DoTM makes U-turn in issuing route permits for new taxis

• Beneficiaries to get to choose to operate taxis in their home districts

• Cabs required to be registered within next six months

Kathmandu, June 26

The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has made a U-turn from its earlier stance of only issuing route permits for Kathmandu Valley to the quake beneficiaries who have recently won taxi permits.

Following intense lobbying from Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), the department has decided to give the winners of the new taxi permits an option to operate their cabs in their own districts.

“We have started registration process of new taxis and will issue route permits for these cabs in any of the 14 quake-affected districts as per the wish of beneficiaries,” Tok Raj Pandey, spokesperson for DoTM, said.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2015, the government had announced that 1,500 new taxi permits for the Kathmandu Valley would be issued for the quake survivors of 14 worst-affected districts to generate livelihood opportunities for them. After receiving nearly 150,000 applications for the same, the department had conducted a lucky draw over three days last week to distribute the permits.

Meanwhile, as the lucky draw got under way, KMC had urged DoTM to issue route permits for the new taxis outside the Valley as well considering the worsening traffic congestion in the Capital.

The taxi operators in the Valley also back KMC’s views that Valley roads are already overcrowded. “The traffic congestion will only get worse if new taxis are allowed to ply in the Capital,” said Arjun Gautam, president of Nepal Meter Taxi Entrepreneurs’ Association (NMTEA), adding the DoTM’s option is ‘good’.

Though the department has shown flexibility, it seems unlikely that a large number of beneficiaries will seek the route permit in their districts due to the challenging terrain and lack of market in their hometowns. Moreover, the quake survivors would not be able to ply the new cabs on multiple routes. This means that they would have to operate the new taxis on the very route fixed by the department.

Meanwhile, DoTM has said that quake survivors will have to register their taxis within next six months (December) at DoTM offices and begin operation. In case they fail to do so by the given deadline, Pandey informed that the taxi permits will be scrapped automatically.

“We have given six months’ time for registration so that beneficiaries of taxi permits will have ample time to manage resources to buy new taxis,” he added.

DoTM has also said that it will approve registration of new taxis only in the name of the quake beneficiary who has won the taxi permit from the government. “This will ensure that the newly issued taxi permits (number plates) are not sold to somebody else,” said Pandey.

While quake survivors who have acquired taxi permits had sought government’s support in refinancing facilities to purchase new cabs, the government has already said that they will have to make the arrangements themselves. A new taxi, on an average, costs almost Rs 1.5 million.

NMTEA President Gautam said that quake survivors are unlikely to really benefit from the taxi permit scheme as they will face difficulties in financing the new cab. “It seems the government just wanted to put up a good show with this scheme.”