Kathmandu, January 16
The Department of Transport Management has stated that it won’t take any legal action against the ride-sharing two-wheelers services, given the public sentiment attached to it.
‘Technology-based intermediary companies’ that operate from mobile applications Tootle and Pathao have been running the business for month in Kathmandu. They act as intermediaries to connect motorbike owners and passengers and take a cut from bike owners’ earnings.
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, in a bid to discourage the service, impounded motorbikes of the two service providers yesterday and day before yesterday and slapped a fine of Rs 1,000 on each motorbike owner.
Traffic cops’ action incurred the wrath of the public, with service seekers saying they benefited from the service.
Speaking to THT, Director of DoTM Gokarna Prasad Upadhyay said, “People have found an alternative to public transport and overwhelmingly support this service. In respect to the public sentiment, we’ll not take any step to discourage the service for now.”
Upadhyay said they would frame new rules to govern ‘online-based transport service’ in the 15th Plan and Concept Paper and a new bill that will be prepared on their basis will hopefully be passed by the Parliament by mid-March.
Section 8 of Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, however, does not allow vehicles registered for private purposes to be used as means of public transportation. The traffic police invoked this section of the act to take action against motorbike owners.
Senior Superintendent of Police Basanta Kumar Panta of MTPD said they would be compelled to take action against such service providers if they received more complaints from public. Babu Ram Aryal, who specialises on information technology laws, said the government should act prudently before banning technology-based intermediaries who have already grabbed a fair share of market, besides creating numerous jobs.
“This kind of business is a global phenomenon. The government should take action against such businesses only when anomalies such as tax evasion are proved.”
Aryal added that the government should encourage such businesses as they involved reliable monetary transactions and tax collection since transactions were made mostly through electronic medium.
He suggested that the government should develop a mechanism to save data of individuals collected from such services and fix the fair rate.
Both Tootle and Pathao are popular with youngsters who find them hassle-free and cheaper than taxis.
According to Tootle and Pathao officials, more than 20,000 bike owners have registered themselves to provide service, most of them full timers. More than 400,000 people have downloaded these apps to use the services. Tootle is providing service since 2017, while Pathao began operating only four months ago.
Manita Pokhrel, 24, who works as Media Officer at Nepal Mediciti Hospital and is a regular Tootle user, said, “It takes one-and-a-half hours to reach home in public transport after walking 20 minutes to reach the bus stop. Moreover, public transport after 6:00pm is always over-crowded. Taxi, on the other hand, costs me Rs 450 to 500. But Tootle helps me reach my home in Anamnagar from office in about 20 minutes and it costs just Rs 100.”
A version of this article appears in print on January 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.