In a major announcement, the Supreme Court of India on April 22 set up a three-member panel to monitor implementation of road safety measures, including emergency medical help to accident victims. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam asked the government to make available better medical facilities on an experimental basis on national highways and roads under state governments. The apex court directed all state governments and various federal ministries involved in various road safety issues to submit their first report to the committee in three months indicating the state of implementation of all laws pertaining to licensing, certification of fitness of vehicles, passenger/weight carrying capacity, use of road safety devices, adherence to road user norms and deployment of adequate manpower for enforcement of existing provisions of law.
According to official data, one serious road accident occurs every minute in India, one person dies in a road traffic accident every four minutes, and over 1.30 lakh people die in road traffic accidents every year in India. The apex court’s announcement is particularly significant in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, where road accidents, a rarity some three decades ago, seem to be the order of the day. Not a day passes when newspapers do not report deaths caused by road mishaps. The Kashmir Valley, in particular, is facing a rising graph of road accidents. But this is something that has been commanding least attention of the authorities. And ironically, the accident-related figures are issued by the police in the evening much like the situation reports about the militancy-related incidents a few years before. Some quarters even see the growing incidence of the traffic mishaps as a marker of normalcy: the government itself sometimes boasts about the fact of the deaths in traffic accidents overtaking the killings in the ongoing conflict in the state.
Considering the official figures for the past four years, the accidents have taken a heavy toll in human lives. Nearly 5,000 persons have been killed and 30,000 injured in about 20,000 road accidents in the state in the last three years. This reveals a very grim situation prevailing on the roads in the state. No one can deny that the state has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the volume of traffic in recent years while the roads have not expanded commensurately in length and width. The problem is also that the traffic in the state has become messy and the Traffic Department as a result of the severe shortage of staff finds it difficult to handle it.
Pathetically inadequate infrastructure is the other problem which is hampering the smooth flow of traffic in the state. Now in the backdrop of the apex court’s order, the government needs to work to bring some order back to our streets.