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Road Traffic Accident (RTA) or Massacre?

by Public Health Update

Road Traffic Accident (RTA) or Massacre?

Sanjeev Raj Neupane

I was reading an article during lunch break by one of my friend about “Karnali highway and Prosperity Dreams” I was distracted by news about Road Traffic Accident in the western part of Nepal claiming 13 lives and injuring 10 people. I was haunted by the news for a whole day. At the end of the day, I quickly scanned all the online portals; social media; twitter handle of the National media. For everyone, this was like just one more column in their newspaper or one more feed to update in the twitter handle. I don’t know why but as a public health professional I was haunted by this news and the more frustrating for me was the ease with which all of us (media; health professionals, students, teachers, bankers, businessmen, travelers and you and me) showed indifference to this news. We all reacted as if nothing has happened and this is just a normal thing in Nepal. Have we become so selfish that a dozen of innocent people who die in the middle of the road because of someone else’s mistake makes us no difference? Have we become so busy that we scroll the news of people dying in road traffic accident just like every other news on the newsfeed? Or have we become such a pure development worker who needs another workshop in a good hotel to raise this issue?
I googled to see the casualties related to Road Traffic Accident that happen every year in Nepal. I was surprised to see the figures staggeringly high. A newspaper article “Road accident fatalities continue unabated” mentions that on an average there were 28 road accidents and six people die every day in the Fiscal Year 2016/17. According to the statistics published by Nepal Police, a total of 2,385 persons were killed (weren’t they murdered ?) in 10,178 road accidents in the fiscal year 2016/17 and the death toll are on the increasing trend. The Global Burden of Disease by Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that in 2016 there were 15.9 deaths for every 100,000 population due to Road Injuries in Nepal
The Wikipedia defines “Massacre as a killing, typically of multiple victims, considered morally unacceptable, especially when perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenseless victims”. If we follow the dictionary definition the accident that happened in Western part of Nepal today killing 13 people and injuring many others is not a Road Traffic Accident but a mass massacre. Were there multiple victims ? “Yes”……Was it morally acceptable ? “No. Not at all”. Was it perpetrated by a group of political actors ? “Partially Yes”. [Different transport companies affiliated under different political parties operate in Syndicate which is not yet practically eradicated although the government claims this has been eradicated] and all those dying are the innocent defenseless victims traveling to their destination. So this is no different than a mass massacre but the only difference is that the massacre happens once in ages but the road traffic accident are happening everyday and we don’t care about it. Would we have reacted in the same way if there really had been a real massacre ? Would the newspapers and the online portal would have taken it just like another piece of news if there had been a mass massacre? How vigilant our traffic police and security personnel would have been if there was a real massacre ? How often would the politicians have raised the issue in parliament only if there was a real massacre ? How many protests and demonstrations would have been done by political parties and their affiliations if there had been a real massacre ?  Every massacre don’t happen with bullets; guns; swords, bombs; missiles or other weapons of mass destruction. Currently we are facing mass massacre in the form of Road Traffic Accidents but we don’t care about it. Isn’t this inhuman?

Sanjeev Raj Neupane, Technical Specialist for Global Fund Programs, Save the Children US

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