That 2018 was deadliest and bloodiest year for Jammu and Kashmir was not just because of rampant deaths in militancy related violence, also because of road traffic crash deaths. More people have died in road traffic crashes in Kashmir than to militancy related violence in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018. According to figures compiled by the J&K road safety council, 908 people died in road accidents in J&K in 2018 while 7250 people were injured in 5529 accidents. In militancy related violence 586 people have died of whom 160 were civilians, 267 militants and 159 were security forces personnel. While deaths in militant violence have caused uproar across the spectrum, the deaths on roads have gone unnoticed. It is a serious reflection on the thinking and working of the state administration that the heavy toll on roads does little prick their conscience. Deaths on roads are a regular feature in Jammu and Kashmir now.
And what is even more an accepted norm is the callousness of the people in power. They are watching this horrendous phenomenon in cold blood and without any sense of responsibility. Occasionally authorities have always come up with assurances of putting in place mechanisms to decrease the number of road accidents but the latest data compiled by the state road transport department shows that little has changed on the ground. 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. During previous NC-Congress coalition government, a committee headed by MLA Kulgam M Y Tarigani was constituted to look into the causes of increasing roads accidents in Ramban area and suggesting measure to curtail them. The committee submitted its report well in time but there was no action from the government on the report. The report is still gathering the dust in some corner of the office of the concerned authority. The committee in its recommendations had suggested setting up of driving schools for drivers and emergency hospitals with latest facilities in the Ramban area. The committee had also suggested condemnation of old vehicles, stringent measures for stopping overloading on the passenger busses and road widening of all the main and arterial roads connecting Jammu-Srinagar highway with different hilly areas of Ramban district. Though the recommendations were made public but there was no follow-up action by the government.
It is high time that the administration realized its responsibilities and took immediate measures to make road safe for journey. 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 needs to have a re-look and rethinking on what it has been doing rather undoing in restoring peace on Kashmir roads if it really cares for people.