Traders slammed for tendency to pressure govt

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Mar 3, 2015-

Home Secretary Surya Prasad Silwal on Tuesday hit out at traders for their tendency to defend wrongdoers among them by mounting pressure on the government saying that the practice had encouraged black marketing in the country.

Last May, a vivid manifestation of how the business fraternity rallies to the defence of their members was given when 88 oil tankers and four gasoline station operators involved in an oil theft case were  taken action. Petroleum dealers banded together and exerted such strong political pressure that the government removed the then chief of Nepal Oil Corporation Chandika Prasad Bhatta for refusing to let the offenders go scot- free.

A group of tanker drivers and their helpers had been arrested red-handed while they were stealing oil from tankers along the Sunauli-Valwari route in Rupandehi. A police investigation had found that NOC employees and tanker owners had been acting in collusion.

In another incident, shopkeepers of Bishal Bazaar on New Road joined forces and prevented monitoring officials of the Commerce Department from doing their job when they tried to seal shops which were found to be overcharging customers.

Similarly, in June 2013, gold and silver traders launched an indefinite shutdown of their shops to pressure the government not to take action against three bullion traders who were found cheating consumers in weight and quality. At present, people are suffering from a shortage of cooking gas which has been blamed on black marketers.  

“Traders have a habit of coming together and putting undue pressure on the government in disregard of the interest of general consumers,” said Silwal speaking at an interaction organised by the Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) entitled The Need for Timely Amendment on the Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offences and Punishment Act 1975.

According to him, traders have been overcharging customers citing under-invoicing at the customs point. They, however, don’t give a bill because the under-invoicing will be revealed.

The practice of under-invoicing is prevalent to evade taxes at the customs point.

The current Black Marketing Act allows traders to earn a profit of up to 20 percent on the cost price which includes transport fare and loading-unloading charges along with other managerial costs.

However, many traders have been charging much more than that by showing additional charges.

Silwal said that traders should maintain transparency in their billing system if they are not doing black marketing.

He also urged umbrella organisations like the NCC to discharge their responsibility of monitoring the business practices of its members.

“At a time when we have shifted to a free market system from a licensing system, the chamber has to take the issue of black marketing seriously,” he said.

Chief District Officer (CDO) of Kathmandu Ek Narayan Aryal also said that pressure from traders’ cartels has been one of the reasons why wrongdoers have been escaping action by the government while admitting that the government had failed to stand firm on taking action.

Meanwhile, traders and right activists have urged the government to amend the existing Black Marketing Act.

Giving the example of the ongoing shortage of cooking gas, Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the National Consumer Rights Forum, said the current act had failed to control the illegal activities of fraudulent traders.

He blamed lack of compliance with the act besides the centralised authority it has given to CDOs for its ineffectiveness.

Similarly, Pavitra Bajracharya, president of the Nepal Retailers’ Association, said the existing Black Marketing Act 1975 had failed to incorporate the real problems of traders.

As per them, the government should also consider the additional costs incurred due to delays in shipment, storage costs and damage during shipment while assessing the actual price of merchandise.

Published: 04-03-2015 09:12

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