Media reports quoting government officials including the police said that over 2.2 million people went out of the Kathmandu Valley for the festival of Dashain. No wonder since Dashain is not merely a religious event but a great and, in many ways, an unique occasion when families separated for one reason or the other reunite and make merry and share their joy and sufferings. If as many as 2.2 million people go out of Kathmandu to visit their ancestral homes or their parents or other members of the family, it is worth guessing how many more would be coming in from different parts of the world through different routes.
But even as a couple of million people made a bee-line out of the Kathmandu Valley, the roads and streets in the different localities of the city were masses of humanity with hardly any space to walk properly without pushing and jostling other persons. Clearly the Kathmandu Valley has been filled to the brim. And thanks to the lack of security and lack of job opportunity elsewhere in the country, people continue to pour into the Kathmandu Valley. Nor can any one stop this from happening. For in a democracy, the citizen has every right to choose his place of residence anywhere in the country.
The gist of this argument is that once upon a time, the food grains production of the Valley was enough to feed its people. The Valley population then was much less than a million. But now everything has to be imported from outside, mostly from outside the country. This being so and the Kathmandu city itself being over-populated, the need to ensure that we produce enough to feed our own people could not have been felt more than in the present context when even blockade has shown just how vulnerable we are to the whims of the powers that surround us. The need to push for greater utilization of the land for agriculture cannot be overstressed for we can survive without petrol diesel or gas but cannot without food and water. It is everybody’s business to know all this and we all do, but then everybody’s business is nobody’s business.
The city streets, roads, lanes and by-lanes were filled with people in a hurry prior to, during and after the Dashain festival. It was difficult to even walk and yet there were cars and motorcycles being driven in such crowded areas as if the drivers (and the authorities who should be controlling the traffic) did not care for the people. There are places in cities and towns in the western countries where all forms of motorized traffic are banned and these rules are strictly enforced. Those violating the rules are made to pay heavy fines. But in our own capital, traffic rules are often made a mockery. For instance, the road from Sundhara-Dharahara to Khichapokhari - a small stretch extending for 150 to 200 metres – was open to a one-way traffic. But this was made a mockery soon after the take-over of the reins of power by the Nepali Congress, Maoist, UML combination in 2006. Then it was a “transitional” phase and the people, needless to say, take the advantage and they did it by putting the “one way” system to rest. The streets around Khichapokhari, Pako, Dharampath were restricted for parking but look at the state of these streets now. There were dividers in New Road but they were taken away to make way for VVIP movement of the former President Ram Baran Yadhav. The dividers were never put back again with the result that there have been uncontrolled crossing of the street by the pedestrians and U-turns and right turns by drivers, resulting in chaotic traffic situation in the country’s busiest street. Obviously everybody, including those who violate the rules, know this but since everybody’s business is nobody’s business, nobody complains to the authorities as no one wants to be dragged into legal complications.
But the fact is that because no one complains does not mean that everything is alright. The chaotic traffic situation that prevails in most parts of the country is a challenge to the traffic authorities but a challenge that must be accepted if the people’s life is to become a little more orderly. It is difficult to understand how anyone can lead a healthy life when there are such chaotic conditions all around.
The traffic situation is specially bad with accidents occurring so often and yet people with motorbikes and motor cars roaming about uselessly without talking recourse to mass transport which would substantially reduce road accidents and make the pedestrians less prone to being run over by motor bikes, cars and buses. With the local authorities turning playgrounds into dumping yards and bus parks, there is today much greater risks of young people playing in the streets (where else can they play?) being run over by speeding bikes and cars than ever before. It is, of course, everyone’s concern to help reduce road accidents and traffic violations, but since it concerns everybody, nobody takes the initiative.