Area of great concern
Past couple of weeks have once again seen resurgence of horrible road accidents which consumed scores of people in both divisions of the state. As usual, what followed from the government besides the expressions of grief and announcements of exgratia relief for the kin of the dead and injured, were instructions for the hospital authorities to take care of the injured. No government in the past has moved beyond this tokenism and one is not sure if the current dispensation led by the Governor has any roadmap for dealing with the menace of growing road accidents.
This latest bout of road accidents in the state has once again brought back focus on so many loopholes that characterize the traffic management throughout Jammu and Kashmir. Be it faulty road engineering and pathetic condition of roads, or for that matter the reckless and mad driving by people on the wheels, or the lax attitude of corruption-ridden Transport department and Traffic Police -- everything has conspired to make J&K roads into virtual death traps. Indeed if the frequency of traffic accidents, which is shooting up with each passing day much to the shock and awe of the people is any indicator, then it goes without saying that driving or for that matter even walking on the roads and streets here has become a massive security hazard.
If one goes only by the reported cases of road accidents, this new menace is taking a great toll on human lives now than it was ever before. Indeed the government data shows that during past year alone, the number of people who were killed in road accidents was way too higher than those who were lost to different militancy-related incidents or even to the situational disturbances or the “law and order” situations as police calls it.
Some years back stray incidents of road accidents would occur here and there in the state but now it is three to five accidents a day with the number of deaths and the wounded people at times exceeding the number of accidents which have turned the roads here into death traps. There are well over seven hundred thousand vehicles in the state which makes it absolutely high number if other factors are also taken into consideration. The roads which are considered as the backbone for the proliferation of vehicles in any state or country, have become so constricted in the state that pedestrians find it hard to get along a road without fear of being hit by a passing vehicle.
Obviously the government is lagging far behind in laying new roads so that the increasing flow of traffic could be regulated in a smooth manner without the roads getting congested, clogged or jammed for hours together. It is an ill-devised strategy to let the population of vehicles multiply unchecked to match the number of persons in the state in absence of the roads. In the last 20 years, the number of vehicles has increased ten-fold while as the space available in terms or roads has remained more or less static. No wonder chaos and confusion have become the characteristic feature of the roads in the entire state. This has rendered the plying vehicles as devils of death rather than an item to assist human development. Add to add the fact that the roads here are laid and maintained by the illiterate and unskilled labourers hired by the road contractors for the job. If anything the engineers and technicians of the concerned government departments are interested in whenever new roads are laid or old ones repaired, it is their own cut from the sleazy money contractors give them for looking other way and for putting a seal of their approval on overly bad road construction and repair works.
Then there is the problem of reckless driving. Nobody bothers to have any checks in this regard. Even though it is a common knowledge that Sumo cabs and Tipper trucks in particular are the most ruthless and reckless on the roads, but so far nothing has been done to tame their drivers and owners. Save has been case with the passenger vehicles. Then most of the commercial drivers are abysmally lacking in the knowledge of traffic rules which leaves them to use their faulty instincts to negotiate the nasty and abrupt situations, always leading to the death of many people aboard the vehicle or pedestrians. It is time to pay immediate heed to the matter so that frequency of road fatalities is brought down. The Governor must initiate serious measures in this direction.