Traffic deaths rise as police join poll duty13 people died in a week, double the normal tally, in road accidents in Kathmandu Valley.
On Sunday morning a motorbike hit a pedestrian at Thapathali. The man, Rambabu Kushwaha, 44, was rushed to the National Trauma Center, where he died of injuries.
The motorcyclist, Bigyan Kandel, 30, was also injured and he is undergoing treatment at the Tripureshwar-based Blue Cross Hospital, according to police.
Just two days ago, on November 10, a couple died on the spot after a speeding truck hit their scooter at Basundhara chowk. The deceased were identified as Balbadhur Ranamagar, 47, and his wife Kalpana Ranamagar, 47.
Traffic police say speeding was the cause of both the accidents.
With the election day approaching, many people have left the Capital for their home districts to cast their ballots, resulting in a decreased road traffic in the Valley. At the same time, a large number of traffic police personnel have been deployed outside the Valley to provide security during the elections. But road accidents and deaths have gone up in the Capital.
In the past one week—from November 6 to November 12—a total of 13 people died in Kathmandu Valley alone, the Valley Traffic Police Office data show. The number is double compared to normal times. The office, however, does not have a record of the exact number of road accidents and hit-and-run cases, which are common in the Valley.
“We admit that the number of accidents have gone up because riders and drivers are overspeeding. When people don’t see traffic police around, they tend to violate traffic rules,” said Senior Superintendent Ranendra Prasad Bhatta, who is also spokesperson at the office.
He said of the total 1,600 traffic police personnel serving in the Valley, 1,300 left the Valley last week to various districts to provide security in elections. According to Home Ministry’s data, around 300,000 security personnel have been deployed for the federal and provincial elections scheduled for November 20.
“As election security is a national concern, we have sent a large number of traffic police personnel from the Valley on election duty,” said Bhatta.
“But the problem with the public is that they only follow traffic rules when they see traffic police on the road. This should change; people should behave responsibly,” he added.
According to traffic police data of the previous fiscal year, the Kathmandu Valley saw a total of 191 deaths in 10,733 road-related accidents. Meanwhile, in the fiscal year before that, 166 fatalities were reported in 9,545 road accidents.
With its workforce drastically reduced, the traffic police office has suspended the one-hour classes for traffic rule violators until November 20 in the Valley.
But members of the public and traffic engineers have criticised the deployment of traffic police in the elections. Social media users claimed that traffic police are ignoring public complaints of traffic rule violations citing the elections.
“At Maharajgunj yesterday, a motorcycle hit my sister on a scooter and fled the scene. Her surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. When I approached the police office at Koteshwar to file a hit-and-run complaint, they [did not receive my complaint and] said they cannot do anything before the elections and told me to come after the elections,” tweeted Shiksha Risal.
Social media users and roading experts criticised the traffic police for refusing to register complaints, calling it insensitive.
“The deployment of traffic police for election security is wrong because people are dying here,” said Ashish Gajurel, a transport and traffic engineer.
“The authorities should take responsibility for the deaths.”
He further said the authorities should at least have fixed the traffic lights when they knew the traffic police would be sent on election duty. “But our traffic management is manual, so the roads become dangerous in the absence of traffic personnel,” added Gajurel.