One does not need be an ardent market capitalist to denounce syndicates and cartels. For not only are they a big drag on national economy, as free-market adherents like to point out, they also cause great hardship to common people. Take the case of the two long-operating bus syndicates in Karnali zone. Until four months ago, Karnali Yatayat and Madhya Paschim Yatayat, the two bus syndicates operating along the Karnali highway, monopolized passenger transport on the Surkhet-Jumla route. During the time, the distance could be covered in bus in 24 hours. However, since May, owing to disagreements between the two syndicates, the buses belonging to each syndicate is allowed to operate on only half the route length. Now passengers have to board two buses, one each from the two syndicates (in addition to having to walk 15 kilometers while changing buses) to get to Jumla from Surkhet. This has increased travel time to 36 hours, and for all their extra trouble, each passenger has to fork out an extra 300 rupees.
It has been 12 years since syndicates were banned in Nepal. But to this day transport syndicates continue to cripple transport systems around the country and add to travelers’ burdens. The latest case of an egregious attempt to impose the syndicate system is the announcement of a series of strikes by no less a body than the umbrella organization of transport entrepreneurs in the county, apparently to protest the registration of a new transportation committee in Kaski. The Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) Gandaki zone-chapter has opposed the registration of the new Bindhyabasini Town Transportation Committee with the District Administration Office, which is in line with an earlier government decision. Surely, the fact that the government does not need to consult an independent transport body to implement its program has not been lost on FNNTE office holders. But FNNTE has still threatened to shut down Kaski district for two days and eventually bring the whole of Karnali zone to a standstill if the new transport committee is not scrapped. The series of protests have been announced even though FNNTE itself concedes that more buses are needed in the district.
FNNTE office bearers are able to issue such blatant (and illegal) threats because most of them enjoy the blessings of various political patrons. As politicians work hand in glove with these syndicates and divide the spoils accruing form illegal operations, the government’s hands are tied. Politicians are not shy to lobby for the syndicates. Only a month ago, NC Kaski district president Yagya Bahadur Thapa openly spoke in favor of syndicate in transportation, vowing to thwart the entry of any new operator. Never mind such a pronouncement was in clear contravention of the 2011 Supreme Court order to government to end the syndicate system in the country.
Their unholy nexus with the politicians has given transport entrepreneurs carte blanche to do as they please. This makes a strong case for punishing not just the syndicate operators but also the political players supporting them from behind the scenes. The so-called democratic parties colluding with unscrupulous businessmen to inconvenience common people represent a big blot on our democratic system