Says help ease congestion and business is better

Thinley Namgay 

In an unexpected move, more than 500 taxi drivers have signed a petition to reinstate the odd-even rule after the information and communication ministry lifted the rule since May 6.

Bhutan Taxi Association (BTA) will submit the petition soon to the ministry requesting not to cancel the rule. BTA’s Chairperson, Rinzin Chophel said that the appeal is on the grounds that there are no parking space, heavy traffic jam and stiff competition for passengers besides keeping in mind the safety of passengers.

“Unlike during the odd-even rule, many taxis are gathering at Lungtenzampa without passengers after the rule was cancelled. There are only 26 parking in Lungtenzampa and the other five at its bus terminal,” said Rinzin Chophel.

He also said that parking space in other places is even worse. “The old city bus parking could accommodate 17 taxis, but it is under reconstruction. Only seven parking are each at Centenary Farmers Market, and parking near Taj hotel as of now. In the main town, parking is just for pick and drop.”

Drivers who signed an application were mostly from Thimphu, Paro, Wangduephodrang, Punakha, and Phuentsholing. Some were not members of the association.

“Odd-even rule has helped us maintain physical distance so far. Due to the cancellation of the rule, people might also think that the Covid-19 situation has become better and would start coming out in the town,” said Rinzin Chophel.

In a letter to the road safety authority on lifting the odd-even rule, the MoIC secretary stated that it was an acknowledgement of the inconveniences faced by the commuters, especially in localities with fewer taxis. The letter mentioned that it was based on the directive from MoIC’s minister and further discussion with the Prime Minister.

As per the directive from the ministry, taxis have started plying with two passengers since May 7 without any changes in the fare.

However, many drivers found the new rule complicated.

Taxi driver, Dawa Tshering said that he is one of the kidu recipients and situation of the drivers have improved. However, he said that due to the lesser number of people visiting town, the competition among drivers, which was already high, has become worse with the rule lifted.

More than 1,000 taxi drivers applied for the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu last month. About 600 are receiving the Nu 8,000 a month.

“During the time of odd-even rule, I used to earn more than Nu 2,000. Since May 7, I hardly get Nu 1,000,” said Dawa Tshering.

Another taxi driver, Dorji Wangchuk said that with the closing of shops by 7pm, drivers have lost business. “Unlike before, passengers reserving taxis has decreased and  lifting the odd-even rule made the situation difficult.”

Of the 6,118 taxis in the country, more than 3,900 are in Thimphu. Of which 690 have government or corporation jobs. BTA has  2,700 members and of which more than 1,000 members are from Thimphu.