EDITORIAL: Road to safety

If the money collected from toll tax is utilised well to maintain and repair roads, this can hugely increase the safety of passengers

Come next fiscal, the Road Board Nepal (RBN) will collect toll tax on all highways and road sections across the country where vehicular movement exceeds 900 units per day. The collected amount, according to RBN officials, will be utilised for repair and maintenance of these roads. This move, hence, is right, given the poor road conditions that the country has. Toll tax, however, is not something new that the RBN is planning to introduce. The RBN is currently collecting toll tax on four road sections — the Naubise-Mugling stretch of Prithvi Highway; the Narayangadh-Hetauda and Narayangadh-Butwal stretches of the East-West Highway; and Bhairahawa-Bhumahi section in Rupandehi. The proposal to collect toll tax on other highways and road sections will be tabled during the next board meeting of the RBN. Similarly, the RBN has also got the consent from the Ministry of Finance to increase the toll tax on highways and road sections where currently it is charging vehicles for plying. Once it is implemented, the annual toll tax collection will rise from Rs 100 million at present to Rs 200 million.

Investment in road repair and maintenance has multiple benefits. Bad roads tend to degradation of vehicles and often lead to accidents. Road accidents in Nepal are a major cause of death. So, well-maintained roads could mean saving lots of lives. On top of that, good and well-maintained roads will drastically make road travel comfortable for people. Smooth roads will also shorten travel time. In a country like Nepal where there is no rail network linking the cities and flying is expensive, road travel becomes the only option for people. But lack of timely maintenance of roads has made travelling a cumbersome affair. The Narayangadh-Mugling stretch is one example in recent times. People still dread to travel along the 36-Kilometre stretch, which is under repair for over the last two years. So, collecting toll tax from all highways would result in better maintenance of roads.

However, some caution is required. In Nepal, money collected under different headings often either remains unspent, or only a few portion of is spent for the targeted work. If the money collected from toll tax can be utilised well to maintain and repair roads, this will increase the safety of passengers. According to Nepal Police data, a total of 2,385 persons were killed in 10,178 roads accidents in 2016-17. Similarly, 12,540 were injured, 4,250 critically, in the fiscal year. Road accident stands as a major killer in Nepal. On an average, 1,800 persons die in road accidents across the country every year. Though not all the deaths can be attributed to bad roads, as human (driver’s) negligence is also to blame in part, good and well-maintained roads can certainly save human lives. Similarly, roads in good condition could save millions of rupees spent on repairing vehicles. Bad roads severely affect the lifespan of vehicles. Vehicles in good condition will also mean less pollution. So, charging vehicles plying on the highways and road sections a certain amount of money for the repair and maintenance of roads is a good move. The only concern is the money collected thus should be spent for the right purpose.

Right move

Mayor of the Jitpur-Simara Sub-Metropolitan City has directed head teachers to improve quality of education in all community schools located inside the sub-metropolis. In a meeting held at Pathalaiya, Bara, Mayor Krishna Poudel told the head teachers of 63 community schools to impart education on par with the private schools. He also told them that his office will conduct a regular inspection of the community schools to ensure that they are providing children with quality education.

This is perhaps the first of such instance that an elected local level official has instructed the head teachers to improve the teaching-learning environment in the schools. It coincides with the recent instruction of the Ministry of Education to all District Education Offices to handover the power they had exercised to municipal authorities. As per the rules, the municipalities can manage the schools, allocate budget to them and even take necessary actions if anything goes wrong in the education sector. The local level can handle education up to Grade XII and even can educate children in their mother tongues. The Ministry’s move is a welcome step. It will help improve quality of education in community schools.