What is it that keeps Uttarakhand from preventing accident deaths on its hill roads? Similarly, along with this daily toll, there are regular reports of drownings in the rivers, lakes and streams. Even popular picnic spots are not exempt. This impacts greatly on tourism, although tourists are not the only victims. Over the years many recommendations have been made on how these can be prevented but for some reason there has been no consistent policy and action in this regard. While governments change, it is the job of the bureaucracy to maintain continuity on such policy issues, but this is sorely lacking in the state in most cases.
What can be the reason for this? Is there lack of ability, initiative or experience among the bureaucrats? Are they too few to take on the responsibilities that the state’s diversity entails? Is there lack of coordination between the development and enforcement agencies? The people have been told over the years that engineering solutions will be provided on the roads such as the very basic parapets, and widening, as well as superior quality of construction. But, things remain the same. The Transport Department and the Police declare on a regular basis that a large number of precautions and regulations will be enforced on the drivers and operators of taxis and buses, but every accident reveals that this wasn’t done. While there is a lot of political drama when a major accident takes place, the underlying issues are soon forgotten. After all, when the most basic traffic rules fail to be enforced even in the capital, what can be expected in the hills? (The few times when the police are seen in active mode is during festival season when shopkeepers and the common people face the brunt of arbitrary enforcement of rules.)
So, why does not the political establishment and civil society take the necessary actions to rectify the solution? Why is there not the necessary outrage to bring about change? Why are politicians not afraid of losing elections because of this dismal performance? Are they not aware how, apart from being a human tragedy, such incidents make a deeply adverse impact on the economy? Why are the people so eager to take matters of much less significance to the courts not raising this issue of untimely deaths for judicial action? Has Uttarakhand society become so insensitive that life goes on normally despite these recurrent tragedies? All of this surely deserves answers!