EDITORIAL: Taxi permits

A number of applicants have said they would not have participated in such an ‘expensive’ scheme had the government arranged other means of livelihood for them

Among the various measures the government has taken to help earthquake victims, its decision to issue 1,500 taxi permits to them is one for which 150,000 survivors have applied. This means out of each 100 applicants, one will be a lucky winner. In order to ensure transparency and impartiality in choosing the winners, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has rightly chosen some blind women to draw 491 lucky winners on the first day of the three-day lottery drawing event. But there are also complaints that several members from the same families, allegedly those with good links with government officials, have also applied against the government’s policy. This matter should also be properly taken up by the authorities. This facility for taxi permits was announced for the survivors from the 14 hardest hit districts in the 2015 major earthquakes. The rush for the permits means that the survivors want to get taxi permits which are otherwise extremely difficult to get.

However, the lack of jubilation on the part of the applicants, even if they win a luck draw, is reported to be due to the financial burden they will have to carry to purchase a taxi will be very high – at around Rs.1.5 million. There are no attractive incentives for them. Being quake victims, they must have lost much of their property in the earthquake. The taxi permit scheme does not provide a loan facility to them; they will have to manage the resources themselves. There will be no customs waiver for them either. Moreover, the scheme practically excludes people from the poorest victims as they cannot dream of collecting that much money to buy a taxi – and most of the victims are indeed poor. Many of the lucky draw winners may have to mortgage their property to take out a loan, which means they will face an uphill task to make their life better with a new taxi, carrying a risk. A number of applicants have said that they would not have participated in such an ‘expensive’ scheme if the government had arranged other means of livelihood for them or gifted a cow or a buffalo or agricultural tools for them to earn a living in their own village.

The difficulty in getting financing on their own is a valid point which the government authorities should take up seriously and help the lucky winners properly. Apart from financing, the main market for taxis is the Kathmandu Valley, followed by Pokhara. In other towns of the country, taxis, if any, are few in number as they will not find passengers there. Because of this, the Cabinet decided to issue 1,500 taxi permits to operate in the Kathmandu Valley. Of late, an idea has been floated from some quarters that permitting the new taxis to operate in the Kathmandu Valley would contribute to overcrowding there. If not in the Valley, the new taxis would be useless. Such an idea floated at this eleventh hour of the scheme is not at all helpful in any way. What the government should do now is to speed up the process of issuing permits, after the lucky winners have been chosen, without any hassle at any office. The government should keep

its promise fully.

Promote yoga

Practicing yoga has immense benefits. It helps in keeping the mind and body healthy and sound. This 5,000- year-old practice is gaining in popularity. Yoga not only helps increase strength and flexibility but it enhances physical fitness by burning excess calories. People are encouraged to practice yoga as a routine so as to lead a better life. Yoga should preferably be taught from schools. Yoga is a physical activity that could also be practiced in workplaces. It is considered that yoga can put non-communicable diseases at bay. These diseases cause millions of deaths every year.

There are reports that many die prematurely. Seventy per cent of boys and 80 per cent of girls lack sufficient physical activity which is very shocking. They should be encouraged to take up activities like yoga. People aged above 65 can help reduce the incidence of depression by yoga and it also helps maintain their cognitive functions. People from any age can practice yoga to realize benefits accruing from it for it promotes healthy lifestyles and also physical activity. It also helps people to avoid bad habits and more people are practicing it worldwide.