Transportation of cargo across Nepal has been affected as truck operators in Bharatpur have halted services in protest against the government’s system of issuing permits, among other things. Bharatpur lies midway on the East-West Highway that extends along the length of the country, and shipments have been disrupted all over.
Truckers have been off the roads since Wednesday with an eight-point charter of demands. They are particularly upset over the issuance of road permits with differing cargo capacities for vehicles with the same engine displacement.
According to transportation entrepreneur Bhanu Thapa, the practice of stating a different capacity in the vehicle’s blue book has caused them several problems. “Ten-wheeler trucks equipped with engines of similar power have been issued permits for different capacities,” Thapa said. “The capacities of 10-wheeler trucks vary from 14 to 17 tonnes.”
Transportation entrepreneurs have also demanded that the traffic police should not commit excesses in the name checking. Transporters should be given a discount of up to 10 percent for carrying small shipments and proceedings should be begun against drivers involved in accidents only after they are found to be at fault during the investigation, they said. They have also asked for a hike in freight charges.
Truck operators went off the roads as per the call of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE), Nepal Trucks Entrepreneurs’ Association, Narayani Transport Entrepreneurs’ Association and Tarai Transport Entrepreneurs’ Association.
These organisations have warned of halting transport nationwide for an indefinite period if the government did not heed their demands.
According to Surendra Shah, a wholesaler in Narayanghat, shortages of essential commodities like rice might become visible in the market in a few days. “Rice shipments from Birgunj have stopped as a result of the strike. The market might witness a shortage within one to two days,” Shah said.
Just before the strike started, Bhairahawa-based transporters had increased the freight charges unilaterally by imposing a syndicate. They had hiked the fare on the Bhairahawa- Kathmandu route to Rs 22,000 per 10 tonnes from Rs 19,000.
Similarly, the charge has been hiked to Rs 20,000 from Rs 16,500 for the Pokhara-Bhairahawa sector.
The truck operators have demanded that the new rates be made official following widespread criticism of the syndicate system and the hike in charges. They said that since the government had approved price increases made by them in the past, the latest increase must also be okayed. The government has abandoned plans to hike transport fares due to falling fuel prices.