Ride sharing app start limited services in KathmanduCompany says it’s only for emergency use, traffic police say riders will be punished if caught.
At a time when taxi drivers have been demonstrating demanding that they be allowed to return to work, a ride sharing company has resumed its services flouting the government ban on riding on motorbikes.
Traffic police officials say they are keeping a close watch on motorbikes and are allowing pillion riding only in case of emergencies.
“We only have 100 riders for the service and they are equipped with protective gears,” said Sashank Thapa, senior manager at Pathao, which resumed its service on Monday, nearly three months after the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
In mid-June the government had eased the lockdown only allowing private vehicles to operate under the odd-even scheme and banning pillion riding on motorbikes.
“We partially resumed our services after our riders complained about their day-to-day problems and every day we got calls from our customers requesting us to resume our services,” said Thapa. “We have been providing our service only in cases of emergency,” he added.
Bhim Prasad Dhakal, chief at the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, said traffic police will strictly monitor the activities of ride-sharing apps. “We have only allowed pillion riding in emergency cases. The division has already directed all its officers to punish riders on the spot if they are found carrying passengers,” said Dhakal.
Another ride-sharing company Tootle said it has not started its services yet. “We have not resumed our services. We have just upgraded our app,” said Sixit Bhatta, co-founder of Tootle. “But our competitor has resumed services,” he said referring to Pathao. “We are also looking to provide services to our customers adopting safety measures against Covid-19,” said Bhatta.
Officials have always been intolerant towards ride-sharing apps. The Department of Transport Management has published a notice three times to ban ride-sharing saying that private vehicles should not be used for purposes other than specified in the law, but after widespread criticism from the public, it has been backtracking on its decisions.
Meanwhile, cab drivers have complained that private vehicles are ferrying passengers in the absence of taxis on the streets. They have warned of further protests, a day after drivers demonstrated outside the department of transport office in Kathmandu.
“Taxi drivers are dying of hunger. They are under tremendous pressure to service their bank loans and pay rent,” said Surya Tamang, chairperson of Taxi Majdur Sangh, an organisatioins of taxi drivers.
Even private vehicles are ferrying passengers against the rule but they are not punished, said Tamang, “It’s because private vehicle owners have access to power, but we don’t as most of us are not educated ,” he said.
Taxi drivers have always been vocal against ride-sharing and have been accusing them of taking away their business, as the companies had become quite popular among the members of the public before the pandemic.