4-10 July 2014 #714

Jomsom cartel scrapped

Nagarik, 3 July

KUNDA DIXIT
The Western Region administration has ended cartelling by local transport companies on the Beni-Jomsom route that had been causing hardships to pilgrims and tourists going by road to Mustang. Now vehicles from outside the area can use the 75 km stretch which was being monopolised by bus syndicates.

“There won’t be any discussion this time, if there is any obstruction we will arrest and take immediate action,” says Arjun Kumar Karki, of the Western Region administration. “This is a public road where we will not allow monopoly of certain groups.”

Despite a Supreme Court ban, bus cartels are prevalent throughout the country. Like other bus syndicates in various parts of the country, the one in Beni-Jomsom earned notoriety for its intimidation tactics and forced other operators from carrying passengers to Muktinath, Kagbeni and Upper Mustang. The cartel uses local musclemen to force private vehicles to pay huge fees to let them travel in the Beni-Jomsom route.

The cartel operates jeeps and mini buses on this route and has arbitrary pricing, with drivers often charging as much as they wish. The syndicate has been defiant despite opposition from local passengers and tour agencies. Now, the administration has set the rate at Rs 800 per passenger.

Due to the strong hold of the local transportation cartel, there wasn’t a single direct route bus from Beni-Jomsom, and passengers were forced to change several buses during the journey. Local transport companies are hopeful that they will get more business, and there will be an increase in tourist traffic.

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