None for the road | World | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
  • A bird, not a bomber
    July 6, 2013
    During the Lebanon war of 1982, an Israeli pilot refused to bomb a building when he suspected - correctly - that it was a school.
  • The Egypt effect
    July 6, 2013
    From Benghazi to Abu Dhabi, Islamists are drawing lessons from Morsi's ouster.
  • Gun to the head
    June 29, 2013
    For Pakistan, it's time to harp on 'the Kashmir issue' again, this time with clear linkages to the mess in Afghanistan.
More in this Section
Profiles
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy
drunken driving

None for the road

|


PEG UP: The rule has led to accidents dropping sharply in Kathmandu

Little did Keshav Bhattarai realise that two glasses of beer during an office lunch break would get him into trouble. Bhattarai, 31, a finance professional, left office at 7 pm, and was stopped by Kathmandu's traffic police. They got him to blow into a breathalyser;alcohol was detected and his driver's licence was confiscated.

The Nepal government recently decided to stringently enforce a zero tolerance law for drunken driving. It has set a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0 per cent, while permissible levels in other countries and cities range from 0. 02 to 0. 08 per cent.
There is hectic activity in the traffic department after sunset now, with cops manning checkposts on every major road in Kathmandu armed with breathalysers. If caught, the 'drunk' driver's licence is impounded. To collect it, the driver has to report to the traffic office early the next morning, pay a fine of Rs 1, 000 and attend a onehour lecture on the downsides of drunken driving.

According to police statistics, 29, 007 people have been booked so far from December 3, 2011, when the enforcement began. The department has earned a revenue of over Rs 2 crore in Nepalese currency (approximately Rs 1. 5 crore in Indian money).

Many complain that this law is particularly odd in country like Nepal, where alcohol rules are otherwise rather flexible. For instance, almost all eateries and departmental stores serve or sell alcohol because unlike in say, India, one does not need to obtain a liquor licence through a rigorous process of allotment.

Apart from causing rifts between couples - over who would compromise on the drinking to be able to drive back after evenings out - the strict enforcement of this law has also led to huge losses for the hospitality industry and the thriving pub business in Kathmandu. Taxis, however, have seen a jump in their earnings, particularly at night.

This law also has cultural and social implications. For various ethnic groups in Nepal it is often customary to imbibe alcohol on several occasions and in many ceremonies. For a country currently roiled by spats about ethnic and identity assertion, this rule further fuels resentment.

"I am a Newar, my ethnicity demands that I drink. And just because I drink a peg or two does not mean my right to drive can be snatched away, " says 30-year old Pranab Man Singh. In fact, the Newari signature drink is a rice-gin concoction known as raksi, or aiyla, which has more than 50% alcohol. Home-brewed alcohol is also given as a gift among Newaris.

But authorities claim accident rates have dropped drastically since the rule was enforced. "The rising number of accidents related to drunken driving compelled us to enforce this law strictly. I agree it is a bit impractical but it was the most appropriate measure. And the results (lower rates of road accident) prove we are justified, " says Ganesh Rai, chief of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, who initiated this drive.

Accidents have nearly halved from July-August last year (614 in that month) to April-May this year (333). Rai also says the most important intervention has been the mandatory 'lecture' one must attend in order to get the licence back. "The class has been the greatest deterrent. For those who own cars and drive, paying Rs 1, 000 as fine is not a big deal. But they are so reluctant to attend an early morning lecture on this topic that it deters them from drinking and driving, " Rai adds.

The 'class', meanwhile, is an experience in itself. A crowd of people jostle to find space in a small room. There is a lone girl, whispering to a male friend sitting next to her. Both are in school uniform. A policeman calls for silence, and introduces himself as a sub-inspector. He shows slides on the various traffic rules violations in the city. A senior inspector then takes over, explains the adverse impact of driving on alcohol, and urges offenders not to repeat their mistake. The offenders then take their licences and troop out, chastised, but with many still clearly still sullen at what they deem to be a draconian measure.

Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik | MensXP.com

Networking

itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Hotklix
Services
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service