We charge Rs. 600 to Birtamod and Rs. 900 for Sanischare," taxi drivers in Bhadrapur Airport in Jhapa responded when this scribe recently asked them about the fare they would charge for taking me to Saniscahre. I was shocked to hear the rate. Birtamod lies 12 kilometres away from Bhadrapur and Sanischare some five kilometres away from Birtamod. Hence, the fare rate was Rs. 50 per km! Bargaining in the taxi stand was no use as every driver was checking everyone of them to find whether anyone of them was taking the passengers at a lower rate.
A tight syndicate system was in place and no driver was allowed to violate the queue system. Some of the confused air passengers were compelled to take the expensive taxis to their destinations whereas others were seen commuting by rickshaws and on friendsí motorbikes. When asked why they were charging such exorbitant fare, one of the drivers retorted that the fare was not high for the air passengers who reached there from Kathmandu paying Rs. 5,000 or more.
The rude behaviours of the taxis drivers obviously showed that they were there to loot the poor passengers, not to provide services. The local administration has done nothing to check such looting of the taxis although the district administration office is at a few minutesí walking distance from the site.
One of the gentleman-like drivers, who was keenly listening to me from distance, advised me to go out of the airport in a rickshaw and he would later come to pick me up. I dully followed him and hired a rickshaw for the nearby market. A taxi-driven by a Madhesi youth followed the rickshaw asking me to hire his taxi. But the fare he asked me was no less than those of other taxis. Meanwhile, the taxi of the gentle-man looking driver arrived and I started putting my bags into his taxi. It is the right of every passenger to travel by the taxi of his choice and I was no exception. But I was denied this right.
The driver of the next taxi that was following me threatened the gentleman of setting his taxi in fire if he took me. He even informed his friends about the incident from his mobile. Witnessing the quarrel between the two, I again decided to travel by the rickshaw until I reached Bhadrapur town. The gentlemanís taxi was going ahead of me and the other was following me. Fed up with the activities of the two drivers, I decided to travel by a public bus although my small son was insisting on taking a taxi. I reached Birtamod paying just Rs. 25 in 25 minutes.
In fact, the Bhadrapur incident is an example of how the passengers get looted. If the drivers happen to know the passengers to be new in their locality, they apply every measure to loot him. One Bhushan Raj Singh of Thamel shared how he was charged Rs. 1,000 to reach Pashupatinagar from Phikkal by a taxi when he was on his way to Darjeeling. He said he came to know about the looting only when a taxi charged him only Rs. 425 for same distance upon his return from Darjeeling the next day. Obviously, he was cheated both times as he was compelled to pay Rs. 425 to cover a distance of 10 kilometers. Cheatings are common during the festival season.