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Corporate employees can operate taxis during off-hours

Taxi: The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) yesterday announced two significant decisions with reference to taxi operation: an increase in age limit for taxi drivers to 65 years from 60, and the allowing corporate employees to operate taxis during off-hours.

MoIC minister DN Dhungyel announced the decision in the presence of taxi operators and journalists at the ministry’s conference hall, and said the decision will benefit a significant number of people.

The minister said there are a total of 303 professional driving license (PDL) holders who will benefit within next fifteen months. Considering a PDL holder supports four members, the decision is expected to benefit 1,212 people, the minister said.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said the ministry took into account various aspects of their requests after it received repeated requests from taxi operators. “Dependence on the occupation by petitioners was the primary means of incomes,” he said.

The decision was based on the changing structure of Bhutanese society and the family structure. He said the life expectancy has increased now to 68 years on an average.

“There has also been significant improvement in the driving conditions and the car technology and safety features,” he said. The minister also said taxi drivers are dependent on driving taxi as the main source of livelihood.

Practical knowledge and skills of the drivers, he said, have also improved through regular trainings and educational programmes. “There is marked improvement in general health facilities, thereby leading to improvement in health of the operators.”

The ministry checked the best practices within the region and found that India allows taxi-operating license up to 68 years of age and 65 years in Bangladesh. It’s 73 years in Singapore and 70 years in Hong Kong.

“However, our country is different from those countries,” he said.

The increase in age limit for the affected taxi drivers as proposed and recommended, ensures longer income sustainability of those affected, all of whom are too old to be employed in other occupations, or too old also to be re-trained with other skills for alternative jobs.

However, the taxi drivers above 60 years of age should produce annual medical fitness certificates supported by various medical test reports. The medical check-ups will ensure and include healthy visual, auditory and mental state.

The minister also clarified that those taxi drivers with a consistent unsafe, dangerous driving record may be restricted.

The ministry has also allowed corporate employees to drive taxis on weekends and public holidays.

The ministry discussed with relevant stakeholders regarding the operation of taxis by corporate employees and came up with a decision to allow them to operate during off-hours primarily to supplement their income and support their family members.

However, the minister clarified that the new rule does not override the service rules of the individual corporate agencies, meaning that corporate employees cannot operate taxis if the service rules of the company bars its employees from doing so.

“Different corporate agencies will have their specific service rules and if their service rule do not allow them to operate taxis during off-hours, then the employees should be guided by it accordingly,” he said.

Road Safety and Transport Authority director general Lham Dorji, who was also present at the event, said it was important for people to abide by the rules. “We look forward to your cooperation and support,” he said.

A member of the Taxi Tshogpa, Dorji Wangdi, thanked the government for the decision, saying that it would benefit the poor. “Finally our requests have been granted,” he said.

He also said that if the taxi drivers above 60 years are found unfit by doctors, “we have no problem”.

Dorji Wangdi requested the ministry to allow taxi drivers whose taxis have not expired its taxi life to be transferred to their family members. “Bar licenses are allowed to be transferred,” he pointed out.

MB Subba 

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