The tragic loss of 30 lives in road accidents in Keshwan Kishtwar, Peer Ki Gali area of Mughal Road and other Jammu hilly roads only a few months back being fresh in tintalizing memory but with a hope that in identified sensitive zones, some urgent but suitable steps would be taken by the Government agencies has been belied and exploded when 16 people including 4 children travelling by a passenger vehicle were killed near Khellani on Batote – Kishtwar Highway on 12th instant. While lot of blame is genuinely due to be heaped on the ‘never lesson taking’ administration and other connected Government agencies, the driver on the other hand, is reported to have remained clung with and engrossed in speaking on mobile phone even while negotiating a sharp curve. The resultant loss of concentration and control over the vehicle resulted in its getting skidded off the road to crash down into a deep gorge. We offer deep condolences to the affected families.
The mingled and scattered split parts of the ill fated vehicle depict the extent and severity of the accident . The dead belonged to a village Mangota in Doda district of mountainous Jammu region which besides being in a shock has been enveloped by gloom and utter depression. As is wont with the customary immediate response from the Government to such heart wrenching road accidents, an enquiry has been ordered into this accident too by the administration. Well, the same reasons, a blend of total and callous lapses on the part of the Governmental agencies and the human error or disregarding of safety norms shall be the findings of the enquiry panel. The question remains as to what lessons are drawn from such a brazen dance of death on the hilly roads of Jammu region which very unfortunately, keep on occurring at short intervals indicating that during the intervening period, no such mechanism was placed in operation which could avert such tragic accidents.
Did no one en-route find that the vehicle was overloaded which on hilly roads and with narrow sharp turns, could result into a mishap? This must be the starting point of investigation as in the middle of the day, this accident took place and probably right from the starting point of the journey of the vehicle, which never reached its destination of Marmat in Doda, up to Mangota where it plunged into a 700 metre deep gorge, there was possibly no traffic police on duty which could have at least found out that a vehicle with 12 seater capacity was piled up with 17 passengers. Had coincidentally for this very purpose, the vehicle been stopped for a few minutes, this accident would have never taken place. It is without the prejudice of the deceased precious lives that no one from them even objected to the driver using phone adhesively touched with ear with tilted neck sensing some untoward happening as that action while driving, could end up in a devastating crash. It is unfortunate that most of us at critical moments choose to remain silent while at non critical and ordinary matters in comparison to where lives are likely to be imperilled, we prioritize to speak in protest.
Let Traffic Police personnel, most of those who perhaps do not know the importance of their duty be put in the stockings for choosing to be away from their duty and duty with eagle eyed surveillance . The top administration in this department needs a shake up , only then the currents of that shake -up can reach down the line so that they are not deployed or most of them volunteer or manage to ‘perform duty’ only in the city areas or where the cavalcade of the VVIPs have to pass through but their preferences should be deployment on these sensitive routes which they themselves on affidavit have identified . Traffic Police has not only to be in attendance of the VVIPs on roads but also and more importantly, on such roads which are vulnerable and prone to such heart piercing accidents as the one under reference.
The Government agencies shall have to prove by cogent and solid actions that they really mean business in protecting human lives as valuing and protecting human life should be their top most priority. The authorities should not feign being bubbled up as and when an accident of such devastating level takes place but put in action the preventive measures on a major scale.
Without going further into the nitty gritty of this accident , we would not mince any words, at the outset, in out rightly holding the Traffic Police prime facie responsible for letting overloaded vehicles ply on such risky roads with impunity , allow mobile phones and stereo radios and tape recorders by drivers in the vehicle , close eyes towards drunken drivers on the wheels and associated issues considered hazardous during driving. Motor Vehicles Department and concerned agencies never bother to check the road worthiness and fitness of vehicles, no records of such mandatory inspections are displayed in the vehicles nor the same are available with the Transport Department. Whether the drivers concerned had proper updated hilly driving licences is no one’s headache in the Traffic Police nor in the Transport Department.
However, let us see the findings in the enquiry report and see whether heads rolled of those found negligent in their duties and what measures the Government further proposed to take to avert such accidents if not out-rightly claim ruling out any accident from taking place in future. However, let us further hope that the accident under reference shall be the last one and never ever any more.