Kathmandu, July 1

Against anticipation that the age-long syndicate practice in the country’s transportation sector is finally coming to an end, the government is preparing to extend the deadline for transport bodies to transform into the company model.

Under pressure from transport entrepreneurs, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) is gearing up to extend such deadline for transport bodies by almost six months. The earlier deadline had been set for July 17.

As an impressive move to curb the syndicate system in the public transportation sector, the government on April 11 had decided not to renew the registration of existing transport bodies (transport committees and associations) from mid-July. This decision also intended to bring transport entrepreneurs’ businesses under the tax net of the government by making them register under the company model.

However, the flexibility that the government is showing in bringing transport bodies under the company model hints towards the possible rise of syndicate system in the transportation sector in the future.

Though almost 320 transport bodies have registered themselves at the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) after completing their company registration process in the last two months, a majority of them including some renowned transport associations like Narayani Transporters’ Association, Araniko Transport Association and Prithivi Highway Bus Entrepreneurs’ Association, among others, are yet to start company registration process.

Meanwhile, the reluctance of the big transport associations to start company registration process and the government’s preparation to extend the registration renewal deadline for transport bodies provide hints that syndicate in the public transportation industry will be further prolonged.

The government’s plan to end syndicate in transport sector started to fizzle out after MoPIT leadership transferred Rupnarayan Bhattarai, erstwhile director general of DoTM — the prominent force who attempted to curb syndicate. Bhattarai, who was transferred to MoPIT, has not been given any responsibility so far.

Consumer activists have even viewed the government’s step to transfer Bhattarai as a move to restore transportation syndicate.

Though sources at MoPIT confirm that discussions are underway to extend the deadline for transport bodies to register as companies, MoPIT leadership and other high ranking officials are unwilling to comment on this issue.

“I have no idea on this issue,” said a high-ranking official at MoPIT.

Meanwhile, MoPIT leadership and bureaucrats are learned to be divided over extending the concerned deadline for transport bodies. Transport Minister Raghubir Mahaseth is seen backing the transport entrepreneurs’ call to extend the deadline for transport bodies to come into the company registration process.