Taxi cabs stage protest demonstration at Ring Road section in Satdobato Tuesday against newly-introduced what they said were stringent traffic rules. (Pratik Rayamajhi / Republica)
56 protesting cabbies arrested, released
KATHMANDU, Sept 29: Even as taxi drivers in the Kathmandu Valley intensified their protest against police crackdown for discouraging meter fraud and overcharging, the government authorities continued to maintain that they would not bow to the irrational demands raised by the drivers.
The cabbies began their protests from Tuesday and gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the government authorities to address their demands.
Their major demands include immediate halt to random checks on taxi meters and other type of inspections by plainclothes men and a hike in taxi fare from the current Rs 36 per km to Rs 55 per km.
Similarly, the other demands put forth by taxi drivers are banning hotels and private vehicles from picking passengers from the Tribhuvan International Airport, the only international airport; not allowing new taxis into the business; and minimizing fines for traffic rule violations, among others.
“The demands raised by taxi drivers are irrational and we are not in a position to meet them,” according to Chandra Man Shrestha, director general of the Department of Transport Management.
“They are yet to bring forward their demands formally. But we would not be in a position to sit for talks with them if they come to us with the same demands,” Shrestha said.
Since mid-April 2016, Metropolitan Police Traffic Division Office and its units across the Kathmandu Valley have panelized 3,220 taxi drivers for various traffic rule violations.
According to the MPTD office, 2,578 taxi drivers were punished for refusing to go by meter, 139 were booked for using red number plates and 503 were fined for meter tampering.
“As their protest is all about letting them continue to cheat passengers and flouting the traffic rules, we are not in a position to accept their illegitimate demands,” DIG Prakash Aryal, chief of the MPTD, said.
But Bharat Gurung, president of Nepal Democratic Transport Entrepreneurs Association, expressed serious dissatisfaction over the government's indifference to their demands. “We will launch sterner protest programs if the government continues to remain indifferent to our peaceful protests,” Gurung said.
56 taxi drivers arrested
Meanwhile, the police have arrested about 56 taxi drivers as they attempted to forcefully enforce the strike by not allowing other taxis to operate in the Valley.
According to Superintendent of Police Pradhumna Karki, spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Range Office, Kathmandu, the drivers were later released on the condition that they would not be involved in similar unlawful activities again.
However, taxi drivers' leader Gurung strongly condemned the police action against their peaceful protest. About 7,000 to 9,000 taxis operate daily in the Kathmandu Valley.