Thousands deprived of new driving licenseDepartment of Transport, which had earlier vowed to resume tests after Dashain and Tihar still remains undecided.
When Sabina Sharma leaves her home in Sanothimi on her brand new scooter, she is not only worried about catching coronavirus, but also being caught by traffic police.
The 25-year-old, who works for a private company in Lalitpur, has been regularly commuting on her scooter for the past five months, but without a driving licence.
“Two weeks ago, I was stopped by traffic police and asked to show my license. Luckily the policeman didn’t take action when I told him that new license tests haven’t been conducted for months,” said Shama. “The fear of getting caught comes to mind whenever I am on the road.”
Like Sharma, many others have bought their own two wheelers after the Covid-19 pandemic struck the city, and public transport was seen as an unsafe way to commute But as the Department of Transport has not resumed issuing new licenses, they are riding without a license.
Officials at the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division say personnel on the road have been catching many people riding new vehicles without a licence.
It’s not just the people who need their own vehicle to commute to work, many others, for whom a license is a means of livelihood, also haven’t had the chance to avail driving licenses.
According to the department everyday around 8,000 people used to apply for driver’s licence during the pre-pandemic days. Half of them would pass the tests and get issued a licence. This means that around the 728,000 people who would have otherwise received their license have been barred from doing so.
The Department of Transport Management under the Ministry of Transport and Physical Infrastructure had initially announced that it plans to resume driving tests after Dashain. But it later said the tests will resume after Tihar. But a week has passed since Tihar, and officials at the department are clueless about when tests will resume.
Officials are now saying that they need approval from the ministry to resume issuing licenses. “We need to get approval from the ministry. Our work is just to run a system,” said Loknath Bhusal, spokesperson for the department.
When the Post contacted the director-general at the department who in mid-July assured that the tests will resume after Dashain and Tihar, said he is not sure when things will get back to normal. He said that distribution of licenses comes under the federal government’s jurisdiction.
“We know a great number of people are deprived of their driving licence. We can’t do anything without the ministry's decision,” said Director-general Gogan Bahadur Hamal. He said the department has been consulting the federal government, but such consultations haven’t yielded any results.
“Still there are so many people flocking the transport office to renew their licence and pay taxes, if we resume the tests we can’t handle the crowd,” said Hamal.
The department resumed its other services such as licence renewal, vehicle registration and tax collection three months after the nationwide lockdown that had started in March end. Right now, all transport offices in Kathmandu Valley (Thulo Bhyrang, Sukedhara, Jagati and Ekantakuna) are packed with service seekers.
The government’s apathy has not only impacted those that want to or need to drive, but also people who invested in driving schools being run on leased land.
Meanwhile, Sharma has no option but to ride her scooter to work. “The government is indifferent towards the citizens’ problems. It has already given permission to run public vehicles in full capacity. What’s wrong with resuming licence tests?” she asks.
“How long should we ride on the road with fear in our mind?”