Unsafe Roads

THE frequent road mishaps are taking a heavy toll of life in Valley. Just yesterday, eleven people were killed when a passenger Tata Sumo vehicle that was travelling from Kupwara to LOC town Karnah met with an accident near high altitude Sadhna top. Two days ago, one person died while as eight others were injured in different road accidents across the valley.  On July 18, three persons including a minor died while twenty persons were injured in different mishaps.  These are a few of the hundreds of accident results thrown up by the Google search of the road accidents in Kashmir.  The cumulative figures are even more shocking.  

According to an estimate by National Crime Branch Bureau, in 2014 alone, the accidents claimed the lives of 977 persons and injured 8,000 in around 5778 mishaps.  Of them, at least 493 became victims of the speeding and reckless driving.  The 56 per cent of the road accidents took place between 9 am and 6 pm during the peak hour traffic.  In 2013, fatalities were even higher. Around 990 persons were killed and 8681 persons were hurt in 6455 accidents. The road crashes, therefore, have been a bigger killer in the state than even the militancy, a reality affirmed  by no less than the forrmer J&K Director General of Police Ashok Prasad in a speech last year. This reveals a very grim situation prevailing in the state which deserves immediate attention. 

True, J&K has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the volume of traffic in recent years.  In comparison, the roads have not expanded commensurately in length and width. The traffic in the state has also become messier.  Part due to incompetence of the traffic personnel and part due to a severe shortage of staff, the Traffic Department  has found the problem difficult to handle. Pathetically inadequate infrastructure is the other problem which is hampering the smooth flow of traffic: there is a yawning gap between the growing volume of the traffic and the required road length. And this gap looks impossible to bridge anytime soon. But considering the gravity of the problem, Government will need to act in right earnest. Traffic department needs to work on many fronts to bring some order back to our streets. 

To start with, we need to promote a culture of road discipline in the state. In the prevailing situation, every motorist is a law unto himself. We need a far-going change in how we administer the traffic. And this will not happen unless the Traffic department is adequately staffed and the violators of the traffic rules are held to account. The central government is also planning to bring a new legislation ‘Road Transport and Safety Bill whereby cashless treatment will be extended to accident victims regardless of the fact whether they can afford it or not.  To start with the facility will be offered along the Golden Quadrilateral and North-South and East-West corridors.  However, there is an urgent for the facility to be extended to entire India, including Jammu and Kashmir, along with the adequately staffed and equipped healthcare infrastructure.

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