EDITORIAL: Tragic accident

All drivers operating public vehicles or passenger buses must undergo refresher training and psychological counseling every year

Thirty-one people were killed and 16 others were injured, some of them seriously, when a passenger bus (Na 6 Kha 1467) skidded off the Prithvi Highway at Gajuri and plunged into the Trishuli River in the wee hours on Saturday. The ill-fated bus was heading toward Kathmandu from Saptari’s Rajbiraj, initially carrying only 15 passengers from the local bus station. Police said that more than 50 passengers were travelling in the ill-fated bus. All of the passengers were heading toward the capital after celebrating Chhath festival. Police have already identified the bodies of 29 people. Other injured passengers are undergoing medical treatment at local health facilities and the seriously wounded two persons were rushed to the Kathmandu-based Trauma Centre for further treatment. It is learnt that the bus which left Rajbiraj for the capital had broken down and another bus of the same company from Kathmandu was carrying the passengers. The whereabouts of the bus driver, Santosh Chaudhary, is still unknown as the bus had completely submerged into deep water. Police have made necessary arrangement to send the bodies back to Rajbiraj for final rites after completing the legal formalities.

The passengers who survived the tragic accident recalled that the driver was inebriated; the bus was overcrowded; and it was over-speeding and the driver was carelessly driving the vehicle. Immediately after the accident the government formed a three-member investigation team to probe the incident and the Joint Secretary of the Home Ministry Man Bahadur BK-led team has been assigned to come out with the investigation report within a week. The actual cause of the accident would not be ascertained unless the police find the bus driver. The most tragic news is that the eight persons of a family have been killed in the accident, leaving Boriya and Tilathi villages  shell-shocked.

This is not the first time that such a tragic road accident has occurred on the Prithvi and Narayangadh-Mungling Highways which serve as a life line to the Kathmandu Valley with the rest of the country. Traffic police say that more than 2,500 people get killed in road accidents in Nepal every year, the highest in South Asia. Every time the government forms a probe panel it comes out with usual recommendations to improve safety of the highways, role of the traffic police, passengers and mostly makes the driver responsible for  fatal accidents. All stakeholders are equally responsible for making journeying by road safe and comfortable. The highways should be of a minimum standard. The most important aspect of making journeying by road safe is to make the bus driver more accountable and responsible as the lives of passengers are in his hand. All drivers operating public vehicles or passenger buses must undergo refresher training and psychological counseling every year. Once the drivers operating long-haul public vehicles are given training and counseling about road safety from experts such fatal road accidents can be minimized.. Such training can be imparted to the drivers in coordination with the traffic police, experts on road safety, drivers and the bus owners.

Private pharmacies

The Ministry of Health has been issued directives from the government to not to remove privately owned pharmacies from their premises. The state-owned hospitals are supposed to have pharmacies of their own where some medicines are provided free of cost. The private pharmacies tend to charge more for the medicines than those owned by the government pharmacies which most impoverished patients are unable to afford. There should be pharmacies run by Sajha Health Services in all government hospitals selling medicines at a reasonable price.

However, these mostly do not have adequate stock of the medicines as a result of which patients are compelled to buy the medicines from private pharmacies charging more. The government should see to it that there are enough stocks of medicines in its hospitals’ pharmacies. However, this is not the case. The private pharmacies are earning a lot and it is said that they pay extra to run their businesses in the premises of government hospitals.  The government should see to it that all the state-owned hospitals have essential medicines so that the patients need not go to private pharmacies to procure medicines particularly those medicines considered essential.