KATHMANDU: What is it if not sheer irony, that the market is seeing acceleration in the illegal business of fake licences? Brokers at the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) in
Bagmati Zonal Office at Ekantakuna themselves issue driving licences illegally for couple of thousand bucks. Monetary gain drives an unholy nexus between brokers and employees of the department, without which issuing an original licence to an ineligible person would have been out of the question.
Recently, the department filed a case against two of its employee — Special Officer Laxman Shrestha and Senior Clerk Madan Giri — on charges of malpractice of illegal issuance of licence in Lalitpur District Court. While the court is yet to give its verdict on the case, the fact is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To put the brakes on the practice of illegal procurement and ensure fairness in the issuance of driving licences, the department had installed closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the Bagmati Zonal Office in the beginning of this fiscal year. It had also installed CCTV in the Gandaki Zonal Office from February 2011. But it seems these CCTVs are only being used to monitor the conducts of law-abiding employees and honest citizens, while frauds continue to hit and run.
According to a report of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) at Ramshahpath, in the first eight months (mid-July 2010 to mid-March 2011) of the fiscal year 2067/68, Kathmandu valley witnessed as many as 2,868 road accidents, which killed 116 people and injured 2,755. In the aforementioned incidents, 424 people suffered serious injuries while 2,331 sustained minor injuries. The major concern is that more than 70 per cent of the road mishaps were caused due to the driver’s negligence, flouting of traffic rules, overtaking, over speeding and drunken driving. With the situation seemingly veering out of control with such dreadful road accidents becoming commonplace, it has become the need of the hour to control the transactions of duplicate licence and illegal acquisition of licence.
Akash Thapa (name changed) is a broker who owns a ‘service centre’ near the Bagmati Zonal Office of the department at Ekantakuna. When asked about fake licence and illegal issuance of an original licence, he bragged that it would not take him more than a few days to procure a fake licence at the right price. He even guaranteed that he could issue an original licence even if the applicant happened to fail the written test and trial. “The duplicate licence is exactly like the original one. The only thing is that there will be no record of it in the department,” said Thapa, assuring that no problems would arise afterwards, since no one could discern the difference even at regular police check points. However, he warned that the reality of duplicate licence could be revealed in the case of accidents. “We charge only Rs 1,500 for the duplicate licence of car, jeep and delivery van (category ‘B’), whereas the price of an original one without any hassles is Rs 8,000,” he said, adding that the duplicate licence is popular among those who wish to work in or migrate to foreign countries.
Middlemen say that there are hundreds of people using such fake licence in the country. Meanwhile, Bibek KC (name changed) who holds a duplicate licence of category ‘B’ shared, “When I was in Australia, I asked my uncle here in Nepal to make a driving licence for me. He got it made through a broker,” said KC, adding that he used the licence to cruise a friend’s car in Australia. According to him, most of his friends in Australia hold duplicate driving licences from Nepal. But is anyone concerned about the possible risk and vulnerability of accidents when an unskilled driver acquires a licence through such false means. “There is a close connection between the brokers and the employees of the department,” he alleged, adding that if that were not the case, the brokers would not have been able to obtain the original hologram of the department.
When asked about the growing trend of duplicate licence, black-marketing of original licence and involvement of the employees of the office, Acting Chief of Bagmati Zonal Office of the department at Ekantakuna, Basudev Pokharel said, “We cannot deny it, as a case has been filed against two employees of the office.” Admitting that there are some corrupt employees in the office, he said, “We have paid due attention towards mitigating anomalies existing within the office.” At the same time, he is quick to steer the blame on brokers as the major agents behind the duplication and illegal issuance of licences. According to him, broker system has to be banned to stop these malpractices.
However, the fact remains that without help from the employees within the department, such acts are impossible. The general public are harassed and given the run around for even simple tasks like paying taxes and hence resort to brokers to get this done efficiently and fast for a couple of hundred rupees. With conscious effort from the employees to make things complicated and brokers overcoming these complications and delays for a fee, it is the common man who is being taken for a ride. The department has failed to monitor the conduct of its staff because the broker system cannot and will not survive without inside help.
Informing that the ratio of licence issuance has also drastically reduced after the installation of CCTVs, he said, “These days, the number of licence seekers has reduced by nearly 50 per cent,” adding that he suspected the applicants for fake licences have diverted to acquire it from places that have not installed CCTV. He added that the office has been maintaining the record of licence online, which has also helped
override the malpractices to a great extent.