Kathmandu, Apr. 4: “Many times, I have waited several minutes for a rider to accept my request when I used ridesharing service around two years ago. Now, I find them on the road as soon as I come out of my office without even searching online," said Kunjan, a mobile application developer who requested anonymity of his last name.
Citing that public transport has been unfavourable unless he leaves for his office early, Kunjan argued that ridesharing service has helped him reach the office in Anamnagar faster. Ridesharing services started in Kathmandu in 2016 through Nepal-made start-up Tootle. Now more than a dozen similar platforms are in operation in the Kathmandu Valley.
While the starting phase of the ridesharing services was affected due to lack of legal provision and scuffle with public transport operators, the Bagmati Province made the service legal through an amendment to Transportation Act in 2020; the province has, however, not yet introduced a directive to regulate the sector effectively.
As per the Sub-section (4) of Section 13 of Schedule-2 of the Bagmati Province Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 2075, two- and four-wheelers registered for private use can pick and drop individuals after completing the listed procedures.
The provision termed ridesharing service legal in Bagmati and paved the way for the platforms to introduce insurance schemes to its riders and passengers. Introducing its insurance scheme in November, 2021, Pathao, a ridesharing giant, started providing a compensation of Rs. 500,000 in cases of accidental death and permanent disability due to accident. Likewise, Rs. 100,000 will be provided in cases of OPD treatment and hospitalisation.
However, Pathao has also listed some rules to claim the insurance: The rider should register with a genuine name, date of birth and other personal information. In addition, the rider should also be online and the insurance covers the accidents from the time a ride starts until it ends.
“I had never used ridesharing service earlier because I didn’t feel safe since I would be unaware of the rider’s driving capability and there was no insurance in case of accidents. I came to know about the insurance scheme of Pathao some months ago and I have started using it in emergencies,” said Samjhana Karki, a nurse who was waiting for a Pathao rider in New Road on Sunday. While Karki was waiting for a rider who accepted her request online, she was approached by several motorcyclists citing that they were also associated with a ridesharing service.
“When I once replied to a motorcyclist who approached me randomly while I was in a hurry, he first bargained over fare and also argued to operate without completing the necessary procedure,” said Karki, who informed that she denied the request and called for a different rider through the application.
The Sub-section (4) also states that the vehicles must complete other procedures such as pillion rider’s insurance and abide by government set fares. However, it hasn’t been implemented effectively. Two-wheelers with mobile holders can be seen parked at the side of major roads and bus stops across the valley asking people for a ride. Several motorcyclists have even been operating the ridesharing service without registering on any of the platforms as well.
Meanwhile, those who have registered with a ridesharing platform are also found demanding to drop a passenger without completing the online procedure in a bid to evade commission payment to the respective platform.
Talking to The Rising Nepal on several occasions, senior officials of ridesharing giants like – Tootle and Pathao – have regularly stressed that all service seekers should abide by necessary procedures while availing the service.
“If a passenger requests a ride online and a rider accepts it online, it shows the route and real time location of the vehicle. It can be shared by the passenger with their relatives or friends. But an offline ride cannot be regulated due to which we request our users to complain about such riders rather than accepting their proposal,” said Asheem Man Singh Basnyat, regional director at Pathao. The platforms also informed that they take action against the riders based on the complaints and requested the users to leave feedback in the application against such riders.
Meanwhile, service seekers also argued that the ridesharing platforms needed to be more strict in areas of registering riders and assuring safe rides. “I have requested several riders to slow down because of their reckless driving and I leave feedback on the application regarding the incident. It leads me to think of stopping utilising the service but there is no other reliable means of transportation to reach a destination faster," said Kunjan.
Nevertheless, the irregularities over the rides taking place through the platforms haven’t been addressed effectively. "It is not our part of the job to check whether a motorcyclist is registered to a ridesharing or not. We are unclear of the ways the service is operating in the Valley. What we know is the government has allowed its operation," said Superintendent of Police (SP) Sanjib Sharma Das, spokesperson for Metropolitan Traffic Police Division.
When The Rising Nepal contacted the Bagmati Province Ministry for Labour, Employment and Transport and inquired about the situation of a directive to regulate ridesharing sector, it was found that there had been no development.
"There have been no proper developments in the sector of bringing a regulation for ridesharing. I will be consulting our officials and look in to the matter at the earliest. A directive is necessary and steps will be taken towards addressing it," said Ghanashyam Dahal, Bagmati Province Minister for Labour, Employment and Transport.