Nepal | March 28, 2020

Seekers of smart driving licence in a jam

Process of issuing permits came to a grinding halt last week due to shortage of smart cards

Sabin Mishra

Kathmandu, September 7

Over four months since Bikki Bohara, a resident of Balaju, passed the trial to acquire driving licence, he breaks into a sweat every time he comes across traffic police checkpoints. This is because he is yet to receive his driving licence.

“Saying the wait has been frustrating would be an understatement,” said Bohara, who is trying to pursue his studies while working for a private organisation. “I need to have my private vehicle to commute to work and studies and taking a public transport is not really an option because it is so unreliable.”

Bohara’s case is not an isolated one, with thousands of driving licence seekers yet to be issued driving permits. Launched amid much fanfare and touted as a game changer in modernising the transport sector of the country in 2015, the issuance of smart driving licence cards has been anything but a smooth ride.

While the Department of Transport Management — the authorised government body to distribute smart licences — had only been able to issue a limited number of driving licences owing to shortage of smart cards, the process has come to a grinding halt since end of last week. Worse, because of the delay in issuing licences, the department has accumulated a backlog since May. According to Rup Narayan Bhattarai, director general of DoTM, the authority issued tender notice seeking fresh suppliers of smart cards only a few days ago.

“The government had allocated Rs 160 million for smart driving licences last fiscal but the earlier administration did not issue a tender for smart cards, which resulted in the funds remaining frozen,” he said, explaining the reason for the current situation. “We are trying to sort out this problem, but it could take a few more weeks.”

DoTM is handling driving trial examination from its 14 zonal offices and three other offices in Kathmandu Valley — Chabahil, Balaju and Suryabinayak.

According to the department, it receives around 4,000 applications for new driving licence every day — including those who pass the trial examination or seek renewal of their old licence. On the other hand, DoTM has a capacity to print only 2,000 smart licences in a day.

“We are struggling to bridge the gap between demand and supply of smart driving licence,” said Tok Raj Pandey, spokesperson for DoTM.

Moreover, of the existing four machines, one is out of service. In a bid to address the perennial problem in distributing smart driving licence cards, DoTM is finally gearing up to instal five more printing machines.

According to Bhattarai, DoTM is purchasing four licence printing machines and Asian Development Bank is providing one machine.

“After five more machines are installed, we will have altogether nine machines to print licences, which we plan to operate in two shifts every day,” Bhattarai said.

“After all the machines are brought into operation, we will be able to distribute the licence cards within a week after people pass their trial examinations,” he assured, although he would not give a time frame within which the department would be getting the new machines. “We are in the final stage of procurement and will bring the machines soon.”

However, such assurances do little to assuage service-seekers like Bohara, who was turned back from the Chabahil Office of DoTM yesterday, as ‘it would take at least one month’ before he would be getting his licence.

Asked what he would do now, he said, “Continue to ride my bike and hope I don’t get caught.”

A version of this article appears in print on September 08, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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