Ridesharing services expanding despite lack of legal framework


Kathmandu, July 31: Utilisation of ridesharing services has expanded exponentially in the Kathmandu Valley as it has delivered a convenient mode of public transport and provided employment to many.

With the introduction of Tootle in 2017 as the first ridesharing platform using private two-wheelers in Nepal, Pathao came as a strong contender in 2018. 

Now, there are at least a dozen different ridesharing platforms operating in the Kathmandu Valley.

Thousands of two-wheelers can be seen operating across the Valley with a mobile holder at the front seeking passengers. While people have been earning handsomely, they have not been brought under tax regulations in lack of law. The service is allowed to continue as the government is working to prepare necessary legislations and allow ridesharing to operate legally and properly. But in lack of law to regulate them, the number of ridesharing services have grown massively.

As per the Sub-section (4) of Section 13 of the Province Vehicle and Transport Management Act of Bagmati, two- and four-wheelers registered for private use can pick and drop individuals after completing the listing  procedures, charging set fare and ensuring passengers' insurance.

Sub-section (5) of Section 13 states that other processes related to Sub-section (4) will be as stated. 

However, nothing has been stated further yet. Without a separate directive, ridesharing companies cannot get registered in Bagmati.

"We are trying to bring a directive for ridesharing within a month because it has been essential. 

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We are aware of increasing the number of service providers and the need of a stringent regulation to make ridesharing efficient and safe," said Harihar Pokhrel, spokesperson for Bagmati Province Ministry of Labour, Employment and Transport.

However, a new ridesharing service named 'Sewak' has recently been launched in Province 1. Sub-section (2) of Section 8 of the Province Vehicle and Transport Management Act of Province 1 restricts the use of private vehicles as public transport. Authorities seem unaware about the operation of Sewak.

Sewak has been brought into operation since July 21 and is said to provide services up to Biratnagar, Itahari, Dharan, Damak and Birtamode.

"Ridesharing services in major cities of Province 1 will be beneficial. We don’t have a law but we are planning to amend the prevailing law and allow the service in Province 1," said Upendra Prasad Ghimire, Minister for Transportation and Communication of Province 1.

Minister Ghimire informed that the recently operated Sewak application will not be obstructed but the company should be liable for any wrongdoings through the platform. 

Ridesharing platforms informed that a proper law would allow them to get registered with the government and provide services effectively.

"We have expected that the Bagmati government will prepare an effective directive for ridesharing. We will then be able to provide services more efficiently and securely," said Asheem Man Singh Basnyat, Nepal's regional director for Pathao.

Tootle and Pathao require an individual to personally visit the offices, present documents and participate in an awareness class about the respective application and its use. New ridesharing applications register riders through digitally uploaded documents without proper verification.

InDriver, an international ride-hailing service, has provided a platform for individuals with vehicles to seek passengers, discuss the fare and accept or reject the ride. 

InDriver, which doesn’t charge commission from users like others, doesn’t have an office in Nepal and provides the service only digitally.

On July 20, Cyber Bureau had arrested Karma Wang Sing Lama, a 24-year-old taxi driver. Lama was arrested for misusing an individual's details while hailing his taxi through InDriver application. Lama had created a fake account of the individual on Facebook and even on porn sites with the details.

Stakeholders have also shown concern as unregistered companies could sell personal data, including phone number and citizenship photo, collected from users.

Vehicle operators through ridesharing have also been found picking passengers without following request and accept procedure. It restricts tracking the ride and disallows passenger to seek insurance.

Pathao, which is the only ridesharing providing blanket insurance, has provided insurance in five deaths due to accidents since November, 2021. 

"One individual couldn’t claim the insurance as the ride was offline," said Basnyat.

Riders request passengers to cancel the ride after picking them up as they shouldn’t pay commission to the ridesharing platform after it.

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