Road safety needs attention
On Wednesday eleven people, including four women, died and 29 more were injured when an overcrowded mini-bus plunged into a deep gorge in Poonch district. The bus was on its way to Poonch from Gali Maidan when it met with the accident near Brari Nallah in the border belt of Sawjian. From President of India to Prime Minister and Lt Governor all including the local political parties have expressed shock over the tragic incident. Such kind of reports publish in newspapers almost on daily basis. There is hardly any day when someone doesn’t die or get hurt in some traffic accident. The roads in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal division have become death traps. Every day we talk about deaths and injuries in road accidents and every day we discuss loopholes that characterize the traffic management in 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 and Traffic authorities — everything has conspired to make J&K a terrible place in terms of road accidents. 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 on the roads and streets here has become a massive security hazard.
Road accidents, it goes without saying, are taking a great toll on human lives now than it was ever before. Available data indicates that every year the number of people who were killed in road accidents is way too higher than those who are lost to terrorism related incidents. 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 into virtual death traps. There are about seven hundred thousand vehicles in the state which make it absolutely high number if other factors are also taken into consideration. The roads which are considered 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. Hilly roads are another peril – not only are they in bad shape in terms of engineering, the public vehicles ply on them without any checks, which adds to the dangers.
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 more than ten-fold while as the space available in terms or roads as well as the road conditions have remained more or less static. The reckless driving is the main reason behind such mishaps. Transport authorities are issuing driving licenses, permits and fitness certificates without taking the requisite qualifications into consideration. The indiscriminate issuance of driving licenses to those who do not undergo proper trainings and subsequent tests for securing the licenses as per the rules makes the mess more striking. No attention is paid to the public transport services. Instead it is the greedy and unruly transporters, drivers and conductors who operate the services at their sweet will and choice. So unreasonable and undependable is the entire public transport system here that one wonders if at all anyone can call it a public utility service. It is pity that even the over-loading goes unchecked and unnoticed which also has taken a heavy toll of life in the state.
Like J&K, deaths and injuries in traffic accidents have been showing an upward trend. As many as 1.73 lakh people lost their lives in around 4.22 lakh traffic accidents in the country in 2021 with Uttar Pradesh reporting the highest number of deaths in such mishaps at 24,711 deaths followed by Tamil Nadu which recorded 16,685 deaths. According to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of traffic accidents in the country increased from 3,68,828 in 2020 to 4,22,659 in 2021. A rising trend was seen in the total number of deaths in ‘traffic accidents’ from 2017 to 2019 with a sharp decline in 2020 (probably due to Covid related restrictions), which again increased in 2021 but this number is less than that in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It is a cause of worry and the governments, that be, need to take the issue seriously and try to find out ways and means to minimize such fatalities.