Public vehicle users face brunt of govt apathy

Even though the government had set the transport fare at Rs 13 for short rides four months ago, it has not been implemented effectively. As a result, commuters are being charged arbitrarily by transporters in different routes of the Kathmandu Valley.

In February, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), while adjusting fares of public transport and cargo carriers in line with the decline in the price of petroleum products, had fixed the minimum fare at Rs 13 for a ride of up to 4km despite objection from transport entrepreneurs. They had demanded the government to keep the charge for short ride steady at Rs 14.

Consumers have been hit by transporters charging arbitrarily, cramming more passengers than the seat capacity of the vehicles and lack of monitoring over the wrongdoings. Amid the transporters not abiding the government set rules, National Consumer Forum (NCF) has submitted a memorandum based on its study to the Chief Secretary urging necessary monitoring and to take action against drivers and transport entrepreneurs who are cheating the passengers.

A study of NCF shows that transporters are charging Rs 15 to Rs 20 per passenger in Shankhamul-New Baneshwor-Ratnapark, Lagankhel-Nepal Airlines Corporation, Balajuchowk-Lainchaur and Kalanki-Tripureshwor routes.

“Based on the government fixed rate, the fare for the routes was supposed to be only Rs 13, but this minimum fare is hardly implemented in any route,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the forum. Giving an example of a microbus that normally has seat capacity for 12 passengers but carries up to 25, he said that overloading has been a basic problem.

In major bus stations like Jamal, Shahid Gate, Nepal Airlines Corporation and Ratnapark, despite the obvious ill-practice of overloading by transporters, Traffic Police are not taking action.

“During the course of the study, we even found the traffic police siding with the transporters when someone complained against them,” said Maharjan.

The provision of allotting seats for women and differently-abled people as per the Public Transport Code of Conduct, and the facility of concession in transport fare for elderly person in public vehicles have also not been implemented effectively.

DoTM and its all zonal offices, Zonal Transport Management Committee and Traffic Police have the authority to conduct monitoring over transport fare and implementation of the code of conduct and take action against transporters found to be flouting the rules. There is also a provision of conducting a monitoring on transport fare at least once a month by DoTM involving representatives from transport entrepreneurs’ organisation and consumer rights activists. This too has not happened.

As per the Vehicle and Transport Management Act, collecting high fare from passengers than the fixed rate is illegal and if transporters are found to be doing so, they could be imposed fine of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.

An official at DoTM, requesting anonymity, said that they do not have sufficient workforce to conduct regular monitoring. “Only the number of vehicles has gone up in the country, but capacity of DoTM has remained the same for years,” the official added.

Source: THT