Vijay K. Saluja

The Times of India, Delhi Edition, sometime back, printed on its first page the battered & beaten photograph of a blueline bus driver, whose bus was involved in a fatal accident, near Moolchand flyover.

On its third page, was another picture of the grieving wife of the killed youngman & his hapless & crying parents! The news report about this accident described another grim part of the sad story. The father of the bereaved wife had also been involved in the tragic road accident many years back, when the unfortunate wife was a young girl of seven. In that accident, her father had died & her own leg had to be amputated!

Can there be more tragic incident than this? Let us ask ourselves. This accident & the following events, tell another grim tale. Again involvement of a Blue-Line-Here, I am not commenting anything about, whose fault it could be. But the fact remains, that a tragic accident on Delhi road [Regrettably, a daily routine!] involving blue-line has again occured, a young life has been snuffed out, a bread winner, the only son, the father of two young daughters have gone, leaving their awesome burden & the burden of sorrowing old parents, on the shoulders of a traumatized, already handicapped [brave] & sorrowing wife.

The incident also brought out the growing anger of the public & onlookers, who decided to deal with the driver themselves & perhaps battered him black & blue & therefore the picture showed gory face of the driver. A very very sad case of poor governance, right on the road, in almost the heart of the capital of India. I don`t think, policemen, could be far away, from the spot of the accident? What sort of professional satisfaction, persons in the government, who are given the authority to govern, get out of these incidents/accidents?!

Don`t they feel bad, guilty, sad, powerless. If not, then perhaps their conscience is also dead. If it is so, how have, they been given the charge of sensitive govt jobs? Why the Government is helpless to effectively deal, as per the law of the land/conduct rules, with them?!

I saw another gruesome accident, a few days back, involving a scooterist & a not so speeding car. It was the fault of none of them. But accident occurred due to embedded manhole, as the said road had been given a fresh overlay, embedding all the manholes. The scooterist skidded on the same , lost balance, was on the ground & hit by the car which was coming ,behind him. Presence of mind of the car driver, made the impact, very little, but the hapless scooterist, had suffered bruises all over, had a fracture & a broken scooter-for no fault of his!?

The car driver, for no fault of his & even showing presence of mind, had to suffer an FIR & many attendant hardships, with the police authorities, insurance people etc.

Whose fault it was?
Isn`t it the normal duty of road maintenance/construction authorities/local bodies, to raise the level of embedded manholes? Isn`t it a regular sight, which all of us, must be observing, wherever a road is resurfaced? Why this is not done? Why no responsibility is fixed? Is this proper administration/ maintenace/ project management? What are the concerned authorities proud of?

Is it professionalism?
I leave this query to ponder over, by the authorities & draw the conclusion? Is the `Global city` to give these facilities[ stress, broken limbs & death], to its unfortunate & hapless citizens?

Another scenario which one sees on some roads in central Delhi is the performance of very young acrobats on the main heavy trafficked road junctions? Why can`t the Sports/ Social Services Deptt/some NGO`s, take care of these talented young people & provide them with minimum basic needs to survive & train them to be good acrobats, instead of becoming traffic hazards & endangering their lives& lives of others too?What are the traffic policemen doing at that time? Why it can not be prevented/stopped.

Same is the story of young girls /boys, begging in the garb of car cleaners, saturday alm-askers!

One of the case, in DWARKA, where I shifted & other places is that of a few speeding vehicles falling off, fly-overs !

Thereafter,the concerned authorities going on over-drive, in putting so many rumblers-[speed-blocks] on some stretch of the said fly-overs, resulting in massive traffic jams at peak time, causing stresses of many kinds to the commuters. Was any study conducted before putting up these speed-breakers? Can`t there be any other technical solutions to this, which do not put the commuters[law-abiding, going at controlled speed] to inconveniences of many kinds, everyday?! Pl do give a thought-dear Traffic-Authorities.

The list of apathy of the concerned authorities is almost endless/They have authority without accountability-,some may say & a sad case study of irresponsive, irresponsible, governance which is becoming poorer & poorer, day by day?!

Though, the concerned authorities must be having their own constraints. But, the urgent need for them is to address these issues & find out sustainable solutions.

They need to keep in mind the untold misery & stress the person involved in the accidents & their close relatives go through.

As per the latest statistics, around 1.3 millions die each year in the world as a result of road crashes.

Fourty times of this number of fatalities[1.3 millions] suffer serious injury.

Ninty percent of the deaths on the roads & injuries suffered, happen in developing countries.

India has the highest death toll in the world, at over 1 lakh annually!

For people between the age of 5-25,cars pose a bigger threat to life than killer diseases like AIDS,malaria & tuberculosis.

Road traffic injuries typically cost countries in sub-saharan Africa & Asia, the equivalent of 1-3 percent of GDP a year.

Talking about Delhi, over 100 persons get killed on roads besides serious injuries to many, per year. Here ,the number of cars is more than the sum total of cars in three other metros-Mumbai, Kolkata & Chennai ! Some say, here disregard for traffic rules is the norm & lot needs to be done to enforce traffic laws.

The aid agencies like World Bank, ADB etc invest huge sums in road network &very little on road safety!.

Policy makers, bureaucrats, road planners measure success in kilometers of metalled roads, but hardly give much stress on the quality & durability of work[roads etc] & safety aspect.

There is thus an urgent need to change this unaffordable & unsustainable approach.

Concern about this, was also expressed at the first UN Ministerial Summit on Road Safety held on 19-20th Nov, 2009, at Moscow & various measures to halve the number of accidents on roads, by 2020, were debated at length.

But,2020 is not far away. Whether set target will be achievable,time will tell. As things are, I am afraid, it may not??

Well-point for thought

IIT Delhi Alumni Association under its `Social Outreach Programme` also initiated, a few years back, the programme on `Safety on Roads . Under this exercise, some events-,Brainstorming Session,Talks[involving academics,alumni,policy makers/implementers,civil-society groups etc] were conducted to crystallize an `Action Plan` for taking up the considered recommendations with various authorities to take the needed urgent steps- legislation-modification,regulation,enforcement,educational,motivation etc etc,to have safe roads in the country. However, the effort did not last long.

The need is to have sustainability of efforts.

This is one of the many steps , IITians, all over in India, in particular, can take in giving back to the society, by deliberating on burning societal issues & evolving suitable sustainable strategies & “Action Plans”, for the help of the authorities/society ,monitoring the progress & thus aiding good governance.

International Road Federation[IRF] who are doing very useful work in the area of road safety will be,I am sure, very eager to associate with IITs & its alumni.


Writer is
Director,Giraffe Heroes India Program
Senior Fellow-ISS,New Delhi
& Ex Chief Engineer[civil], New Delhi Municipal Council
Ex President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association