HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Even though the government has banned the use of roof carriers on public buses, the ban is yet to be implemented.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai had directed the removal of roof carriers from public buses in the wake of the fatal Jhangajholi bus accident in Sindhuli last October.
The memory of 42 fatalities after the bus accident slowly faded away after some weeks. However, the recent bus accidents in Dhading and Nawalparasi have once again jolted the Home Ministry to its toes.
The three separate bus accidents on July 16 and 17, including the Gandak bus plunge claimed 59 lives and killed 39 Indian pilgrims respectively.
According to Saroj Sitauala, treasurer of Federation of National Transport Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal, the bus with a capacity of 42 people was carrying 120 passengers. Many of them were on the roof.
Meanwhile, MoHA has issued an eight-point monitoring indicators for road-safety, which also concerns roof carrier among others. Roof are used for carrying business-goods and sometimes passengers.
After the October accident, eleven large scale accidents have taken place, killing 123 people and leaving 185 injured.
The Ministry sent the directions to all 75 District Administration Offices for implementation on Tuesday.
According to Home Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Ekmani Nepal, the idea of point-indicators was pitched by Home Secretary Sushil JB Rana.
When asked about implementation of the PM’s October direction, Secretary Rana refused to give his statement and referred to the deputy spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Deputy Spokesperson Nepal said it was an integrated work of Ministry of Physical Planning and Transportation and MoHA.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai had himself issued a direction to the MPPT and MoHA to remove roof racks from public buses following the Jhangajholi bus accident in October.
To everyone’s surprise, Sitaula said he was unaware about the PM’s direction on carrier removal.
Department of Transportation Management examines every vehicle once in a year and issues ‘vehicle checked certificates’, however, no carrier was removed after the direction.
Similarly, MPPT Spokesperson Tulsi Sitaula could not answer when asked about the PM’s directive. He only said that preparations for the road safety decade 2011-2020 programme aiming to halve the current road fatalities was under way.
Lack of coordination among authorities, syndication and cartelling of bus services, business centric transportation entrepreneurs and their rampant influence on the authorities are among the reasons that keep the road safety direction limited to paper, according to officials, who chose to be privy.
Sindhuli DAO had prohibited big vehicles on the route of Jhangajholi until the road was upgraded, but prohibition sustained only for a month as bus-owners forcefully started the service unilaterally.
Statistics says that every 10,000 vehicles kill 50 people annually.
In total, there are 1,280,000 vehicles in the country. According to traffic records, 80 per cent of the road accidents are due to driver’s error, including drinking and driving, overspeeding and driving under fatigue.
The MoHA directions are: monitoring seat capacity and passenger number, speed limit based on the condition of the road and traffic movement, vehicle-checked certificates, route permit, mandatory two drivers on long route services, no drinking and driving and lane-driving.
Nepal Police Spokesperson DIG Binod Singh said they are facing resource constraints — manpower and equipment — in implementing the direction.
“ There are only 3,500 Traffic police personnel across the country and their ability to reach all the 75 districts is very difficult,” added Singh.
Poor road-infrastructure, driver’s error, carrying passengers beyond the seat capacity, are the major reasons behind increasing road accidents.