After complaints, police cracking down on overcharging bus operatorsMetropolitan Traffic Police Division says more than 400 bus operators have been fined in one month. Consumer rights activists unconvinced sporadic crackdowns will solve the problem.
After widespread criticism of overcharging of passengers by public transport operators in Kathmandu Valley for the past one month following the recent hike in transport fares, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has announced a crackdown on the malpractice.
The Bagmati Province Physical Infrastructure Development Ministry had hiked bus fares in the province including Kathmandu Valley on October 18. But bus operators started shortchanging passengers citing lack of change.
“In the past one month we have booked 400 public vehicles including buses and microbuses for cheating passengers by not returning enough money back. And from this week we are intensifying the crackdown further,” said Superintendent of Police Sanjib Sharma Das, also spokesperson of the division.
After the hike, buses have been charging Rs 20 instead of the actual fare of Rs 18 for the first up to five kilometers, according to police. For travelling up to 10 kilometers, the new fare is Rs 23 but passengers are being charged Rs 25. Similarly, passengers are forced to pay Rs30 for 15 kilometers although the true fare is Rs27.
“We have intensified checks on public vehicles across the Valley and anyone found overcharging is fined Rs3,000,” said Senior Superintendent Janak Bhattarai, also the chief of the division.
The division said that the office has been punishing the public transporters as per the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, 2049, which states that overcharging transporters can be fined between Rs 1,000 and 5,000.
Consumer rights activists who have long been criticising the government's decision to hike the fares, have welcomed the ongoing crackdown but wonder how long will the police inspections continue before the bus operators return to their old ways.
“We are against the fare hike itself and very much against the shortchanging of the public,” said Jyoti Baniya, chairperson of the Forum for Consumers’ Rights Nepal. “Earlier I myself was overcharged by a bus conductor. The police crackdown is a good thing but I wonder if they can really end the fleecing of passengers,” said Baniya.
Last month, a high-ranking traffic police official requesting anonymity had shared with the Post that the authorities’ fixing the fares at Rs18, Rs23 and so on itself was problematic, because bus conductors can easily use lack of change as an excuse to cheat passengers. The official instead recommended a digital payment system as a permanent solution to the problem
He had said that every bus or conductor for shortchanging Rs 2 from each passenger in a day serving around 2,000 passengers daily earns Rs 4,000 extra this way. And this will be around Rs 120,000 per month.
The Traffic police division deploys over 1,500 traffic police personnel across the Valley on a daily basis. The division said they will intensify checks on public transport to ensure that no passenger is being overcharged and the seats designated for the elderly and women are not occupied by others.
“We request all the passengers that if any conductor does not give you sufficient change, please contact us on 103 or nearby traffic police station, we will punish them,” said chief of division Bhattarai.