The existing rules must be changed to ensure that the cabbies stop fleecing the passengers and take them to their destinations as and when required
Hiring a taxi in the Kathmandu Valley can be a nightmare. The taxi drivers do not abide by the rules set by the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), which require them to take the passengers to their destination as and when asked with the fare meter on. But instead of turning on the fare meter, they first ask where the passengers want to go and how much money they are willing to pay for the ride. The taxi rider is supposed to pay to the service provider according to the fare meter distributed by the DoTM. It is especially challenging to get a taxi outside the Ring Road in times of an emergency and during the odd hours. The government and the traffic police know very well that the cabbies quite often charge additional money or fleece the passengers under one pretext of the other. But the legal action taken for fleecing the passengers is too little compared to the amount they charge from the taxi users. They can easily recoup their loss as a result of the fine by charging more from another passenger. According to the rules, the offender is fined a certain amount of money every time he deceives the passenger. Such a fine never deters the taxi driver from cheating another passenger.
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has claimed to have taken action against as many as 4,891 errant cabbies in the past six months for refusing to turn on the fare meter, as per the complaints made by the general public. It seems that the Traffic Police have taken more action against the rule breakers (4,298) this fiscal than in the previous fiscal. But the actions have not served as a deterrent as the number of offenders is still on the rise. A snap survey carried out by this daily on Sunday found that only one taxi driver agreed to provide service with his meter on. Even if they agree to provide the essential service to the public on the meter, they often demand an additional Rs 150 or Rs 200.
After all measures to make the cabbies comply with the rules failed, the Traffic Police launched a ‘how much operation’ since 2015, and booked a total of 42,719 cabbies on the same charges. Records show that one taxi driver was fined at least 3.8 times on average in the last five years. However, the problem is that the Traffic Police cannot impose an additional fine for repeated offences other than what has been fixed by the rules. There must be a change in the rules if we are to have the cabbies abide by the rules. There must be a digital record-keeping system within the Traffic Police to keep track of those cabbies who tend to commit such offences more than once. This system, if well-implemented, should make them wary about committing the same offence time and again. At the same time, while it is imperative to adjust the taxi fare as per the inflation rate and rising cost of spare parts, the municipalities in the Valley also need to improve service delivery of the public transport system too so that the general public does not have to rely on the cabbies. Public transport must operate round-the-clock in every nook and corner of the urban centres. The Traffic Police can also learn lessons from other countries where the cabbies provide their service without fleecing the passengers.
Name the remaining
Province 3 is the latest among the country’s seven provinces to decide on a name and its headquarters. The Provincial Assembly, with a two-thirds majority, on Sunday decided to call it Bagmati and designate Hetauda as its headquarters. Earlier, provinces 4, 6 and 7 had confirmed their names and capitals. As such, there are only three provinces now without a name and a capital, namely provinces 1, 2 and 5. Despite reservations by and pressure from some groups, none of the provinces have been named on ethnic lines. Actually before the new constitution was written in 2015, there was a clamour for many more provinces based on ethnicity that made up the majority.
It would be prudent on the remaining provinces that still have not christened them to do so at the earliest. It’s been years since the constitution was launched, and is not understandable why it should take so long to name the provinces and agree on the headquarters. A capital demands many things, and inability to designate it stalls the development of basic infrastructure and other projects. Even though the provincial governments have money, they are unable to spend it in the midst of confusion about where the capital will be.
A version of this article appears in print on January 14, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.