Govt fails to enforce law to ensure urgent service

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu
In violation of Essential Services Act, transport entrepreneurs go on a strike to protest hike in traffic rule violation fines

May 27, 2016-With the government failing to implement the law that mandates it to take strong action if essential services are disrupted wilfully, thousands of people suffered on Thursday as transport entrepreneurs took their vehicles off the road to protest the government’s decision to hike traffic violation fines.

The Essential Services Act-1957 lists public transport as an essential service which should not be disrupted under any pretext. The failure to effectively implement the Act and to revise the penalties have affected people who use public vehicles on a daily basis. In such gross violation of the people’s basic rights, the penalty set by the Act is just Rs1,000 or one year in prison or both.

The Home Ministry, which is responsible for implementing the law, has a lame excuse. “Who are we supposed to arrest,” questioned Yadav Koirala, spokesperson for ministry. 

“We had appealed to the entrepreneurs to call off the protest and seek legal remedy.” Koirala said there was no point in making people suffer to protest the fines determined by the Transport Act, which was endorsed by Parliament.

A complaint was filed at the District Administration Office, Kathmandu, demanding action against the National Federation of Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs (NFNTE) on Thursday. 

The complaint filed by Bishnu Timilsina, secretary for the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights Nepal, had argued that since the organisation is registered with the DAO, it cannot violate the Act on essential services. The complaint, however, was not heeded.

Ram Krishna Subedi, Chief District Officer of Kathmandu, said he had asked officials to look into the organisation’s manifesto. “If they have acted against their legal document, I will certainly take action,” said CDO Subedi.

The government amended the Transport Act seven months ago to increase the penalty but traffic police only started enforcing it from mid-May. The range of fine has been increased from earlier Rs25 to Rs200 to between Rs500 and Rs1,500. There are only three types of fines--Rs500 for ordinary traffic offences such as not wearing helmet while riding a motorcycle, Rs1,000 for moderate offences like driving motor vehicles without carrying a licence and Rs1,500 for serious offences like driving on the wrong side.

The NFNTE, one of the strongest labour unions in the country, imposed the stir demanding that the government scrap the decision. The umbrella organisation of transport entrepreneurs across the country has accused the government of unilaterally amending the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act-1993 to increase the fines.

Transport unions have said that increasing the fines will not solve the problem of traffic mismanagement as the country utterly lacks proper roads.

NFNTE General Secretary Saroj Sitaula, arguing that increasing fines for rule violation would not solve traffic mismanagement, said they would continue their protests until the government takes back its decision.

Police said they arrested more than 200 persons from various parts of the Valley while two Nepal Army school buses were vandalised. Also, vandalism of taxis was reported from Teku and Maharajgunj.

Published: 27-05-2016 08:34

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