Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Minister Bhatta fails to tackle transporters' mafia raj

The state oil monopoly - Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) - has taken the global cues to slash fuel prices successively over the past three months. Be that as it may, the transport operators are standing their ground and have refused to cut fares despite popular demand.
The transport entrepreneurs clearly hold their sway over an effete Ministry of Transport Management and Labour (MoTML).
Such is their stranglehold that entrepreneurs arbitrarily hike the fare. They never feel the urge to consult the MoTML. It's been more than two months since the ruling coalition has slashed the fuel prices. But private transport operators are in no mood to relent as they laugh all the way to the banks.
Lekh Raj Bhatta, minister for Transport management and Labour, has, however, done his bit. After marathon parleys with transport entrepreneurs, he has agreed to reduce fares by six per cent for diesel-vehicles and seven per cent for those run by petrol.
But, neither has been implemented till date, which has a ripple effect on the economy. The prices of essential goods are spiralling. Inflation, which is hovering around 14.1 per cent in the first quarter, as per Nepal Rastra Bank's latest figure, is a growing pointer to this.
Consumer bodies are cut up with sorry state of affairs.
Ram Chandra Simkhada, secretary, Consumers' Forum, Nepal, dubbed it anarchy. "This is fraud. The government must come down heavily on them," he said.
"The ministry for reasons best known to it has failed to implement the decision. The earlier cut was in tune with the then prices. There has been another round of revision since then. The fares should come down by a minimum 20 per cent," he reasoned.
NOC also came in line of Simkhada's fire for "lack of transparency in fuel price cuts".
Purushottam Ojha, secretary, supplies and commerce, had commented last week that the latest reduction of prices, pegged at Rs 5, was to make it on a par with the cost of petroleum products in India.
But, his fuzzy logic stands exposed, thanks to the latest price revision by the Indian authorities.
India slashed the price of petrol by INR 5 and diesel by NPR 2.

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