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Preventive Approach

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One can only imagine how hot people in the plains of North India must be feeling that they are willing to endure hours’ long traffic jams to spend a couple of days in the hills. This is also because coming to Uttarakhand has been made easier due to improved connectivity. There is also a significant increase in tourism facilities but even that is unable to cope with the rush. Coupled with the Char Dham Yatra, it is a huge challenge for the police and other government agencies. The question is whether even the most basic arrangements have been made. It is only after a crisis that officials remember the rules and promise to implement them.

The train accident in Jalpaiguri that has claimed nine lives has provoked the opposition to demand the resignation of the Railway Minister. More lives are lost in Uttarakhand, every day, because of road accidents and drownings. Who should be held accountable? An accident on Sunday had an official stating that clearance for hill driving on the licence is a must but is not being enforced because of the sheer numbers. This is by no means a formality, because hill driving requires awareness of several specific techniques. Even professional drivers from the plains do not know this. Since tutoring individual drivers of every category would not be possible during the tourism season, one way would be to make videos on these required skills and post them on social media. People planning to drive to the hills should be asked to view these before coming.

The dangers can be made much worse by driving under the influence of liquor and drugs. This will require to be monitored by the police. They should be able to identify likely offenders by their age profile, time of movement, etc. Where more than a few of these indicators coincide, they should be provided guidance and even made to undergo breath tests. Cautionary steps like these can save precious lives.

There are many places in the world facing disruptive tourist inflows. They have resorted to financial disincentives to prevent the crowding. Uttarakhand can also start taking various fees from visitors, proportionate to their paying capacity. For example, the larger the car, the bigger should be the fee. Overloading, particularly of buses, should face severe challans. The situation cannot be left to merely issuing directives to the lower echelons. There must be a composite game plan intelligently executed.