Ministry transfers official who crushed bus cartels

  • Motive questioned as Transport Department DG Rupnarayan Bhattarai is recalled
- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 19, 2018-

Rupnarayan Bhattarai, director general of the Department of Transport Management who spearheaded the crackdown on syndicates in the public transport sector, has been recalled to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport.

Bhattarai’s removal had been rumoured in the past few days but the ministry had kept mum on the move while insisting that no such decision was taken.

MoPIT Spokesperson Rajendra Raj Sharma denied on Thursday any move of bringing back the DG. Bhattarai is believed to have been removed at the direct order of Transport Minister Raghubir Mahaseth.

Bhattarai received the transfer letter, dated May 14 and signed by the MoPIT Joint-secretary Dhruba Raj Joshi, on Friday. “I have no idea why I was transferred suddenly. I don’t think I did anything wrong as the DG. Now, I will go anywhere the government deputes me,” he said.

Reports of tussle between DG Bhattarai and the minister surfaced time and again since the government launched a campaign against transport syndicates. Bhattarai did not compromise on his dealings with transport associations and remained firm on uprooting transport syndicates across the country. This made him unpopular among top MoPIT officials.

When it appeared that transport syndicates would escape action, Bhattarai had worked in close coordination with the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office against them. Even Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had assured him support and resources to improve the public transport sector.

On the other hand, Minister Mahaseth had been flexible in his dealings with transport operators and also had meetings with the agitating bus operators. Transport operators protesting against the newly amended Transport Management Directives (2004), introduced by Bhattarai, had been lobbying against him.

According to a source, Bhattarai was not happy with the recent decision of the minister that route permits would be issued to anyone having as few as one vehicle. “The minister himself went against the policy, which required minimum five vehicles for a transport entrepreneur to get the route permit,” said the source.

In a major blow to transport committees involved in nurturing syndicates, the directives made it mandatory for them to register as taxpaying companies and spelt out other reform measures.

It was Bhattarai’s bold decision to open route permits nationwide to anyone who meets the set criteria. The move had broken the monopoly of transport committees, without whose approval no route permit used to be issued.

During his 13 months at the department, Bhattarai was also known for subjecting staff to departmental action for their wrong deeds.

Bhattarai’s removal raises fears of reversal of the recent moves against cartel promoters at a time when the government is forming a taskforce as agreed with the agitating transporters. The taskforce has the director general as a member.

DoTM Spokesperson Tulasi Ram Aryal said Bhattarai’s transfer was a routine bureaucratic process. “He must have been called back to the ministry for special responsibility. There is no conflict of interest in the latest move,” said Aryal, reiterating the government’s resolve to continue with the reforms. “Departure of one person won’t affect this.”

Published: 19-05-2018 06:33

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