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Who really owns the roads in Nepal?

Arun Budhathoki Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 3914 reads

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Roads play a significant role in the life of human beings—they have evolved along with the evolution of humans; rise and fall of civilizations. roads connect places, trades happen, and people travel. In the modern context, although, roads have become a puzzling metaphor: especially if you are living in South Asia. roads here are of bizarre nature.


Nepal has puzzling roads—I don’t mean highways—but roads in the cities. I have traveled in hundreds of roads here and there, and with my puzzled observation, I am still not clear as who owns the roads in Nepal. I have few observations as who owns it.


Firstly, the high officials of Nepal own the roads. You know the VIPs kind: the prime minister, president, deputy prime ministers, ministers, leaders, security officials, ambassadors, and perhaps the list goes on. Yes, my dear fellow citizens, the roads we tread on, these are the people who own it. Did you forget these people are the same whom we appointed? But did we appoint them to get on the roads with their red sirens revolving and telling us to clear the roads and even waste time on letting them reach their destination? So, our destination doesn’t matter? So, our time doesn’t matter? We can wait and let them travel smoothly while we suffer. With the first revelation, comes the second.


Secondly, the roads are owned by protestors and black marketers. If we turn the pages of Nepal’s history, we can clearly see that the unification of Nepal to the various movements have been done on road too, if not entirely. The revolutionaries and Nepal Bandh protestors can proudly claim that they are the ones who own the roads. These days, however, black marketers have outsmarted them and now are the newly crowned heavyweight champions. Yet again, we the common people, do not own the roads. I wonder if there’s the third revelation at all.


Thirdly, the roads are owned by festivals and marriage ceremonies. Are you thinking to get married or celebrate your festival? Hit the road, please, because most show-offs in Nepal have been doing that. I just don’t get what the psyche of people is: you celebrate; I am simply trying to reach somewhere, so why waste my time by halting the traffic? But we don’t care. After all, we might do the same thing one day. Who knows? So, the common people, do we not own the roads?


Fourthly, the roads are not owned by common people and non-violent, non-political protestors. It is not owned by women and girls. It is not owned by LGBTIs, minorities, writers, musicians, poets, businessmen, farmers, drivers, and people who are thinking to survive for the day. It is not owned by the powerless but by the powerful. That’s the sorry state in Nepal at present. But fairly speaking, who spends the most time on roads? It is the people in the fourth category, not others who wield false powers. So can’t we get back our roads?


Yes, we can get back our roads, the common people. And for that, the government should ban VIPs vehicle escorts and the President and PM of Nepal should stop having arrogant bodyguards in their vehicles who put out their hands and do a sweeping gesture as if the common people on the roads are like trash. Such behavior, my lords of Nepal, is not acceptable. This behavior has to change. If you go to most developed countries, the high officials do not disrupt traffic and people’s time by getting escorted with a red revolving light. That is specifically and legally given to Emergency Services like Ambulance and Firefighters. But wait I forgot we live in a country where we give damn to ambulances (sometimes burn it unapologetically) and I have no idea where firefighters exist in Kathmandu. Some places, and defunct.


Therefore, the Nepal government must pass laws that make these activities illegal: VIPs escorting, bandh activities, marriage troupe, and festival galas. Instead, the government should allow peaceful and non-violent protests that don't involve halting the traffic. The traffic police should push the government to enact these laws and maybe others will lobby too. But will these three stooges let their privileges go? Maybe they should practice the song Let It Go, hoping conscience will arise in them. If not, the people in the fourth category—us—will always be sidelined and forced to suffer, while witnessing the ownership of the roads by the conceited, shameless people of Nepal.


The digression of who owns the roads must begin and it should start from the discourse of enacting appropriate traffic and civic laws or else we can only hope that people’s behavior will change—which, so far seems a far cry.           


Arun Budhathoki is a Senior Correspondent with Anna Note. He tweets at @arunbudhathoki.

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