The passengers too have a role in seeing that their safety is not compromised when travelling on a bus

The frequency with which accidents take place in Nepal, especially on mountain roads, makes one wary of travelling on them. More than 50 people have died in road accidents in mid- and far west Nepal in the last two months, with at least 32 losing their lives in the Mugu bus accident alone on October 12 and another 12 in Salyan in November. And on Sunday night, six people who were part of a marriage procession died when their jeep plunged 700 feet from the road in Baitadi. Road accidents happen everywhere, but the death toll in poor countries like ours is many times more than in the developed world. According to government statistics, on an average, at least 2,500 people are killed in road accidents in Nepal every year while many that number are injured, some of them ending up in permanent disability. One cannot always fault Nepal's to pography for the large number of highway accidents. China or regions in India bordering Nepal have similar terrain, but we don't hear of such high number of accidents and deaths as in Nepal.

The high number of accidents is a recurring phenomenon in Nepal year after year. Last fiscal year, Nepal reported 20,640 accidents, in which 2,500 people died. The previous year, 15,559 accidents were reported, in which 2,241 people died and 4,615 people were injured. Road accidents are on the rise even though road density in Nepal is considered to be the lowest among South Asian countries. Of Nepal's 12,493 km of roads, only about half is blacked topped. This begs the question, what is being done to curb the growing number of road accidents? Are the authorities simply indifferent to what is happening or they don't have a clue what to do? For a country without any railway lines, roads are the only means of travel for its people as air travel is expensive. Thus, making the roads safer would go a long way in reducing the number of accidents and the death toll. According to a World Bank report, Nepal would need to invest an extra US$879 million in road safety measures over the next decade to halve the existing road fatalities. A big sum of money, but one well worth the investment, given that accidents not only directly impact the concerned family members, but also the country's economy when people are permanently disabled. Bad roads apart, mechanical failure and reckless driving are often blamed for accidents on Nepal's highways. Will a driver who has passed the driving test under controlled conditions be able to confidently handle a vehicle with passengers on a narrow mountain road? Thus, it would be wise for the authorities to give permission to drive a vehicle on a mountain road only after a driver has had enough experience driving in the plains for at least 10 years. A driving license should not be treated as a citizenship certificate - only the most deserving ones with enough experience should be permitted to handle a public vehicle. We've been quick to put blame on the traffic police, the authorities and the driver every time there is a serious road accident. The passengers too have a role in seeing that their safety is not compromised when travelling on a bus. Should the driver overspeed or show negligence, it is the duty of the passengers to remind him.

VAW and COVID-19

Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread and can be found in households, families and workplaces.

There is awareness that this is taking place, but Violence against Women (VAW) continues to take place with little signs of abating. One of the most striking impacts of COVID-19 has been the increased number of VAW cases in Nepal, according to a recent report prepared by the UNFPA. The UN body has also termed the crisis as a 'shadow pandemic'.

Now, it is acknowledged that this is so because the VAW laws have proved to be ineffective. Various programmes and policies are being implemented, but due to lack of coordination amongst the stakeholders they have been in effective. Time and again, the government and concerned bodies say that they would be enforcing the laws to end VAW, but it has not happened.

Now that the government has brought out various control mechanisms to do away with such violence, it is hoped that they will be studied and applied. There is urgency to execute the Act relating to domestic violence and its regulations. Many such cases go unreported. The victims concerned must come out in the open so that the perpetrators of VAW cannot escape punishment dictated by the law.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 24, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.