MoIC and RSTA planning to cap the number of taxis
The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) under the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) is carrying out a nationwide survey from 15th to 31st July on the number of taxis in the country with the intent of capping the number of taxis to a fixed number.
This was one of the promises made by the PDP during the election campaign which said it would study and limit the number of taxis.
The MoIC Minister Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel said that rough estimates show that the number of taxis in Bhutan could be well over 5000 which, he said, is exceedingly high.
Lyonpo said that the survey was being carried out as the RSTA currently did not have the actual figures in the absence of which a decision could not be taken on capping the number of taxis.
The minister said, “We are thinking of capping the number of taxis at 5000 and not increasing above 5000 for the next ten years.” He, however, clarified that a final decision on the numbers and other issues would only be taken once the final details and figures were made available from the survey.
Giving another example Lyonpo said that Thimphu alone was roughly estimated to have around 3,200 taxis but it has only a capacity to absorb only around 3,000.
“If the number of taxis is too big, and if there are too many in the city we have to curb it,” Lyonpo said
Meanwhile during the re-verification of the taxi vehicles and taxi licenses which started this week, 40 taxi drivers declined to sign the survey forms fearing that part time taxi drivers who work in the corporate, government and armed forces would not be allowed to continue driving taxis.
“Whether the MoIC or RSTA decides on allowing civil servants, corporate and armed forces to drive taxis or not will all depend upon the accurate data on the number of formal and informal taxi drivers,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo, however, clarified saying that any decision would not be carried out at the cost of existing part time taxi drivers.
The minister said they are working on a strategy to help the formal taxi drivers as well as part time civil servants, corporate and armed force members driving taxis.
Lyonpo added that as a taxi vehicle had a life span of around nine years part time taxi drivers could be allowed to continue till the taxi’s life runs out. He said it was on this basis that any initiative to curb part time drivers would take anywhere between four to seven years.
“We are not cutting down immediately; we are not telling the part time taxi drivers to not drive,” said Lyonpo. He said that one possibility in the future would be on asking civil servants if they wanted to remain as civil servants or drive taxis. Already existing RCSC rules prohibit civil servants from taking up part time businesses.
“We are collecting information and the decision will be taken after we come up with the correct information but definitely there will be decision,” Director General of RSTA, Lham Dorji said.
He said the decision would come from either from RSTA, MoIC or the Government as per the level of authority.
He added that the study will show the total number of taxi drivers, if the taxis are hired or owned and the existence of double employment. One part time taxi driver Phurba Dorji, who is working as a corporate employee, said during office hours they do their normal work and drive taxis only on their off-office hours.
“With the regular work we do the income is not sufficient. We have to raise a family, pay house rent and meet basic needs,” he said. “Some even pay higher rents than their actual income living in the capital city,” he added.
Taxi association representative and a regular taxi driver Damchoe Tshering said those employed in offices as well as driving taxi would lose efficiency at work. He said due to the large numbers of Taxis in Thimphu, it has affected their income.
As per the RSTA notification on re-verification given on 8th July RSTA could not get the exact number of taxi vehicles from surveys in the past. On survey was a two days random sampling carried out in March 22 and 23 and another was re-verification for 10 days from April 14 to 25 this year.
These earlier surveys found that several hundred taxis were not renewed and registered since 2006.
The compiled report on the re-verification from all parts of the country would be submitted to the MoIC on August 15.
Thukten Zangpo/ Thimphu