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Government tightens noose on public transport committees

Ministry seeks info on properties that go to state coffers after mid-July

- Post Report, Kathmandu

The government has started maintaining a record of assets, movable and immovable, owned by public transport committees as the property would go automatically to the state coffers when the entities cease to exist from the new fiscal year.

As part of its action against public transport syndicates, the government earlier suspended the financial transactions of bus operators’ committees.

According to Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson for the Home Ministry, the District Administration Offices have been asked to submit the details of cash, shares and other properties owned by transport committees.

The government has already decided that such committees will not exist after mid-July. According to Section 14 of the Associations Registration Act-1977, all the assets belonging to the committees are transferred to the government.

In a bold move to end cartels in public transport, the Cabinet on May 17 decided not to register and renew the committees and associations involved in monopolising transport services. Spokesperson Subedi said properties owned by the transport committees will come under the government authority after the end of the current fiscal year.

The government scrapped their registration after transport committees resisted the government’s move to welcome new players in the tightly controlled public transport regime. They attempted to enforce a transport strike after the government decided to open route permits across the country by amending the Transport Management Directives-2004.

The Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs then launched a series of protests, disrupting transport services. But the decision backfired as the government, on May 4, rounded up a number of transport association office bearers and froze the bank accounts of 245 committees involved in garaging vehicles.

Last Tuesday, the government decided to investigate all forms of assets belonging to the committees, suspecting their role in illegal amassing of property. These committees are believed to have collected billions of rupees from transport entrepreneurs as new entrants in the public transport sector would require their recommendation for getting the route permit. They would charge hefty sums in the process.

Despite amassing wealth through cartelising and running profitable businesses, the committees were not required to pay taxes as they were registered as “non-profits” at the District Administration Office.

By amending the directive, the government has made it mandatory for the committees to register under the Company Act and to pay taxes. Some of them have already started the registration process.

While the government won accolades for its anti-syndicate move, the latest decision of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport to recall Department of Transport Management managing director Rup Narayan Bhattarai, who maintained a tough stance against the transport cartels, has given room for suspicions if the administration will maintain its momentum of crackdown on the transport monopoly.

Published: 2018-05-20 08:05:07