Nepal | March 28, 2020

Govt steps up crackdown on Tootle, Pathao

Umesh Poudel

Kathmandu, November 24

After the Department of Transport Management issued a notice and declared ride-sharing service providers Tootle and Pathao illegal, Traffic Police have started crackdown on the ride-sharing service providers.

Metropolitan Traffic Police Office, Swoyambhu, today detained Bikash Tamang, a Pathao service provider, on the charge of violating the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act. As per Section 8 of the act, any vehicle that has been registered for private use cannot be used as a means of public transportation.

Superintendent of Police Rabi Kumar Poudel at Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, Ramsahpath, stated that they were following the rules as per the direction of the government. “Our duty is to follow the rules that have been set by the government. We are taking action against only those riders who provide sharing service against the prevalent laws,” SP Paudel added.

However, Shasanka Thapa, manager at Pathao, said that Traffic Police have started taking action against their service providers due to pressure from taxi drivers. “Taxi drivers are not happy with our service as we have grabbed a large portion of their market share,” he added. “I personally feel that taxi drivers are acting like a transport syndicate.”

“We are in a state of confusion at present and don’t know where to lodge our grievances,” he said. “We have already notified the authorities concerned about our service and asked them to legalise it, but there has been no response till date.” Thapa added that the government needed to formulate necessary laws for ride-sharing platforms as the world was now heading towards a ‘gig’ economy.

Kedar Sharma, a freelance writer, said that he had been using ride-sharing services for quite some time now and was happy with the services. “Tootle and Pathao have been very convenient for people like me who do not have private vehicles.”

He added that the government needed to frame necessary laws to regulate and monitor such services instead of just banning them. “I think such bans will stifle both entrepreneurship and innovation.”

On November 19, the DoTM had issued a notice banning ride-sharing services and threatened to initiate legal action if the service providers continued to use private motorbikes for transporting passengers.

It had said that vehicles that were registered for private use could not be used for public transportation.

The department had issued a similar statement against the two ride-sharing services on January 16 as well.

However, it was forced to backtrack on the decision after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said innovative services such as ride-sharing should be encouraged.

“We are planning to talk with the related government agencies for a necessary way out of the situation,” said Thapa.

Gogan Bahadur Hamal, director general at DoTM, said that unless there were rules enacted people should not take up any activity which is deemed illegal. “There are many things we need to look at such as if any passenger meets with an accident and gets injured or dies then who is going to bear the responsibility — the rider or the platform,” he stated.

“So, until the necessary laws have been formulated and enacted everybody should follow the prevalent laws and law enforcement agencies are bound to take action against anyone violating the current laws,” said Hamal.

Another area of concern for the government is regarding taxes. As per the Inland Revenue Department, Tootle owes the government Rs 33.9 million and Pathao has outstanding dues of nearly Rs 2.5 million from fiscals 2016-17 to 2018-19.

A version of this article appears in print on November 25, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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