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Continued Neglect

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Enormous amounts are spent on defence, security and anti-terrorist forces, but the greatest killer of them all – road accidents – receives little attention from the powers that be. Why is there no sense of urgency within governments and the public on this issue? Along with the approximately 1.5 lakh deaths that take place every year on the roads, the number of those who suffer injuries and permanent disability are more than three times that number. Apart from the pain and suffering caused to victims and their families, the cost of providing medical treatment is enormous, very often pushing families into penury. Despite all this, the foolishness that takes place on the roads every moment of the day and night is unbelievable. Even the recent hiking of penalties in the Motor Vehicle Act, which caused some initial panic, has failed to deter road users from breaking every law in the book and, then, some. There can be some excuse for the poor and uneducated who walk, cycle or take public transport, as much is beyond their control, but why should those who are well to do and supposedly educated be so unmindful of how they endanger themselves and others through the boorish manner in which they use the roads? The Prime Minister has made cleanliness and construction of toilets a social cause that he pursues relentlessly at every opportunity. He should also launch a movement on road safety. Since governments seem incapable of intelligently enforcing the rules, designing and maintaining infrastructure that prevents accidents, it is left to the people to take up the cause. They need not only to be informed about the rules, but also explained the reasons for why these exist in the first place. There is enough information and actual video footage of accidents that can make the connection between cause and effect. Once this becomes a mass campaign, road users will realise how their seemingly small transgressions can lead on to major mishaps. Traffic rule violators should be fined and also made to attend classes that inculcate in them a sense of personal responsibility. In Uttarakhand, the problem is made difficult by the difficult terrain and the serious weather conditions which make maintenance a difficult task. As a result, the number of accidents remains unabated. On Sunday, nine persons died because their overloaded vehicle went off the road. This could have been easily prevented – by those who decided to travel that way, as well by the authorities. Neither happened! The official response was the same – expression of regret and promise of compensation. What will it take for the government to wake up and actually fix the problem?