Cabbies go berserk

Under misapprehension it was the last training course, taxi drivers storm hall

RSTA: About 300 taxi drivers thronged the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) office about 8:30am yesterday.  The taxi drivers wanted to make sure they didn’t miss a refresher course on “road safety and traffic discipline” organised by the RSTA.

However, a drama unfolded when the training officials announced that only about 120 would be taken.

The crowd started making what the RSTA officials described as “unruly noise”.  Within minutes, the situation in the training hall turned into complete chaos, as taxi drivers tried to grab a chair.  Some of them said they thought they would be able to sit for the course if they grabbed a chair.

They had rushed into the hall against the trainer’s announcement that only the registered candidates would be allowed inside, first.

Overwhelmed by the crowd, a frightened instructor then called the RSTA director general (DG), Lham Dorji, to control the taxi drivers. “If you behave like this, I’ll call police,” the DG told the crowd.  He asked those registered to stay in the hall and told others to remain outside.  But his intervention infuriated the taxi drivers, who became even louder.

As the situation got out of control, the RSTA quickly sought intervention from police, and informed information and communications minister DN Dhungyel. The ministry’s secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji also arrived at the scene.

Lyonpo, who rushed to the scene, told the taxi drivers that the trainings would be continued even in the next financial year.

Some of the taxi drivers disappeared from the crowd as police reached the scene.

Behind all these was a miscommunication.  Taxi drivers said they were told that yesterday’s was the last batch of refresher’s course. 

They blamed the RSTA for its inability to clarify and notify drivers.

As the crowd calmed down, lyonpo DN Dhungyel told drivers that they could attend the training in the coming months.

The DG told Kuensel the crowd was utterly disorganised and not willing to listen to his request to calm down. “Instead of listening to me, they started revolting,” he said “Taxi drivers can’t bully a government agency,” he added.  The DG said he had no option but to seek help from police and the minister.

According to the DG, the taxi drivers, who were not registered for the training in the current batch, were asked to stay outside, while those registered could sit in the training hall.  However, he said the taxi drivers ignored his request.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay also enquired about the situation. “I got a call from lyonchhoen asking me about what had happened,” the director general said.

Ngawang Tashi, one of the taxi drivers, said he had come for the training, thinking that it was the last batch of training.  He said he had registered for the training, but was told that he could come only when the RSTA called him.

“After I registered, I came to the RSTA office thrice to enquire,” he said. “But there was no proper response from the help desk,” he said, adding that he was worried he might miss the opportunity.

Like him, most of the taxi drivers had heard that it would be the last batch of training.  Another taxi driver, Uttam Pradhan, said that he had heard that their license would not be renewed if they missed the training.

Over 1,200 taxi drivers have registered for the two-day course and they have been divided into 10 groups.  The current batch was the last to be trained with budget from the ongoing financial year and the rest will be trained in the coming months.

The refresher course, the DG, said is being provided to bring positive changes in taxi drivers’ behaviour. The DG lamented that shouting against a government agency was not a good thing the taxi drivers could do. “That’s something to be concerned about,” he added.

In the presence of the RSTA officials, the taxi drivers told communications minister they were threatened that training would be cancelled all together.

The issue, however, has been resolved.  About 90 taxi drivers were taken yesterday for the training, besides those who were registered through a lucky dip.

By MB Subba

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