Even at the risk of sounding obsequious, you have to give credit to the government of KP Sharma Oli where it is due. The appointment of clean and efficient ministers, a couple of very wise picks as chiefs of the two police forces, recent exercise in balanced diplomacy and, now, the determination it has shown to wipe out transport cartels are all highly admirable. Particularly the last bit. It could not have been easy for Prime Minister Oli, the chief of CPN-UML, a party that has traditionally provided patronage to transport cartels, to suddenly crack down on them in public interest.
These government actions hint at the prime minister’s determination to leave behind a strong legacy, one marked by accountable governance and tangible improvement in people’s daily lives. The country desperately needed such firm leadership. Nearly every study of the growing incidents of road accidents in Nepal’s blood-soaked highways has pointed to the rickety state of long-distance passenger buses as one of the major culprits. In the fiscal 2016-17, there were an average of 28 road accidents, and six deaths, in the country every single day. Yet this brazen crime on the part of the transport cartels that refused to allow new vehicles of other private operators on the roads was ignored by successive governments.
These cartels flourished under the protection of top political leaders, despite repeated Supreme Court rulings to ban them, the first of them coming over a decade ago. Only now has the government gathered the spunk to take them on. Better late than never. We can only hope that the government stands firm and does not back down to the cartels’ pressure tactics. But even that is not enough.
There are entrenched cartels and syndicates in other sectors too. For instance one study suggests that the prices of fruits and vegetables increase up to five-fold from what the farmers get for their produce, again thanks to the cartels in this market. There are many formal or informal cartels in health and education sectors as well, again adversely affecting people’s well-being. May sound superfluous, but the government has full public support to bust these cartels and to ensure free and fair competition in all goods and services. These are exciting times indeed.
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