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District-wise lotteries on cards for new cab licences

Kathmandu, May 15, 2017: The government is mulling to conduct lotteries in different districts to distribute new taxi operating licences to ensure balanced geographical distribution. This scheme will apply only to the taxi permits being issued to earthquake survivors in 14 districts as part of a relief programme.

More than 149,000 have applied for the 1,500 taxicab permits up for grabs. These permits are valid only in Bagmati zone.

Since there is little demand for taxicabs in the districts outside the Kathmandu Valley, government officials expect that most of the successful applicants will want to operate in the Capital.

The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) usually distributes taxi permits by holding an ordinary lottery. This time, however, it is planning to separate the applications according to district and award the permits in the ratio of 1:100. One applicant among 100 in each district will get a permit.

According to Basanta Adhikari, head of the Small and Big Vehicle Division at the Bagmati Transport Management Office, the plan is to ensure that applicants from all quake-affected districts have an equal chance of winning.

“The plan, however, is still being discussed. The DoTM will ask the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport for its go-ahead and then create a guideline based on which the scheme will be prepared,” Adhikari said, adding that the DoTM had issued a public notice stating that the lottery will be held on April 8.

The government decided to issue new taxi licences in a bid to expand livelihood opportunities for locals of earthquake-affected districts besides increasing the number of taxis in Kathmandu for the convenience of travellers.

The highest number of new taxi applications, 25,000, have come from Sindhupalchok district. Locals of Rasuwa district submitted the fewest applications — 2,990 in total.

If the new modality is approved, the 25,000 applicants from Sindhupalchok will be competing for just 250 taxi permits. Likewise, applicants from Rasuwa will be competing for 29 taxi permits.

It took the government around two and a half months just to process the applications due to the overwhelming response. The last time, the government had invited applications for 700 taxi permits from across the country, and it received 8,000 applications.

The massive number of applications this time has been attributed to rumours going around that the government would be providing free taxis to successful applicants.

According to government records, there are around 8,500 taxis in the Kathmandu Valley currently. This includes 2,850 new cabs registered last year.

As per DoTM statistics, there were 7,500 taxis in Kathmandu in 2000 when the Valley’s population was estimated at 1.3 million. The Capital’s population, including the floating population, is expected to have exploded to around 4 million today. As of mid-2015, the number of cabs had dropped to 5,650.

The government has not been able to implement its plan to register new taxis due to strong opposition from taxi entrepreneurs and their associations. In 2015, the government finally succeeded in opening registrations of new cabs.

Among the 2,850 new taxi permits issued last year, 1,850 permits were provided to regular applicants while 500 permits were set aside for earthquake survivors and affected families. Another 500 permits were allotted to companies willing to operate deluxe and super deluxe taxis.

According to Adhikari, instances of charging arbitrary fares have decreased in the Kathmandu Valley following a rise in the number of taxis and implementation of a receipt system.