Itahari levies ‘parking fee’ on moving vehicles

Bibek Bibas Regmi 19 May 2024
Itahari levies ‘parking fee’ on moving vehicles Photo: Bibek Bibash Regmi

ITAHARI: Itahari is a busy town, always bustling with different activities. The six-lane road from Rani in Biratnagar to Teenkune in Dharan is almost complete. Likewise, the upgrading of the East-West Highway into a four-lane road is also underway. All this has made Itahari one of the busy intersections in the entire Koshi Province.

Despite rapid road expansions, traffic congestion has not eased. Vehicles heading east, west, to the hills, and industrial areas all use the Itahari intersection. The bustling town looks disorganized and unfriendly to commuters. A recent example of this is the collection of parking fees from even moving motor vehicles. Such activities leave tourists visiting the eastern hills from India irritated.

Some youths are involved in collecting parking fees from moving vehicles entering Itahari. As soon as they spot an oncoming vehicle, they run at it and block its path. These youths are employees deployed by Namuna Nirman Construction, the company contracted by the Itahari Sub-metropolitan to collect parking fees in the city. Namuna Nirman Sewa bagged the contract to collect parking fees for Rs 15.2 million. It has been collecting parking fees from every vehicle entering Itahari, regardless of whether they park in the city.

The collection of fees by obstructing roads has tarnished Itahari’s reputation and also increased the risk of accidents. People have questioned the rationale behind collecting parking fees from motor vehicles that do not even park in the city. “The collection of fees by obstructing roads is causing problems for commuters,” Suresh Subedi, a daily commuter, told Himal Press. “While it is justifiable for the municipality to collect taxes, is it right to do so by obstructing roads instead of having designated booths or counters?”

Subedi feels that such fee collection is merely a way for the municipality to provide jobs to its party cadres or for the contractor company to favor its associates. “Commuters are not getting any facilities in return,” he added.

Such antics can be seen on the Biratnagar line, western line, eastern line, and even inner roads of Itahari Sub-metropolitan City. Not just four-wheelers, even e-rickshaws are forced to pay parking fees.

Jayanti Gautam, another commuter, said she does not understand why motor vehicles need to pay fees to every local unit. “If they continue collecting fees this way, there is a risk of two-wheelers being knocked down,” she said. “It is ironic that related government bodies have remained mute spectators to all this.”

Jiwan Rai, the promoter of Namuna Nirman Construction, said they were simply collecting fees under the parking heading as per their agreement with the sub-metropolis to collect parking, infrastructure and sanitation fees. He added that fees are collected in all 20 wards of Itahari. “We are just a medium. Taxes are collected for all 20 wards,” he said. “We have been issuing receipts and collecting fees from all vehicles except those privately owned.”

Rai said that although their agreement with the municipality allows them to charge private vehicles too, they are collecting fees only from public vehicles and goods carriers.

Itahari Sub-metropolitan City’s spokesperson, Diwakar Pokharel, admitted that awarding a contract in the name of collecting parking fees was wrong. “The Revenue Division awarded the contract. Awarding a contract for areas outside the municipality’s jurisdiction was wrong,” he says. “We have also seen people obstructing roads to collect fees, which is wrong.”

Pokharel said that the sub-metropolis has cautioned the contractor against collecting fees by obstructing the movement of vehicles. “Since complaints have been raised from many sides, we are discussing whether to continue the contract in the next fiscal year,” he added.

Santosh Dhakal, chief of the Revenue Division of the sub-metropolis, said nobody is allowed to collect fees by obstructing the movement of vehicles. “We have already cautioned the contractor company in writing,” Dhakal said. “We have also deployed city police to monitor their activities.”

Published On: 19 May 2024


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *