Editorial: Punish the guilty

Local levels should be barred from building roads without first getting approval from a higher authority and informed consent of the locals

A video footage showing a middle-aged woman whacked by a bucket of an excavator in Baitadi’s Dashrath Municipality went viral in the social media on Monday and Tuesday, and it also shook the entire nation. The video footage depicts the woman, identified as Gaura Joshi of Ayarkhali village, rolling down the hills several times after being hit by the excavator’s bucket that was digging a rural road in ward-9 of the municipality. Seven others also sustained minor injuries in the scuffle between the locals of the village and members of the Road Construction Consumers’ Committees, which was building the 9-km-long road. The consumers’ committee was adamant on building the road in spite of opposition from the Ayarkhali villagers. After being hit by the bucket, Gaura fell unconscious and was rushed to the district hospital, which referred her to Dhangadi Hospital. But the Dhangadi hospital also referred her to the Kohalpur-based teaching hospital in Banke, where she is undergoing treatment for ‘internal injuries’, as per the doctors there. The doctors treating her said that although there were no marks of external injuries, she may be suffering from internal injuries. Her condition is said to be critical.

Police have arrested four persons, including driver Kishor Bohara, who hit the woman with the bucket of the excavator belonging to a local politician. Police said legal action would be taken against the driver for hitting the woman with the bucket. The municipality mayor, Narendra Singh Thapa, said the municipality would bear Gaura’s treatment cost. The mayor claimed that he had asked all the stakeholders to reach a consensus before starting the road construction. The user’s committee members claimed that the situation turned especially nasty after the locals pelted stones at them all of a sudden.

The locals of Ayarkhali village had asked the committee not to dig the road through the guthi land they had been tilling since long, and they had to offer part of the produce to the Gwalok Kedar Temple situated just 50 metres below the proposed road. The locals had earlier lodged complaints at the ward office, municipality and the district administration office asking them to resolve the issue amicably. But the committee did not heed their requests. To attack protesters with heavy machinery is an inhuman act, and the driver and the officials who ordered the driver to dig the road in spite of the local protest deserve maximum legal punishment. Across the country, most of the rural roads are built without conducting any engineering design and getting approval from a competent authority. The construction benefits only the elected officials who have bought one or two such machines. It is mostly the local level elected officials or influential people who prefer roads to other infrastructure, such as public schools, hospitals or drinking water schemes. Most of the local level budget is spent on roads, whose economic and technical sustainability is almost zilch. Learning a lesson from this tragic incident, the government must issue a circular to all local levels, directing them not to start any road projects without getting approval from a higher authority and informed consent of the locals.

Compensate farmers

It’s harvest time, but farmers in Kailali and Kanchanpur districts have nothing to reap this year as their Garima brand paddy has failed to yield any grains. As such, the farmers in these districts of far-west Nepal are waiting for the government to provide them compensation. They have been told by the concerned authority not to destroy their paddy until the government comes up with a decision on compensation. The government must make a quick decision as the farmers must ready their fields for the next crops.

This is not the first time high-yielding hybrid seeds recommended by the government have failed to produce any crops. This has happened in the past with maize also. The Garima brand paddy seeds were produced by Renovo Company in Hyderabad, India. The two districts apart, paddy in Chitwan have also seen no rice grains from the Garima brand. The government must see to it that only genuine agro-inputs from seeds to fertilisers and pesticides find their way to Nepal. Our farmers cannot be duped and left high and dry for no fault of theirs. The seed producing company should be made to provide compensation to the farmers. Only then can we motivate our farmers to take to modern farming methods.