Spilling blood on roads

Sunny Dua
Loss of about fifty precious lives within a period of one week on killer state roads of Jammu and Kashmir State doesn’t seem enough to shake anyone from any of the departments connected with safety of passengers. This loss is in addition to those lives that are lost on city roads every day. So far as long provision of compensating (which can never be) these losses with tax payers’ money continues there seem be no reason for us to understand how precious human lives are and what we can do to end this blood spilling on roads and in deep gorges unabatedly. Such fatal accidents have now become order of the day in our state.
Thirty five people were reportedly killed and seventeen others injured when an overloaded mini bus on Monday morning plunged into 800 feet deep gorge in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir State. The bus was on its way to Kishtwar from Keshwan when it skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge at 8.40 am. It was only last week that eleven students of a private computer centre of Surankote, mostly girls, were killed after the minibus they were travelling in fell into a deep gorge near Peer Ki Gali on the Mughal road connecting Bafliaz in Poonch to Shopian and three persons were killed in Kathua accident.
Mere lip services and compensations follow such accidents and in most cases bodies are flown in helicopters and ambulances only to be declared in hospitals as ‘brought dead’. Never ever has any road rectified after accident, never has anyone been punished for dereliction of duties, never has any officials been held responsible for these fatal accidents that have consumed thousands of innocent lives and never have we cared to do away with reasons that cause accidents so that people are given safe roads and better public transport system. This is for the first time Governor’s administration has cared to register FIRs against PMGSY engineers and hospital authorities but how many will be punished only time will tell.
Recommendations of house committees on road safety have never been adhered to, no driver has ever been made to understand how precious human lives are and how much passengers are dependent upon his ability to drive and make them reach their destinations safely. Today also several minibuses, autorickshaws and other public transport vehicles are plying on roads without relevant documents and without any insurance policies. They are even ferrying thousands of school children and other commuters in dilapidated buses without adhering to standards set forth by Motor Vehicle Department (MVD).
This particular incident especially in continuation to one fatal accident on Mughal Road last week has shaken even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been forced to Tweet saying, ‘the accident in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar is heart-wrenching. We mourn all those who lost their lives and express condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest’. Sir, hope your words heal the wounds and injured recover earliest but that’s possible only if injured will survive this horrendous accident where 51 people were travelling in a 28 seat bus.
3 years old Adeeba struggling for her life in GMC Hospital Jammu is survived by her little sister who was not travelling with her at the time of accident. She lost her mother, father and 45 days old brother who was in the lap of his mother at the time of accident. If this is not enough to shake anyone and give hapless commuters safe roads and better transport system then I am sure nothing else will.
In past over a decade we have lost about 9,000 lives in road accidents in the state and out of which about 1200 alone have died in Kishtwar, Ramban and Doda state roads. Still shocking is that all those legislators from Kishtwar and Bhaderwah who were supposed to give their own people safe roads spent time flying and staying put in plush homes in Jammu as well as Srinagar and are now on the forefront of rendering their lip services. Irony is that they are the ones demanding safe roads whereas they even remained R&B Ministers but didn’t carefor safety of passengers.
The minibus that had fallen into a deep gorge near Peer Ki Gali, despite all flaws beginning from relevant papers to fitness was hired and callousness on the part of driver topped it with tragic and a fatal accident leaving several families shattered forever. This Kishtwar accident took place visibly because of overloading. Faulty roads and negligent driving were stated to be causes of all previous accidents and the only fault of hapless commuters was that they dared to board already jam-packed buses for the reason that bus services are poor and not so frequent. Anyone who is sane enough to imagine or recreate the incident in his/her mind can very well gauge the situation in which we had put girls at the time of accident on Mughal Road. Today when 35 people have died in Kishtwar one can again visualise how hapless and miserable commuters would have been when their vehicles rolled down into the gorge. This is irretrievable and criminal in nature but we incorrigible people are not going to learn any lesson from any of these incidents.
The only action taken so far is that Poonch district authorities have banned government and recognised private schools up to higher secondary level from going on excursion/picnics without seeking permission from the competent authority. There’s no word about any action against institution that hired vehicle without checking its credentials viz-aviz papers, fitness and condition of the vehicles. Those on check posts who allowed the ill-fated vehicle to pass without even giving a cursory glance at the fitness of minibus or its papers have also not been questioned. Still shocking is no audit has been ordered to check other such vehicles that are ferrying people in hilly areas.
In fact we are incorrigible when it comes to human lives. Killer roads, callous officials, incorrigible drivers and we as commuters in hurry are all to be blamed. Since the lives lost are that of others and we have the provision to condemn, condole or compensate the irreparable loss of precious lives by tax payers’ money there’s hardly has any need arisen to check roads built by PWD, traffic cops’ negligence, driver’s credentials, vehicle’s fitness, overcrowding or the way people commute in hilly areas.
Instead of banning picnics, the district administration in Poonch could have asked for a complete overhead of entire public transport system in the district. The educational institutions should have asked to check all relevant papers of vehicle before hiring. Drivers and owners of minibuses and other public transport could have been called into mourn the death of these girls and made to realise how important lives are and then guided to be responsible for lives who are blindfolded dependent upon them. Shahid Iqbal Choudhary Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter with regards to children being transported in minibuses and autorickshaws like cattle herd and ordered action against those violating norms. How come no such observations are being made in other districts?
What’s needed is that entire public transport system should be audited. Drivers and cleaners must be in uniforms, no vehicle should be allowed to change seating capacities to accommodate more passengers, more cops on highways should man traffic mismanagement than being stationed on traffic lights, lane driving should be encouraged, drivers as well as passengers must be sensitised for safety measures, old vehicles taken off the roads, regular and uninterrupted public transport services in all areas ensured, a better and clean public transport system like that of electric buses put in place, people who jump traffic lights heavily fined, overloading checked, most importantly passengers advised to not to board buses which are packed beyond seating capacities and most importantly safe roads built.