Transport entrepreneurs pen five-point pact

Kathmandu, May 7

Agitating transport entrepreneurs have rolled back all their scheduled protest activities and signed a five-point agreement with the government to restructure and standardise the country’s public transportation sector.

Transport entrepreneurs were forced to kneel after the government not only scrapped all transport bodies practising syndicate system in the transport sector, but also started arresting those lobbying for such uncompetitive practices and freezing bank accounts of all transport bodies (transport committees and associations).

In the wake of protests launched by transport entrepreneurs backing transportation syndicate, the Nepal Rastra Bank yesterday, directed banks and financial institutions to freeze bank accounts of transport bodies after corresponding with government institutions.

Subsequently, transport entrepreneurs held talks with the government last evening and decided to withdraw their protests.

The five-point agreement between transport entrepreneurs and the government envisions ending all syndicate-related activities in the domestic transportation sector through joint efforts. The agreement states that transport entrepreneurs can enter the business even if they have only one vehicle. Earlier, entrepreneurs had to have at least four vehicles to launch public transportation service.

Most importantly, the government and transport entrepreneurs have agreed to form a task force, comprising secretaries of different ministries, experts and representatives from transport entrepreneurs, to prepare a report within a month and suggest to the government possible ways to standardise transportation sector of Nepal.

The other two provisions of the five-point agreement include withdrawal of protest activities backing transportation syndicate and formation of a probe committee, as directed by the Supreme Court in 2011, to examine the inability of the government to end syndicate system and take measures to standardise the industry.

“Syndicate system in public transportation sector has officially ended following the withdrawal of protests by transport entrepreneurs,” said Raghubir Mahaseth, minister for physical infrastructure and transport, adding that the government will work together with the private sector to reform the country’s transportation industry.

However, transport entrepreneurs said they had withdrawn protests on the condition that the government would do away with syndicate system in other sectors, such as health and education, as well and unfreeze the bank accounts of transport bodies.

“We were a bit taken aback that the government had not highlighted such demands of transport entrepreneurs while unveiling the agreement paper. Though we are against syndicate system in any sector, the agreement paper unveiled by the government seems to be one-sided,” said Yogendra Karmacharya, president of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Revenue Secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana said bank accounts of transport bodies would be unfrozen only after joint recommendation for the same from government agencies related to transportation industry, including the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Department of Transport Management and Ministry of Home Affairs.

However, when asked about the government’s plan to unfreeze bank accounts of transport bodies, Minister Mahaseth said, “It is not under my jurisdiction.”