EDITORIAL: Enforce the rules

Previously it was found that many cabbies were guilty of tampering with their meters to show higher reading, and they got away with it

Many unscrupulous taxi drivers in the capital are charging more than they should be. Although they are supposed to charge as per the readings of the meters they charge a higher amount arbitrarily, thereby fleecing the hapless passengers. In a bid to halt this malpractice the Metropolitan Traffic Office and the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) have made a provision requiring all the taxis plying in the capital city to install electronic billing machines. The deadline for having them installed had been set at July 22 and there are around 1,800 taxis which still have to install them. Showing some leniency the cab owners are now given more time to get them installed. There are 9,500 taxis operating in the Valley and about 7,700 of them have already installed the electronic billing machines. The delay in installing these gadgets could also be because not more than a hundred taxis can have them installed in a day. The goal is to install the billing machines in all the taxis plying in Kathmandu within three weeks.

However, there are reports that some taxi owners are not installing the billing system so that they would be able to continue with their fraudulent activities. They should be punished and compelled to have the billing machines installed compulsorily. The beauty of the billing machines is that they provide valuable information like the taxi number, the initial and final meter readings, the distance travelled, besides the amount charged. The billing machines are being installed at the Metropolitan Traffic Office at Ramshahpath. If the billing machines were installed the passengers would be provided with the much needed relief. The government should fully implement this provision. The NBSM and the traffic police are monitoring the taxis to see to it that everybody abides by the rules. It is reported that on Sunday alone the traffic police nabbed 115 taxis that had not installed the billing machines. The passengers should also be blamed for paying the amount demanded by the cabbies who overcharge. The passengers would be provided with a bill which would discourage the taxi drivers from charging more than they are supposed to. This step should have been taken long ago. The measure was announced after there were much complaint from the passengers that they were being overcharged and cheated by the taxi drivers, and little if any action was taken against them.

This system was put into effect after the prime minister’s office had directed the NBSM to do so. These machines were to be installed between January 1 and July 22. It is heartening to note that most of the taxi owners have opted to have the billing machines installed in their cabs. The new provision is expected to be able to address the passengers’ concerns and prevent them from being fleeced by taxi drivers. It should be seen that the billing machines are being used compulsorily and working properly and have not been tampered with. Previously it was found that many cabbies were guilty of tampering with their meters to show higher reading, and they got away with it. This should not happen now with the new electronic billing machines.

Action is needed

More than sixty participants representing various domestic and international organizations exchanged ideas at a progrmame in the capital on Tuesday on how to improve sustainable urban mobility and vehicle fuel policy in the Valley. Such programmes are hardly organized in Nepal without foreign aid. So much has already been spent on such things with dubious results. The propragamme focused on cleaner and efficient use of vehicle fuel and on the need to reduce pollution. This is just one aspect of the overall urban transport management.

The problem with us is not the lack of ideas for so many things but the lack of will and sincerity to put them into practice. This equally applies to urban transport management including minimizing vehicular emissions and air pollution. The time is for action rather than for such seemingly fruitless talk. The money thus spent could be used for better purposes. The frequent and lengthy traffic jams are another highly important problem facing the Kathmandu Valley. Too many overcrowded public transport vehicles are making commuting in the valley a hellish experience. There are other problems too that need to be resolved if the valley’s transport system is to be made prompt, efficient, comfortable and fairly priced in an environment-friendly manner.