and micro-buses, it can often seem like everyone is a student, from professional-looking men in their 40s to middle-aged housewives, because everyone has a student identity card. It is up to exasperated conductors to peer closely at the ID cards to check if they are genuine.
On Kathmandu’s buses and micro-buses, it can often seem like everyone is a student, from professional-looking men in their 40s to middle-aged housewives, because everyone has a student identity card. It is up to exasperated conductors to peer closely at the ID cards to check if they are genuine.
But even if they spot a fake card, there is little they can do about it, except confiscate the card and ask for the full fare.
“Fake cards these days contain all the information a real card would contain,” said one microbus driver from Kirtipur to New Buspark. Sometimes, when they question the card-holders about the information printed on the cards, they even get verbally bullied, said the driver.
Many stationers across the Valley, especially those near colleges and universities, provide these illicit identity cards, which afford holders discounts on ATM charges, messaging services from banks and especially public transportation discounts of up to 50 percent.
The Post visited one of these stationery shops in Naya Bazaar, Kirtipur, walking distance from the Tribhuvan University (TU) campus, to procure a fake identity card. The proprietor, Dil Kumar, said he could produce identity cards for a number of TU departments.
Even when told that the card would be used solely to avail discounts on public transport and that this reporter was not a genuine student at the TU, Dil Kumar showed no qualms. A fake identity card—complete with an official stamp and the signature of the director of the School of Mathematical Sciences—all yours for only Rs150.
When asked about the fake identity card with his signature, the director of the School of Mathematical Sciences appeared genuinely shocked. “Whom do we trust now?” said Prakash Mani Bajracharya, after staring at the card for a few minutes. He then called it a “shameful matter”.
The next morning, the Post received a tearful phone call from Dil Kumar, who reported that TU officials had been inquiring about his illegal business. He asked that the Post not report on the story further.
But fake student IDs are not just being issued under the name of the country’s most prominent educational institution. There are numerous private institutions whose cards are much easier to replicate, and therefore, cost less. One stationery shop at Ravibhawan was discovered to be issuing such cards for Rs100, with the stamp of the Gyankunj Higher Secondary School and its signature of its principal. Phan Bahadur GC, the principal, like Bajracharya, said he had no idea that his signature was appearing on fake ID cards.
Earlier, all biometrical information was handwritten, meaning directors and others signing the cards had to do it all manually. Now that most educational institutes and every TU department issues ID cards digitally, it has become much easier to obtain copies of the stamps and signature and apply them liberally to any card, fake or genuine.
“Even the fake cards look real,” said Inspector J Jung Karki of the Traffic Police Unit at the New Buspark.
“The only way to find out if a person is using a fake identity card is to go to the concerned educational institution itself and verify it.”
For transport entrepreneurs, such fake identity cards are putting a damper on their business. The average total earning of a microbus in a day is currently Rs5,000, which would’ve doubled if passengers stopped using fake identity cards, said Diwakar Adhikari, secretary at the Kirtipur Bus and Minibus service. Adhikari, however, blamed the government for introducing a fare reduction in the first place.
The Department of Transport Management appeared to be aware of the issue but was reluctant to take any concrete action. “This matter needs to be regulated by the traffic police and the department collectively,” said Gokarna Prasad Upadhyay, the department spokesperson. “But since public transport entrepreneurs have not filed any complaints with us, no action has been taken against anyone.”