What all this points to is the amount of precautionary measures airlines must take to provide a safe journey to their passengers
The country is grieved by the death of Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari and six other people on Wednesday in a chopper crash that experts say could have been averted. The minister with his team had flown to the hilly district of Tehrathum in east Nepal to study the feasibility of an airport at Chuhandanda. After spending some hours there, they had flown to nearby Taplejung district to offer prayers at the Pathibhara Temple. It was while taking off from there at 1:30 pm that the helicopter belonging to Air Dynasty had slammed into Tarebhir, killing all of them. Although the authorities have said detailed investigation into the crash would be carried out soon, it is not difficult to make certain assumptions about the fatal accident. Wednesday was definitely not a day to fly. The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology had forecast a week before that the weather would start deteriorating from Wednesday. True to the prognosis, Nepal saw heavy rain and snow in the hills and mountains of Nepal that day. There had been rain and light snow at Pathibhara, still the helicopter carrying the minister had insisted on landing there. Before take-off also, the pilot had informed the nearby traffic control about the bad weather. Later in the day, the rain and snow made it extremely difficult to retrieve the charred remains of the victims from the crash site and ferrying them to Kathmandu.
The crash is tragic in more ways than one. Minister Adhikari was a promising leader, on whom the young generation pinned great hope. During his one-year stint as the tourism minister, he had shown great activeness in expediting the construction of the Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa, upgrading the Tribhuvan International Airport and promoting new tourism destinations. A versatile personality with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm, he was also monitoring and inspecting the Melamchi Drinking Water Project and the corridors linking the north and south as well as the Nijgadh International Airport and Pokhara Regional Airport as chairman of the parliamentary Development Committee during the second Constituent Assembly. Another casualty of the crash was Ang Tshering Sherpa, a prominent tourism entrepreneur who had built a business empire spanning airlines, resorts and trekking business. Five others who perished in the accident were also contributing to the country’s well-being in their own ways.
This is not the first time a chopper crash has involved so many high-profile people. In 2006, a bigger crash in Ghunsa, also in Taplejung, took the lives of 24 conservationists from both Nepal and abroad. The crash had taken place in east Nepal, also in bad weather, during the return journey to Kathmandu after a conservation meeting. Nepal has lost dozens of aircraft in fatal accidents, most of which have taken place in foul weather. What all this points to is the amount of precautionary measures airlines must take to provide a safe journey to their passengers. Nepal’s difficult terrain makes it all the more necessary to formulate stringent regulations regarding air safety. Given that the chopper was carrying the tourism minister, the owner of Air Dynasty and two officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the crash should have been a remote possibility.
Resolve the crisis
Thousands of patients have been deprived of medical services, except emergency care, due to the strike called by the government doctors across the country. The government doctors have been in agitation for the last two months demanding appointment by the federal government and amendment to the Civil Servant Adjustment Bill. OPD services in the government hospitals have been severely affected.
The patients from outside the Kathmandu Valley, who have appointments with specialist doctors in the capital-based hospitals, are the hardest hit as a result of the strike. The problem arose after most of the doctors were transferred to the hospitals to be managed either by the provincial governments or by the local levels. A select number of hospitals are managed by the central government while the rest are managed by the provincial and local governments. This problem must be sorted out quickly. If they continue with the strike, the already problematic health sector will get further complicated. The genuine demands of the doctors must be addressed. At the same time, the doctors should also be prepared to work under the sub-national governments.
A version of this article appears in print on March 01, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.