The rising graph of road crashes and fatalities, which Hindustan Times has brought under the spotlight through an ongoing series, 'Punjab's killer roads', echoed in the Vidhan Sabha on Thursday, with law-makers, cutting across party lines, expressing concern over the pathetic state of road safety in the state.
Following a gripping, disruption-free 30-minute debate during the Vidhan Sabha proceedings in which legislators bounced ideas and suggestions to curb road accidents, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal announced that the government was planning a stringent law to curb the culture of mixing drinking with driving, adding that a policy to heavily penalise traffic-rule violators was on the cards.
The matter echoed in the Vidhan Sabha with Congress MLA Charanjit Singh Channi's calling-attention motion, drawing the attention of the deputy CM towards the sharp increase in road accidents.
On Wednesday, another Congress MLA, Ashwani Sekhri, had raised the issue during zero hour, quoting Hindustan Times reports on Punjab's killer stretches. But speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal had then dismissed the MLA's contentions on the grounds that "it's not an urgent matter" and that "it's a routine matter."
On Thursday, quoting figures from the HT reports that in the past decade, road accidents in the state had killed 30,000 people much higher than the 25,000 lives claimed by terrorism Channi stated that getting the driving licence was the easiest task in Punjab. "We are losing innocent and precious lives in road accidents due to the fault of others. The fatality rate of road accidents in Punjab is the second highest," he said.
While Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Kumar Jakhar sought strict action against the menace of drunken driving and demanded the removal of liquor vends located along highways, other party legislators such as Randeep Singh Nabha, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Ashwani Sekhri, Rana Gurjeet Singh and Gurkirat Kotli drew the government's attention towards the lack of road furniture signboards, reflectors and markings along highways.
Warring said people didn't help road accident victims due to the fear of getting trapped in police formalities, while the injured didn't get medical help at the earliest. He said a policy should be framed to honour people for helping road accident sufferers.
"Speeding is responsible for a majority of the accidents," Sekhri said. "The signboards should be visible from a long distance. But we fix them close to the spot," Kotli added.
Responding to the points raised by the MLAs, the deputy CM said reducing road crashes was part of his mission. He added that as part of his long-term planning, major cities of the state would be connected with four-laned roads in the next three years. "By March 2014, a majority of the roads will have complete signage," Sukhbir assured. He said necessary equipment such as speed mapping radars and automatic cameras would be in place to check speeding and other traffic violations.
"There is a huge loss of lives due to drunken or wrong driving," he admitted. The deputy CM announced that the government would lodge cases against people pasting posters on signboards and also suggested action against religious organisations for this offence.
"All political parties should join hands and let us act tough against our party workers, too, if they spoil the signboards," he said and the Congress agreed.
Sukhbir said he wanted a study to be done on road accidents in the past decade to find out the causes. "Then we can take remedial steps to overcome road crashes," he said.
Sukhbir's plan to curb mishaps
* Connecting major towns and cities with four-laned roads in next three years.
* Tough law to curb drunken driving
* Heavy penalty for traffic rule violations
* Road safety, traffic rules to be part of school curriculum
* By March 2014, all roads to have signage
* Traffic police to be equipped with speed mapping radars
* Automatic cameras to be installed for checking traffic violations