Now, this may be trivial in the grand scheme of things, and the other problems seriously plaguing Nepal at this moment. But it is symptomatic of the extortion and impunity culture that pervades every sphere of life. The parking attendant doesn't feel it is his duty to look after a vehicle that someone has paid him to be responsible for, just like the lack of accountability in our political class and bureaucracy.
Much has been said about expanding roads in the Valley to fit the 600,000 vehicles that ply on them. But no one is talking parking. The scarcity of parking space is now a victim of the laws of supply and demand, and the fees have rocketed. Scarce or expensive parking has driven vehicles to side roads which are now often blocked.
There should be a difference between parking on the street and in a paid parking service. We don't park at paid parking areas just to dodge the KMC officials who tow away vehicles in no parking areas and charge a fine of Rs 500-1,000. When we park and pay we are not just paying the rent, we also expect a level of security. But this is a seller's market. Consumers have no say.
Perhaps it is wrong to expect security from those who are duping officials themselves. Parking in Kathmandu is controlled by a combination of municipal and private operators, gangs or local 'clubs'. There are hundreds of public parking areas in the Valley, but only 30 of them are actually registered with Kathmandu Metropolitan City office (KMC). Most of the rest are illegal extortion rackets run by neighbourhood gangs.
Any roadside space or empty lot is now a fund-raising venture for local youth. They can be knee deep in mud in the monsoon and have angry bumps, but it'll do. The parking charge fixed per hour by KMC is Rs 5 for two-wheelers and Rs 10 for four-wheelers. But even areas operated by the local ward office charge double that rate, sometimes simply on the basis of a flimsy notice on a cardboard. This means that if you have a motorcycle, you spend almost Rs 100 a week on parking alone. You never get a receipt unless you ask, and if you ask you get a glare.
The charges are Rs 25 per hour for a two-wheeler at night, with Rs 50 for cars. In a single day, a parking area in our neighbourhood rakes in an average of Rs 240,000 a month. Almost none of it goes to the municipality, or for road upkeep. For malls and shopping centres, underground parking areas have become revenue centres.
You can call this the Parking Fee Index to gauge the relative developedness of a society, or you can see it as a reflection of the "manparitantra" anarchy of our transitional politics. Muscle power rules, might is right, etc.
If you own a urban plot and the banks won't lend you for a building, turn it into a car park. For almost no investment, and just the cost of an attendant you can have hassle-free and tax-free monthly cash flow.