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Thursday, January 14, 2016

The blank road safety fair in garden

Routine of events in road safely week are part of every year's official ritual. The 27th year of celebration really alarms you to redesign the whole thing.

I wrote in 2012 that The twenty-third year of road safety week was celebrated earlier this month. There were conferences and seminars galore but no concrete plan of action to ensure road safety. The nodal bodies of road transport in the country – the National Highways Authority of India as well as the Ministry of Road transport and Highways conceded that not much had been done to improve road safety and neither had they had any specific targets to achieve. Over 1.3 lakh people die in road accidents in India accounting for 10% of all fatal accidents in the world albeit with only 1% of the world’s vehicles. The statistics is alarming but do not convey the pain of losing a loved one to the families of each of these victims. Just ponder over the huge, meaningless loss of lives because of faulty, ad hoc and short term road safety drives. The UN has identified five pillars for decreasing the fatalities in road accidents – building road safety management capacity, upgrading safety in road infrastructures, enhancement of safety in vehicles, improvement in road user behaviour and emergency services for improving road safety. One of the prime reasons for these tragic accidents, I believe, is the poor road infrastructure. The planning for a new road that is being built is not even geared to take care of the burgeoning traffic today. New Roads and flyovers that have been built in our country are not only an eyesore aesthetically but hardly cater to the present needs. One can only shiver at the mere prospect of driving on these roads in ten years from now. And mind you these are costly and new additions to the road infrastructure. There seems to be no long –term traffic volume calculation when these roads are in their planning stages. Sure a bureaucrat would be able to tell you how the plan has been sanctioned by a host of government departments and technically has all the papers in place. No amount of correct procedures can compensate for forward looking road planning. The so called new roads are so narrow that you are always travelling in serpentine queues. In addition the human factor is equally to blame for the fatalities. Car driving is a stressful activity and due precautions are needed for a safe drive. Each person driving on the road has equal right of way on a public road. People engage in competitive driving, travel at high speeds for the thrill of it, making it dangerous for both themselves as well as those of other drivers and pedestrians. The other human error occurs in the way that driving licenses are issued, some people are therefore not even aware that they are driving badly. The last but not the least reason that make our roads unsafe is the cultural acceptance of aggressive driving or road rage. Anybody avoiding a road rage confrontation is believed to be a coward. Aggression is thereby indirectly sanctioned by society as a means of driving making it impossible for traffic police to monitor such a mentality. our agriculture continues to be monsoon dependent. Each bad monsoon spells disaster for the economy yet we still do not have an effective mechanism to harness monsoon water and conserve it for the rough patch. Even where we have managed to collect this water we have failed to distribute it to our farmers. The other solution that the government had in mind was the ILR (Inter Linking of Rivers), an expensive idea and one that may lead to trouble in neighboring countries like Bangladesh. The remedy is not to have more expensive solutions but to make the existing ones more efficient. The enormous costs incurred in the making of these dams can only be realized when all Indian farmers have equal rights over its waters.

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