Paying the right fare when using public transportation

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It seems there is no bother to think about the impact of plummeting oil prices in our daily lives but actually there was an impact if we consider that the cost of petrol per liter was reduced at least twice, therefore making it cheaper to travel by car or motorbike. But if you commute in public vehicles, nothing changed.

 It is pretty unclear if there was a formal decision on slamming public transportation fares. I read several pieces in the national dailies saying that the concerned authorities had decided to reduce the minimum price for a journey in a public transportation vehicle to 13 NRS, a drop of 2 NRS from the previous standard price.

I still remember how, till few years ago, you could travel with 10 NRS per journey. Then the global price of petrol skyrocketed and consequentially the cost of many commodities and services all around the world had to be adjusted to meet the new market prices.

At that time many people around the world staged protests and manifestations against the increasing cost of living stemming from a rise in the price of oil but after all what can you do to control the oil markets? Simply not much and you just let it go and move on.

Incredibly enough now that the prices went down, no one really cares to claim their rights to pay less for what is worth less. Smart people drive cars and bikes and they had their legitimated rights for paying less fully met but smart people using public transportation had not such “privilege”.

I am wondering why?

Soon after I had read the news about reduction of minimum transportation fares, I even started claiming my right to enforce that decision. Indeed, taking for granted the implementation of new fares, I had started giving to the fare collectors of the micro bus 13 NRS instead of the usual 15 NRS.

In a few cases I got the change of three rupees and I felt extremely happy (and surprised) about being back to my early years in Nepal where I was travelling more with less.

But in the last few weeks not always did I got my way: I recall a couple of arguments with the fare collectors asking me to pay 15 NRS instead of the new prices. Even I did not easily lose my standing, especially when I am damned sure about being “on the right side”, I always avoid stupid confrontations about the payment of two rupees.

In these couple of occasions, eventually, despite lodging strong complaints, I ended up paying the old fare.

In the last week I must confess I even forgot claiming my right to pay the new fare. It went really out of my mind. Maybe there was something unconsciously going on in my mind that made me forget to claim or protest for the implementation of what I consider one of my rights.

Maybe a little part of my brain might have influenced the other more assertive part of it about the fact that I was wrong from the outset, that maybe I was dreaming when I read in the newspapers about the cut in the transportation fee.

I am not sure what happened and I am myself surprised but something pushed me to forget and move on as if nothing had happened.

You get net oil exporters nations in troubles and forced to cut their own budgets by billions of dollars due to the new oil prices but there is no life change at all if you are a public transportation commuter in Kathmandu or elsewhere in the world where the rights of  consumers are not well represented.

It would be easy if the problem were only centered on doing more for these rights to be respected and enforced. Ask yourself why this is not happening. Is it only because there is  weak consumer’s protection legislation in the country? Is it because there is a lot of collusion and corruption among public transportation vehicles and public servants?

Certainly there are certain “hidden” powers preventing enforcement of the new fare. Certainly the protection mechanisms for the consumers must be strengthened. After all there are certain people who are always ready to protest and bargain hard. Those are the persons who never lose.

These are for example the owners of public transportations vehicles that, for any minimal rise in the oil prices, had always aggressively claimed their right to get compensated through higher fares. These are the same people that secretly have been again bargaining hard to keep things as they are now.

These are the people that the responsible and active citizens should stand against.

Writing this small article does not make a real difference but at least I hope that by reading it, some people will realize their the real enemy is not unscrupulous and corrupted public servants nor the cunning persons who control the public transportation ‘cartels. The real enemy is found in us and it is called apathy.

It is because of a high level of apathy shared by the vast majority of people that there is poor enforcement of rules in Nepal.

It seems that apathy is a national attitude like when people say “Ke Garne”.

I did not see much ointerest nor did I receive any support from my travel “pals” all the times I was arguing with the fare collectors about paying what is due.

It seems no one really cared. Actually it seems they were a bit amused by my little performance. Maybe they did not know that those folks overtaking us on the fast line with their bikes and cars were paying less for their daily commuting.

I know writing is not enough. For sure next time taking a micro I will once again try to pay 13 NRS. Even if I fail, at least trying to claim my rights, makes me feel stronger, an active citizen and not a dumb one.

But this is not enough. There is a need to create a common platform or a common “square” or agora where people who are not afraid of claiming for their rights, find some common ground to work together. Together things can change. Let’s say no to Apathy.


I will write more about this “common” agora next week


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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