JAMMU: It can’t be just politics when Prime Minister of India shows concern over road mishaps in any State. Narendra Modi has expressed grief over death of 24 passengers, who fell victim to callousness of road managers and greedy operators. The fate of an overcrowded passenger vehicle could not be other than what happened when Udhampur bound Latti bus skidded off the road and rolled down into the gorge in Maroti belt in the district. This is one more addition in the gruesome list of mishaps on killer roads of Jammu and Kashmir. Road accidents have emerged as a big challenge to the State which is reeling under terrorism. The deaths are more on roads than due to militant violence. But the successive governments have not learnt any lesson. There has never been any effort to put a halt on accidents, which are mostly caused due to human error than mechanical failure. It is in this context that Governor N N Vohra feels constrained to say, “Despite the recurrence of fatal road accidents, definitive remedial steps are still to be initiated”. He had, in fact, made an unsuccessful attempt years ago by roping in all concerned in Raj Bhawan to discuss the remedial measures, as a consequence of which it was agreed to apply Information Technology for preparing a Comprehensive Accident Data Base Management and Analysis system to ascertain causes of road accidents and to devise effective approaches to eliminating these. It was also agreed to undertake regular Road Safety Audits and addressing all the contributing factors for fatal road accidents; upgrading roads, erecting protection barriers, creating adequate wayside facilities for the drivers and traveling public; developing emergency medical services and deployment of ambulances to attend to the emergencies arising out of road accidents. The Governor had focused on this crucial subject again during the gubernatorial rule early this year, which too bore no concrete results. Today, he is admitting that ‘no action had so far been taken to implement them’.
If road discipline cannot be maintained in Jammu and Kashmir despite personal indulgence of the Constitutional Head of the State, what can be expected of the political dispensations, each decision of which involves petty politics? Traffic management has been biggest failure of administrative inertia in the State. Unfortunately, those at the helm, who needed to assert their authority, follow the set rule of issuing Xerox copies of the statements, ‘expressing shock and grief whenever accidents take place- conveying condolences to the bereaved families, wishing speedy recovery to the injured and directing the authorities to ensure their specialised treatment and organising relief measures’. How funny? They always want to convey to the people that if they won’t issue such directions there will be nobody to organise evacuation or give treatment to the injured?
The criminal negligence on the part of administrators has been a major cause of people losing their lives in road accidents.
Long back, the passenger buses plying across Jammu and Kashmir used to have captivating, interesting and educative slogans and couplets inscribed just above the window panes, the contents of which generally reflected taste of the driver concerned. Some couplets used to be highly emotive, many romantic but within the framework of decency and a very few spiritually inspired. But one such slogan-Sawari Apne Samaan Ki Khud Zimewaar Hai– used to be common in every vehicle, the loose translation of which is-passenger is himself or herself responsible for his or her luggage. Now it is not the luggage but life of a passenger which remains at peril because of madness on roads.
The shock messages too remain ‘good fortune’ of those who die in bulk; otherwise those dying in ones or twos remain unsung. One wonders whether anybody in the concerned department is maintaining the ‘day book’ of those falling prey to negligent driving, or getting crushed under tippers or mini buses. And also, is there anyone at the top who feels pain and tries to fix the responsibility. It is not only the erring road users who create havoc, road managers are equally responsible. If there would have been an effective mechanism, heads would have since rolled for allowing overloaded passenger vehicles cross Nakas and meet accidents. There is no denying fact that many of the accidents keep occurring due to over-loading and over speeding. Each passing day headlines scream about people getting killed but never ever do words come about action taken against the offenders. Jammu city is perhaps the most vulnerable part of the country where anything can happen on roads any point of time because of nexus between a particular segment of operators and traffic managers.
Jammu and Kashmir is a state essentially dependent on road transport due to lack of railways. Therefore, the dependence of growing population is more on public transport and the unwritten message they all convey remains the same-passenger is himself or herself responsible for his or her safety. This is the area which calls for a serious discourse, lest people will keep dying on roads.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper