Transport Syndicates Giving In

Uttam Maharjan

At long last, the syndicate entrenched in the domestic transport sector across Nepal has formally come to an end with the signing of a five-point pact between the government and transport entrepreneurs. The credit for ending such a nefarious syndicate in the transport sector, which is considered one of the essential public sectors, goes to the government backed up by the public, press and civil society. This may be considered a strong achievement of the present government.

The transport syndicate was a bane for people. It had a kind of monopoly over the transport services across the country. There were different transport committees registered with the district administration offices as NGOs. Although the transport entrepreneurs used to make much money, they did not have to pay tax under the cover of their functioning as NGOs. This has deprived the government of a huge amounts of revenue. The services of the transport syndicate were not up to the mark. The syndicate did not allow new vehicles to enter the market. However, if they wanted to, a hefty sum of money would have to be paid to the concerned transport committee. As they had monopolised the transport sector, the entrepreneurs would fleece passengers. They did not think it necessary to upgrade their services so they would operate even jalopies and rattletraps that were literally worthy of being grounded.
The transport entrepreneurs had their heyday till recently when they were shocked by the introduction of buses of a new company, Mayur Yatayat. Thinking that they could not compete with the new buses, they supplicated the Department of Transport to annul the route permit of the company. Instead of listening to their unreasonable plea, the Department of Transport came down heavily against them and asked them to get registered with the Company Registrar’s Office, reasoning that the transport committees would not be allowed to operate vehicles.
In response to the strict measure of the government, the transport entrepreneurs indulged in a series of strikes across the country, including a general strike last Friday. But the government did not kowtow to their demands and started nabbing the transport strikers, including high-ranking officers of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) from different parts of the country.
The government was preparing to take action against the transport entrepreneurs for violating the Essential Services Operation Act when they requested the government to release them by signing commitment papers that they would not support the transport syndicate and strike henceforth, would get registered as a company, operate vehicles, cooperate with the government and welcome the move to break the syndicate.
Thus, the transport entrepreneurs were forced to break their vicious syndicate and operate their vehicles by registering their companies with the Company Registrar’s Office. This has broken the unholy syndicate in the transport sector and invited open competition. With this, the practice of forcing the passengers to travel in any vehicles, whether in trim or dilapidated, at exorbitant rates of fare has come to an end.
It took years to end the transport syndicate. The Supreme Court directed the government in 2011 to form a probe committee to explore ways of ending the transport syndicate but to no avail. But this time the transport entrepreneurs could not challenge the government. They had to fend for themselves as they could not get protection, political or otherwise. Had any leader or politician sided with them, perhaps the transport syndicate would not have come to an end.
It is a no brainer that it is due to protection by politicians, leaders or high-ranking office-holders or dignitaries that anomalies have existed in the country for years. The gold scam has proved this. Many high-ranking police officers have been taken into custody in connection with the scam. Without the involvement of immigration officers, security officers and other responsible people, such a large quantity of gold could not get through the TIA customs. The gold scam is still under investigation. The government should act tough against the perpetrators regardless of who they are.
The people always side with the government in its good mission. The overwhelming support given to the government by the people in ending the transport syndicate has proved this. There are also anti-people syndicates in other sectors like education, healthcare and construction. It is high time the success in busting the transport syndicate be replicated in ending other syndicates, too. One of the egregious syndicates is the taxi-cab syndicate. But the government is undecided on this issue. It may, however, be hoped that the government will soon take a decision on ending the taxi-cab syndicate, thus boosting open competition with better services.
The praiseworthy move of the government in ending the transport syndicate shows that it does not matter whether the government is a congress or a communist one. What is important is that a government should run with honesty and a strong will. If it has a will, it can accomplish any work, how arduous it may be. A non-state force cannot be stronger than a government. But if politicians or leaders or other high-ranking people support such a force, it can outsmart a government.

With the end of the transport syndicate, the people are hopeful that the government will work in their interests in the days to come by eliminating anomalies in other sectors, too. This initiative in ending the transport syndicate on the part of the government has been taken in good light by the people. The people have now reposed trust in the government, which is expected to rule for a full term, thus giving rise to political stability.
Finally, the transport entrepreneurs should not take the end of their syndicate as their defeat. This is the age of open competition. Open competition plays a pivotal role in improving and expanding services. The transport entrepreneurs should take advantage of this and serve the people in a better way so as to improve their tarnished image.

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