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 The roads are regarded as the ‘Lifeline of a country’ India has one of the largest and densest road networks in the world. But a newspaper recently published an alarming report stating that ‘according to 2015 data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 400 people die daily in road mishaps, ten times the entire global toll of the number killed by terrorism.[1] Personal injuries sustained across Indian roads occur too frequently. The number of fatal road accidents in India is 1.8 lakhs every year and increasing. Further, 350 people die and 7000 people are injured everyday due to road accidents. That translates to 1,27,750 and 25,55,000 each year respectively. The ratio of injured to killed is reported to be 1: 20. The most disillusioning part is that more than half of these fatalities are of people between the ages of 15 and 44 years, making them ‘the family bread winners’.[2]

There are many reasons cited by experts for the occurrence of accidents. According to Vikram Patel “if there is one place where our country is in the throes of anarchy, defined by a total disregard for the law coupled with the utter capitulation of the law enforcement agencies, it is on our roads.”[3] ‘License holder’ truck drivers and the tempo drivers it seems stay exempted from following the traffic rules. They stop, turn and park anywhere on their discretion, with no policemen present to check their moves. Also two wheeler riders too seem to share the same privilege, in their case, the reason may be found in the absence of proper training schools as in the case for four wheeler drivers. Though most four wheel driver do not fair better despite the ‘training’ imparted to them.

Most people in India seem to have learnt the ‘skill of driving’ by some kith or kin. But it may be remembered that driving is not about ‘driving’ a vehicle alone it also means following traffic rules and moving on with concern for others also. Traffic signs need to be understood and followed earnestly that can happen if the driver is literate enough to understand that. Pedestrians also are not given any kind of training to move on the road. At school level itself some training to move on the road should be imparted. More and more well lighted, clean and safe subways or bridges across the roads are required with the growing population and people ought to be ‘trained’ to use them. Animals should not be allowed to stray on the roads, errant owners need to be fined on that account. Speed breakers should be there near accident prone areas. There should be more and more well lighted roads. In order to avert accidents devices, should be planted in vehicles which send signals in the form of either light or siren when there is a threat of a crash or indication of a damaged road.

In the present times, the road network conditions have reached a critical breaking point. Cities are swelling with traffic, inter-city roads do not see proper up keep and contribute in the increasing incidents of accidents, which lead to loss of lives and property, there is dependence on the road network itself, for lack of other robust and efficient transport systems, despite having the world’s largest rail-network. One reason could be found in great difficulty in procuring railway tickets.

On the mountains, where flyovers cannot be built ‘odd-even’ arrangement of the capital could be introduced, ‘car-pooling’ could be encouraged or public transport could be made more efficient. Interceptor van should monitor drunk drivers. There should be regular check up programs for both roads and public transports. There should be proper ‘shifts system’ for the truck drivers, in order to make long journey easier. There should be provision to immediately remove damaged vehicle and ‘the hurt’ from the accident site. Ambulances should have some ‘reserved passages’ on the road to easily transfer the patients to hospitals. Slow moving vehicle like cycles, rickshaw etc., if possible should have separate passages and their riders should also be given proper training to move on the road. More and more cameras should monitor the roads. Presence of efficient and responsible policemen should be ensured.

It is noted that a large part of the 2.7 million km rural road network is generally found to be in poor condition and, until the year 2000, around 30 percent of the country’s population (about 300 million people) lacked access to all-weather roads. There is dire need of first-aid facilities and clean toilets especially for the ladies on the highways or there should be provision for toilets in the buses itself. Reports say that ‘traffic snarls’, a common occurrence across towns and cities in India, causes loss of productivity. The loss of man hours and productivity runs into thousands of crores of rupees. The loss in GDP is estimated at Rupees 75000 crores, being 1% of the GDP of India. The circumstances demand that there is an urgent need to be improve the roads and each and every citizen should be given proper training to use them.

Mark Tully made an important observation, according to him “The entire population of Sri Lanka is less than the population of greater Delhi. But the traffic in Colombo is as dense as the traffic in Delhi. The difference is that in the capital of India, drivers lack civic sense. In Colombo, drivers respect pedestrian crossings. Delhi’s aggressive drivers don’t stop for anyone, least of all pedestrians.

In one of his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio broadcasts Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a reduction in the shocking death rate on the roads. He deplored the report that a cyclist lay bleeding on a Delhi road and no one had done anything to help him — a shocking example of lack of civic sense, surely”[4]. According to the former Bureau Chief of BBC, M Tully, Prime minister will not fulfill his social reform programme unless he can instill more civic sense in Indians.

There are many who would say that the caste system and the hierarchical society that goes with it obstruct the development of civic sense in Indians. Back in 1990, Amartya Sen blamed elitism for what he described as India’s “shocking neglect of elementary education”[5]. It may be pointed out that caste system prevailing in the society has rendered majority of the population illiterate especially the education of ‘mothers’ is neglected. Mothers are regarded as the first teacher of human child in that case, if she has no access to knowledge, she innocently becomes the carrier of outdated traditions and superstitious practices which not only hampers her own normal development and progress but also the development of the child. Napoleon had once said, “Give me good mothers and I will give you a good nation’’. Lack of proper education of women, could raise serious obstacle in the path of the progress of a nation.

The project ‘Education for All’ need to be implemented in the right earnest. Traditions which saw everyone as equal need to be revived, ‘compassion of Buddha towards human beings and animals’ alike need to be instilled into the minds and hearts of individuals, only then we would learn the proper way of moving on the ‘Roman roads’.

[1] http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/road-accidents-in-india-road-safety-2849462/ accessed on 19.6.2016

[2] https://theroadtochangeindia.wordpress.com/author/theroadtochangeindia/ accessed on 19.6.2016

[3] http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/road-accidents-in-india-road-safety-2849462/ accessed on 19.6.2016

4 http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/sri-lanka-has-much-to-teach-india-about-civic-sense/story-Nv9XqHia8hwgJ31vL7jIOO.html accessed on 24.6.2016

[5] http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/sri-lanka-has-much-to-teach-india-about-civic-sense/story-Nv9XqHia8hwgJ31vL7jIOO.html accessed on 24.6.2016

Shura Darapuri Coordinator, Centre for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Lucknow (U.P.), India

 

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    It is a matter of great concern that the deaths due to accidents are on the rise. The main factor of accidents is the state of the roads. Except those roads travelled by politicians and upper caste beaureaucrats , all other roads are ill- maintained. The roads become unusable at the time of the rainy season. Frequent water-logging on the roads makes travel difficult . A policy should be formulated to repair the roads. The travellings should be given proper training in driving in such areas. There should be monitoring of lanes, bypass roads, gullies etc.., and people should take care of driving on Indian roads.