Quake victims discontent with ‘taxi permits’

Lalitpur, June 21

The first day of lucky draw to distribute taxi permits for survivors from three of the 14 districts hardest hit by the quake of 2015 was held here today amidst much fanfare.

A handful of visually impaired women had conducted the lucky draw for 491 taxi permits on the first day of the three-day event, an effort made by the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) to ensure impartiality and transparency.

However, against the belief that the government’s decision to issue new taxi permits to quake victims will help them generate livelihood opportunities, the quake survivors said the decision would actually add to their financial burden.

While DoTM is in the process of deciding the fate of almost 150,000 earthquake survivors who had applied for 1,500 new taxi permits, The Himalayan Times was unable to find a single happy face among the quake survivors who were participating in the lucky draw programme today.

This was primarily due to the fact that quake survivors who get permit would have to purchase the taxis utilising their own resources, spending at least Rs 1.5 million in the process.

“The taxi permits are unlikely to really benefit the earthquake victims, especially those from the marginalised and underprivileged groups, as they simply do not have the financial resources to purchase taxis. If the government really wanted to help us, it should have also introduced policies to assist the quake survivors who get the taxi permits with financing options to purchase new taxis,” said Ambar Bahadur Silwal, an applicant for the taxi permit.

According to Silwal, quake victims will likely have to mortgage their property to buy taxis, thus making the livelihood of their families even more vulnerable.

Silwal is actually a resident of Chapagaun, Lalitpur and he was not even aware that the lucky draw today was aimed at distributing taxi permits for applicants from only three districts — Ramechhap, Kavrepalanchowk and Nuwakot.

A majority of quake victims that were present for the lucky draw today shared that if the government had assured their means of livelihood at the local level, they would not have participated in such an ‘expensive’ scheme of the government.

Prabesh Shrestha, another applicant for the taxi permit and a quake victim of Ramechhap district, said that the government should have gifted quake victims a cow or a buffalo or different agricultural tools, which would help them to sustain their life in their own localities. “It is good that the government is giving taxi permits to quake victims. Now the government should help them to finance these cabs,” he added. According to him, compelling earthquake victims to purchase taxis by keeping their property as collateral could be a peril for some if they are not able to earn enough to pay back the loans they take for the taxis.

Some quake survivors also believe that number of genuine quake victims who have applied for taxi permits could be minuscule. They allege that government has taken a large number of applications from big traders and people who have easy access to government authorities.

Another applicant, Suka Lal Lama of Jyamdi rural municipality of Kavrepalanchowk, claimed that he is aware of a family in Jyamdi that has submitted 15 applications for the new taxi permits as it has access to the bureaucracy. “With such irregularities, the marginalised quake survivors have little or no chance to get taxi permits,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, DoTM Director General Roop Narayan Bhattarai insisted that there has been no irregularity in the taxi permit scheme. “We have done our best to ensure that this government scheme is of help for the actual quake victims,” he stated.

Bhattarai also expressed his commitment to discuss with government about financing aspect of new taxis that quake survivors will need to purchase after receiving the permit.

DoTM plans to issue the remaining 1,009 taxi permits to victims of other 11 quake-affected districts through lucky draw events on Thursday and Friday.