KATHMANDU, Feb 10: The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) has revived its plan to ensure reserved seats for women, the disabled and elderly people in public transport vehicles.
Traffic police have directed public transport vehicles to ensure six reserved seats in every bus and two seats in every micro-bus for such minorities.
The traffic division had started the campaign for the first time in February, 2011. However, public vehicle users complain of misuse of reserved seats and of vehicle owners designating such seats just to escape traffic police penalty.
In the last seat reservation campaign, MTPD had forced more than 3,000 public transporters to mark out reserved seats in their vehicles. Non-complying vehicles will now be fined Rs 200 to Rs 1,000 from next week.
“The campaign has forced transport operators to reserve seats for women, the disabled and senior citizens,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Pawan Giri, spokesperson of MTPD.
MTPD warned 520 vehicles on the first day of its new campaign on Friday. “Vehicle documents have been seized and will be restored only after provisions are made for reserved seats in the vehicles,” he added.
The Disabled Protection and Welfare Act 1982 says that at least 5 percent of seats in public transport vehicles must be guaranteed for the disabled.
Similarly, the Vehicle and Transport Management Act 1992 has directed the authorities to ensure easier travel for women, the physically challenged and the aged, categorizing them as a special class.
The disabled can claim 45 percent discount on transport fare if they produce identity cards issued by the Women´s Development Office under the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
However, frustration among people with disabilities is rife due to the attitude of public transport staff and the rudeness of fellow passengers.
“Vehicle drivers generally do not stop if they see a person like me waiting for a ride,” says Bhoj Raj Shrestha, rights activist for the differently abled. Some vehicles speed past, spewing thick smoke in their faces.
Welcoming the traffic police move, he added that a monitoring mechanism was needed to implement the provision effectively.
Meanwhile, transport entrepreneurs blame the attitude of fellow passengers who refuse to yield seats reserved for the disabled, the elderly and women.
“Around 300 vehicles in the Valley had initiated the seat reservation provision during the 2011 traffic campaign but passengers rebuff staff when asked to cooperate and the situation sometimes goes beyond control,” said Dol Nath Khanal, general secretary of the Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs´ National Federation.
As per a recent agreement of MTPD and the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) with rights activists working for the welfare people with disability and against violence targetted at women, the government announced that it was to enforce seat reservations in public transport vehicles.