Traffic grinds to halt in the Capital as cabbies take to the streets

Kathmandu, July 29

Taxi drivers in Kathmandu Valley are notorious for metre tampering, haphazard fare collection and poor quality service, among others. Their rally today against the government’s decision to open registration for new cabs might just have tarnished their image further among the general public, who faced the brunt of massive traffic jams during the morning rush hour.

Taking to the streets against the government’s recent decision to allow registration for new taxis after a gap of 15 years, the cab drivers had organised a rally that started around 10:00am. With hundreds of taxis participating in the protest, there were huge traffic congestions in areas like Putalisadak, Bhrikutimandap, Sundhara, Ratnapark and Jamal.

“I agree that it is one’s fundamental right to express dissatisfaction, but occupying the roads for some group’s interest is totally wrong,” said Subarna Regmi, a bank employee, who was stuck in Sundhara for around half an hour.

According to some eyewitnesses, even the cabs that had not participated in the demonstration were forced to drop off their passengers and take part in the protest programme.

Cab entrepreneurs and drivers have demanded that the government roll back its decision to add new taxis in Kathmandu Valley and also cancel the existing provision that requires more than 20-year-old taxis to be sent to the scrap yard. They claim that the entry of new cabs would hurt their business.

CPN-Maoist has expressed its solidarity in the protest of the taxi operators and the party’s Vice-Chairman CP Gajurel had also attended the gathering of cab operators at Khula Manch.

Amid increased demand and growth in population in Kathmandu Valley, a Cabinet meeting last year had decided to add new taxis. Based on the decision of the government, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport last month had decided to add 2,850 taxis and Department of Transport Management (DoTM) had started making preparations to register 1,850 cabs in the first phase.

In the next phase, DoTM plans to allow operation of 500 taxis involving the earthquake-affected family members and register 500 deluxe cabs through companies rather than individual owners.

“The protest indicates that the cab operators want to continue syndicate in taxi business, which the government simply cannot allow,” said a high level official at DoTM. The official further said that the protest did not make any sense since they had reached the decision to add new taxis after holding consultations with the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs.

At present, there are around 5,650 taxis in operation in Kathmandu Valley and with the addition of 1,850 units, there will be altogether 7,500 units — which is the number of taxis that were in operation in the Valley 15 years ago.

With the population of the Valley expected to have reached four million, while a reliable mode of public transport is lacking, the government has been facing pressure to add more taxis, including luxury cabs.