Our unsafe roads took Munde’s life
The unfortunate death of Gopinath Munde, rural development minister in Modi cabinet, in a road accident in the heart of the national capital once again drives home the crucial but perennially neglected issue of road safety and traffic laws in the country. The minister, previously an eminent figure in Maharashtra unit of the BJP and a prominent face of the OBCs in both the state and the union cabinet, died on Tuesday when his car collided with another vehicle on his way to the airport in the early hours of the day. Notwithstanding the abiding tragedy, Munde’s demise also underscores how traffic regulations are discarded by the ordinary commuter driving his or her car in the capital city, with mind-numbing figures screaming out loud for redressal and swift action by the authorities. Appalling figures from last year show less than 50 per cent of two-wheeler drivers and less than 10 per cent of passengers pillion-riding wear helmets in India, while not even 50 per cent wear their seat belts while driving. Traffic signals are jumped even during rush hours and in spite of CCTVs being installed at all the important junctions. The ritual flouting of norms, such as over-speeding, taking the wrong lanes, not adhering to the safety protocols, driving under influence of alcohol or intoxicating substances, causes lakhs of death on an average, with people dying of road fatalities seeing a rising graph with every passing year. In addition, injuries caused by accidents have seen an exponential rise over the years, with more cars plying on the Capital’s road choking its arterial streets, sending the pollution levels soaring.
What must be done on an urgent basis is to review how well or miserably the traffic rules are implemented in the city and how strictly the violations are dealt with. The five risk factors, such as speed, alcohol intake, helmets, seatbelts, child restraints, must be accounted for, and whether the drivers are abiding with the regulations should be periodically updated. In addition, all driving licences should undergo yearly or six-monthly checks to make sure if the licencee is not flouting norms, and more importantly, is aware of all the basic rules of driving. Moreover, correctional courses and counseling should be made mandatory for all the traffic offenders, in addition to stringent penalties to avoid such misbehavior on the road in future. Government in partnership with automobile companies must encourage road safety workshops, where instructions on safe driving would be exchanged and awareness of rules and regulations increased. Database of all the offenders must be kept with precision and be assessed from time to time so study trends on the road and to devise popular campaign strategies to raise levels of awareness. While Gopinath Munde’s death could have been avoided with a little precaution, let this tragedy remind us of the massive gap in compliance of the traffic rules not just in Delhi, but the entire country. The road is a public property and driving safely is a fundamental duty of every law-abiding citizen who must ensure he/she doesn’t become a menace and threat to others sharing it.