New rule bars licence applicants from using their own vehicles for driving testsThe transport department had earlier decided to allow licence applicants to use their own vehicles but officials have again reverted to the old rule ‘under pressure from driving schools’.
The Department of Transport Management has reversed its recent decision of allowing licence applicants to use their own vehicles for driving tests, known as trial exams, even before its implementation. The new decision has drawn criticism from licence applicants, who alleged that the department officials made the reversal after coming under the influence of the driving schools racket.
In its ‘Guidelines for the Conduct of Driving Licence Exam 2077’ published on April 2, the department had provisioned the use of their own vehicles by the applicants. But the provision was never implemented as the driving licence exams were postponed for several months owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns.
Samira Khadga of Lokanthali, Bhaktapur, who took her driving test last week at the department’s office at Ekantakuna, Lalitpur said she was not allowed to use her scooter for the test. “I had thought I would be able to use my own scooter for the trial, but the officials forced me to use a rented rickety scooter,” she said.
“I had to pay Rs300 for using the old and noisy scooter for the trial. And in the middle of the test, the engine stopped, which was not my fault. I was scared that they would fail me,” said Khadga, 27, who passed her licence test. She had passed her written test a week before the Covid-19 prohibitory orders were imposed in Kathmandu on April 29.
The department had resumed the written and driving tests in Bagmati Province from September 5 for those whose tests had been cancelled earlier due to the lockdowns. Gradually, transport offices in all the provinces have also resumed their services.
The new amendment to the guidelines was allegedly made in secret without consulting the stakeholders.
An official at the transport office, requesting anonymity, said the new change to the guidelines was made under pressure from driving school operators, who have been providing their vehicles for driving tests for a fee. “The earlier rule would reduce their income so they influenced transport officials to have their way,” said the official.
When the Post contacted Raju Bhai Kusum, the chief of the Licence Section of the department at Ekantakuna, and asked him about the allegations, he defended the new rule and said it will reduce traffic congestion and hassles for the applicants as they do not need to bring their own vehicles for the tests.
“When people are allowed to use their own vehicles they cause traffic jams in the area. Also we have found that many of the private vehicles brought by the applicants are not in proper condition,” Kusum said.
“And we will not have enough parking space here if the applicants are allowed to bring their own vehicles. So we thought the earlier decision was impractical and made the change,” he said.
Meanwhile, Director General of the department Namaraj Ghimire said their earlier decision was immature so they changed it.
“We were all new at the department when we made the decision, but later we realised that the decision was not practical,” said Ghimire. “The Supreme Court in 2018 had already issued a verdict in favour of using driving school vehicles for driving tests.”
The applicants are charged between Rs300 and Rs500 for using the driving schools’ vehicles for the driving test. Officials said about 350 examinees take driving tests daily at the department’s office at Ekantakuna while its offices at Thulo Bharyang, Jagati and Chabahil conduct around 300 driving tests per day.
But some transport officials themselves admit that the new change is flawed and will benefit the driving school operators.
“It would be good to allow applicants to use their own vehicles because all of us find our own vehicles more convenient to use. The driving test is challenging and it’s even more so when you are using a completely new vehicle. The law is flawed and favours the driving schools,” said an officer at a transport office.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the department has not issued new driving licences since March last year when the country went under its first lockdown. Though the department invited online applications for driving licences in January this year, it was closed after three months in April following a surge in Covid-19 cases.