The Supreme Court of India on April 22 last year set up a three-member panel to monitor implementation of road safety measures, including emergency medical help to accident victims. The court urged the government to ensure better medical facilities on an experimental basis on highways and roads under state governments. The apex court also sought a report from respective ministers in the states within three months. They were directed to mention implementation of all laws pertaining to licensing, certification of fitness of vehicles, passenger/weight carrying capacity, use of road safety devices, adherence to road norms and deployment of adequate manpower for enforcement of existing provisions of law.
The official data paints a grim picture of the situation in India. 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 are killed in road traffic accidents every year. The apex court’s announcement is particularly significant in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, where accidents have become common. The Kashmir Valley, in particular, is facing a rising graph of road accidents. Some quarters even see the growing incidence of traffic mishaps as a mark of normalcy; the state government sometimes wickedly boasts that the deaths in traffic accidents have overtaken killings in the ongoing conflict.
Considering the official figures for the past four years, the accidents have taken a heavy toll on human lives. During the past three years nearly 5,000 persons have been killed and 30,000 injured in about 20,000 road accidents in the state. This reveals a very grim situation prevailing on 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 roads have not expanded commensurately in length and width. The problem is also that traffic in the state has become messy and the Traffic Department has not gone for measures to regulate it effectively. The state has also failed to provide the required roads. Inadequate infrastructure is another problem hampering the smooth flow of traffic. Now in the backdrop of the apex court’s order, the government needs to work to bring some order back to our roads.