As the MoUD has been given full control over the authority, it might not be able to function independently
With a view to making the Kathmandu Valley’s public transport system easy, accessible, cost-effective and safe, the government last week issued Kathmandu Valley Public Transport Authority Infrastructure Development Board Formation Order-2020.
The order to form the board is in line with the Valley Public Transport Management Authority Act-2019. The 10-member board under the chairmanship of Minister of Urban Development will manage the public transport system of the Valley in an integrated manner. The executive director of the board is to be filled through an open competition.
The main objectives of the authority are to develop an integrated infrastructure for public transport, issue e-ticketing facility and also determine the routes and fare rates for public transport within the Valley.
As per the Act, public bus, taxi, light rail, mono rail, cable car, sky rail and ride sharing have been defined as the modes of public transport. They are required to register with the authority to run their business.
Preparing a detailed project report with necessary legal, institutional, physical and human resources for the establishment, operation and management of the authority; making recommendations to the government for land acquisition to construct physical infrastructure; preparing a master plan of the infrastructure, carrying out an environmental study of the proposed infrastructure and coordinating with the provisional and local levels are, among others, the major functions, duties and power of the board.
However, the formation order of the board has given immense power to the concerned minister, who can fire the employees hired for or deputed to the board anytime if they fail to deliver as per the terms and conditions of the service. This, however, may give rise to instability in the aboard, which has been authorised to develop the integrated public transport system in the Valley resided by over 4 million people.
Nepal’s public transport system is in disarray. Only buses and taxis provide services to the public in the Valley, and they are also not up to the public’s expectations.
Over-charging of fares, over-crowded public vehicles and their non-availability during night hours are some of the problems that need to be addressed immediately. If the soon-to-be formed authority comes up with a plan of a mono-rail, sky-rail or tram services in the Valley covering all 19 municipalities, travelling by public transport will become much easier. Formation of such an authority was long overdue given the population growth in the Valley.
However, experts in the public transport sector have raised questions as to whether the body should function under the leadership of the federal ministry or provincial government. As per the schedule in the constitution, public transport has been listed as a concurrent power of the three tiers of government.
As the formation order has already given the federal minister for Urban Development full control over the body, it might not be able to function independently.
The five-year-term body could also get changed with the change in the government or change in the ministry’s leadership. It would have been better had it been formed as an autonomous body free from political interference.
This certainly is no time for the ruling party bigwigs to be bickering over posts and power. Power struggles are common in any party, whether democratic or authoritarian, but their fallout is particularly serious when the country is in the midst of a grave crisis, namely, the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has not only brought every sector of the economy to a standstill, it has also wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs overnight, causing undue hardships to the people, especially those who are poor.
With the surge seen in new coronavirus cases in the thousands every day, the government is expected do whatever is necessary, and urgently, to bring the pandemic under control.
But the government is not being able to work properly largely due to the squabbling within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). After months of in-fighting, in which the rival faction is demanding that Prime Minster KP Oli quit the post of either the PM or party co-chair, the faction led by co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is now demanding a NCP secretariat meeting. How the party settles its internal dispute is its business, see to it that the people and the country do not suffer as a result of it.
A version of this article appears in print on November 09, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.