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Road rage in Jammu and Kashmir

The death of 17 persons in a road accident in Kishtwar last week has again showed up that human tragedies occurring on the state road do concern little to the people in power. At least, 15 other persons were injured in the accident. That was the third major accident in Kishtwar in the past one month. On August 21, 13 persons were killed and 12 others injured when their vehicle plunged into a gorge in the same district. Jammu and Kashmir ranks second across India in the tally of road accidents per 10,000 vehicles with an average of over 900 deaths every year in the last five years, according to the union ministry of road transport and highways report released recently. Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh are the two other states with the highest number of road accidents. The average number of deaths in a year has been over 900 in the state during last 5 years. Last year 926 persons have died in over 5,000 road mishaps across the state. Year 2016 witnessed 958 deaths in road accidents, while 917 people have died in 2015. During 2014 and 2013 the number stood at 992 and 990 respectively. The study also revealed that any accident in Jammu and Kashmir has 64 percent chances of being “death prone”, the worst among Indian states. Vehicle design, speed of operation, road design, road environment, driving skill, and drivers’ behaviour are picked up as some of the main factors that lead to deaths on roads. Nearly one-third of all road accidents can be attributed to rash driving. Dilapidated and half constructed roads do also contribute to this grave human tragedy. Most people would probably agree that travelling above 80 kmph is on the state roads is dangerous and would lead to a disastrous accident. The tipper and Sumo drivers are feared as most dreaded. In chase for making most of their business and reaching their destinations ahead of their fellow drivers, they are causing scare on roads. They race in extraordinary speed. Given the condition of our roads, even moderate speed can drive one to death. It goes without saying that Jammu and Kashmir has the worst roads. These are not just narrow but also in poor condition. Most of these roads are dilapidated and rundown. That is not true about rural areas only but the main cities of Srinagar and Jammu too have poorly managed narrow roads. To cap it all, the government is quite indifferent to the mess on roads and rising deaths. Government in virtual terms has done nothing to minimize deaths. Beyond announcing token relief in some bucks, government thinking appears to have got frozen. The government awakes to such horrific incident on the day of happening only. Issuing statements of concern and sympathizing with the families of the dead and announcing relief is all government has been doing. All that is needed is that government should move beyond it if it in real terms cares for its people. It needs to take stringent measures to restore peace on roads. In the first place, the road maintenance and management should be improved. Roads are the face of development. Bad roads not only speak of bad governance but also put the lives of citizens at risk. In the last assembly session, the state government introduced a bill in the House to provide for the constitution of an all powerful State Road Safety Council and establishment of a Road Safety Fund. But nothing more was heard or done on the subject as follow up action. The government also needs to galvanize and discipline its traffic management machinery. Traffic police and other organs of the state responsible for regulation of traffic are not doing their job honestly. They have turned their duty into business. Rather than putting a hold on unauthorized driving, they encourage it by taking money from un-licensed drivers. Overcrowding and overloading in passenger vehicles is another source of income for them. Many traffic policemen could be seen on prowl for such drivers at strategic points. In final analysis, the picture is quite grim. Government need to have a re-look and rethink of what it has been doing rather undoing in restoring peace on Kashmir roads if it really cares for people