Road accident| Not a single day passes off these days without the news of road accidents claiming lives of the people. No sooner had the Karnali road accident happened in Jajarkot in which several dozen people were killed a fortnight ago, a bus accident claimed six lives in Prithvi Highway the other day when the speeding bus skidded off the road to plunge in the Trishuli River. Similar major and minor accidents occur regularly on the highways, feeder roads and fair weather tracks killing passengers and commuters.
Such accidents happen in the capital city and other cities outside the Valley too invariably exacting heavy toll on the life of the people. Though the comparative statistics are not available at hand to tell clearly about the situation, the road accident updates carried by local media indicate that Nepal should top the countries where such fatal eventualities kill more people than any other disasters. What makes such mortal accidents take place in this country and why the concerned authorities and stakeholders show no particular concern and sensibilities to prevent and mitigate the situation is a big question.
What is perplexing in this context is the lack of sensitivity and responsibility on the part of the state authorities to look into the situation and initiate possible measures to minimize the road risks. It shows that the human sensibility, life respecting emotions and feelings of the leaders and state authorities have been dulled and desensitized in Nepal. This can be imagined of only in the pre-state Hobbesian era when nobody respected anybody and no authority existed, according to Leviathan, to enforce order and respect to life.
Moreover, it is also a sad reflection of deterioration in and ineffectiveness and debilitation of governance in the country. An important factor contributing to increased incidences of vehicular accidents is the continued neglect and disrepair of the roads in the country. One can imagine the deteriorating situation if the plight of such major road infrastructures as the Prithvi Highway is observed and accounted for. The highway offers the singular vital link to the capital city with the rest of the country. It is the only strategic supply line to meet the regular needs of the capital residents and people from its vicinity.
In case the highway fails to mobilize and deliver the supply of daily necessities to the capital city for a day or more, panic strikes everywhere and fear of scarcity grips the dwellers of Kathmandu. But very little attention has been given to repair and maintain the highway and keep it in the state of minimum operable conditions. The road toll has been levied on the plying vehicles and a huge amount is extracted from two different locations along the highway but it is apparent that not a tiny fraction of the amount raised through road toll mobilization seems being spent to sprucing up the worsening conditions of the road.
Whatever budget— it may be insufficient— is allocated annually to rehabilitate the road seems not utilized properly. The Mugling-Narayanghat section of the road is allowed to go in a shambles posing greater risks for driving vehicles. The Department of Roads could do well to give a minimum operability to the highway if it had given a wee bit of attention to repair and rehabilitate it. The minimum signs and markers do not exist along the highway to guide and channel the flow of road traffic.
The administrative and technical personnel of the department concerned should have been held responsible for the sorry state of roads that provide strategic passage to the capital city. Another aspect indicating the failure of the governance is poor enforcement of traffic rules and regulation. A legal regime undoubtedly exists to guide and regulate the licensing, driving and system maintenance of the road traffic. However, the regulations are neither observed nor enforced by the state authorities.
Over speeding of vehicles and overcrowding the means of transportation like bus and jeeps and drunken driving are all prohibited by law. But the violation of these rules and norms are not tackled properly and those who flout the norms generally get scot free. It is often alleged that the traffic regulating authorities tend to bargain for petty rents and paltry illicit gains instead of enforcing appropriate measures against the flouting of traffic rules and regulations. Moreover, private sector holds the monopoly in the operation of transportation business. It operates business through syndicates and oligopolies.
The syndicates do not allow competition and this is to the detriment of the interests of employees and users of the services. It needs to be mentioned that oligopolies and syndicates are prohibited by law but they continue to operate in different guises and forms in transport sectors with impunity. It is said that the transport syndicate operators peddle influence through political and administrative mechanism to defeat the purpose of law. Unless the governing process and mechanism are reformed and those violating the legal regime are punished, the tragic road accidents cannot be prevented in the country.