Sep 24. 2011 – Today we went by buses to the western outskirts of Kathmandu on Nepal’s only east-west road. Further from where we stopped is the road south into India. It’s very busy because so much of Nepalis’ basic necessities come from India, rice, salt, oil and so on. The crazy traffic prompted G to tell me about the system for road accidents.
Truck drivers all contribute to a fund that pays out if they have an accident. We’d call that insurance. Sounds normal so far. But back when the Rana family operated the country as a tax farm (prior to 1951) and they were the only ones who could have trucks, they established that the penalty for killing someone on the road is just a fine. That law remains in effect. If you run over someone you pay a fine and that’s the end of the problem.
What this means is if a truck driver injures someone, the insurance fund may have to pay out large medical fees and compensation for the rest of the victim’s life whereas if the victim is killed there is only the fine to pay. Consequently, if a driver hits and only injures someone they will normally go on to run over and kill them.
An American guy at the next restaurant table yesterday who has spent several months a year here for 17 years was chatting with three others and expressing surprise that an accident the previous day had resulted in the death of a man who was one of a large crowd of pedestrians. How come nobody else was injured but this one guy was squashed? Now we know. This also explains why road accidents often result in locals blocking the road for a day or so. They know there was not just an accident but also a mortal crime.