Policy in place, funds in kitty, accidents plenty – yet govt least serious about road safety

Policy in place, funds in kitty, accidents plenty – yet govt least serious about road safety

SRINAGAR: It remains to be seen if anyone will be held accountable for the deaths of 35 people, who lost their lives for no fault of theirs in a terrible road accident while travelling to Kishtwar. Certainly the traffic police are culpable, for criminal negligence, as they allowed an overcrowded bus to ply on a narrow mountainous road, but so is the government, which has been sitting idle – on funds for road safety, on its own traffic policy, on recommendations of a legislative panel, and on Supreme Court directions.
According to former legislator MY Targami, who headed a legislative panel for drafting recommendations on road safety, all roads on the Kishtwar-Doda-Ramban stretch are narrow and have not been upgraded for a long time. He said the legislative panel’s report had asked the government to broaden the roads, but it wasn’t done.
“We prepared a similar report during Omar Abdullah sahab’s government, and tabled it in the assembly. This report was done after a major accident had occurred in Kishtwar. We were never given an action taken report, which the government is supposed to provide within a week. This shows their seriousness,” Targami told Kashmir Reader.
In his report, Targami said, he had suggested that the operations of J&K State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses be increased, because they had been found to have met with lesser accidents than private buses. This, too, fell on deaf ears, Tarigami said.
“SRTC drivers are more responsible than those of private buses. It was on this basis that the government was supposed to reduce the number of private buses,” Tarigami added.
The suggestion to increase operations of SRTC buses was incorporated in the state’s traffic policy, which was approved by then Governor NN Vohra. The policy laid down a list of do’s and don’ts for safe driving. These included installing of road signs and delineators for driving directions, neither of which have been put in place where they are required.
The objective of the traffic policy and the legislative panel’s report was to reduce accidents, but they continue unabated. As per preliminary data for this year, more than 400 persons lost their lives in road accidents, a figure similar to the average last year when almost 950 persons died.
Last year, for the first time, the state government released Rs 8 crore under the Road Safety Fund. The money was released on directions of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety, which had called for establishment of a non-lapsable Road Safety Fund in all states. The money, as per the government, was supposed to be used for establishment of a traffic and design wing in the Transport Commissioner’s office at Srinagar and at Jammu, for effective planning of traffic management in Kashmir and Jammu regions.
The fund was to be used for mobile checking of pollution standards of vehicles, for creating awareness regarding traffic rules, for enforcing traffic discipline and checking violations, for accessories and equipment which would be part of the traffic police’s vehicle, including a roof light bar with a siren, cordless mike, speed laser gun, and breath alcohol analyser.
Though the road safety fund is non-lapsable, it has so far not proved to be of any help in preventing road accidents.