As the popularity of Tootle and Pathao soared, taxi entrepreneurs took to the streets and personally met with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in January asking for his help to stop such services. They said the taxi business was faring badly due to Tootle and Pathao. Taxi drivers had also demanded scientific fare revision.
Following the outcry of taxi entrepreneurs, the Department of Transport Management issued a statement against the two ride-sharing services on January 16. However, it was forced to backtrack on the decision after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said innovative services such as ride-sharing should be encouraged.
Cut to three months later, taxi drivers could be seen protesting against the government, as their demand for scientific fare revision was not met, by pasting posters on their vehicles that read मैले तिर्ने मूल्य चाहिं २०७५ सालको को अनि लिने मूल्य छहिं २०६९ सालको?, चित्तबुझ्दो जवाफ देउ सरकार, मैले दिएको भोट मान्य हुने तर मेरो पेशाको समस्या कसैले नसुन्ने ?, चित्तबुझ्दो जवाफ देउ सरकार, सरकार मेरो पेशालाई यसरी धराशायी पारी मलाई खाडी जान बाध्य नबनाउनुहोस्, all making satirical comments at the government for ignoring the plights of taxi drivers.
As the taxi drivers’ dissatisfaction with the government started becoming increasingly visible, the department of transport then instructed the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division to rid the taxis of the pamphlets. Another attack on freedom of expression.
At a time when international ride sharing apps like Lyft, Hitch and Uber are changing how the world commutes, the leaders of the ruling communist party in our country believe that they have no option but to ban the things that they can’t comprehend.
The last time government authorities cracked down Tootle and Pathao, they cited that the ride sharing apps were evading taxes. According to the Inland Revenue Department, Tootle owes the government Rs 33.9 million and Pathao has outstanding dues of nearly Rs 2.5 million. The IRD has come up with the amount based on the income tax and value added tax that companies need to pay from fiscals 2016-17 to 2018-19.
This time, issuing a press statement yesterday, the department of transport said “vehicles registered for private use could not be used for transporting passengers.” As per Section 8 of the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, vehicles registered for private purpose cannot be used as means of public transportation.
However instead of doing some research on public needs and adjusting the policies in favor of innovative business ideas, the government is active in prohibiting people’s choices. As the ruling party is gradually clamping down on our fundamental rights, it is no longer clear what the future holds for Nepalis.
Regressive stances like curbing freedom of expression and speech, banning porn and ride sharing apps, are NCP’s only way to realizing their vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis”. How are we supposed to be happy or prosperous when the government wouldn’t allow innovative ideas to grow? It’s like the government is taking 12 steps back when we should be moving forward in order to be able to compete with the international market or even sustain what we already have in the country.
Think of the jampacked Nepal Yatayat buses, remember being late to work because of impenetrable traffic jams, recall three people cramped in the front seat of a tempo, imagine the heavily crowded buses that were titled during the economic blockade by India. Now think of having ride-sharing apps like Tootle and Pathao give you a ride during “Nepal Banda” (national shut-down) or some other emergency.
Tootle and Pathao had only recently made their services available 24/7. Now imagine getting a public vehicle in the middle of the night or paying a taxi for a mid-night ride. When the government was alerted about the need for night-time buses, authorities concerned time-and-again said that they do not see the need for night buses within the valley because “who even commutes during the night?” Now keep those people in heart who work till late at night and have to go home at two in the morning.
Today, neither taxis are doing well nor public vehicles are managed, and the government thinks banning Tootle and Pathao is the only solution to worsening public transportation system.