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Slow death

Paranoid about being murdered in your bed at night? Relax, it is only once in four-and-a-half days that somebody gets murdered in Gurgaon. On the other hand, four people get killed on Millennium City’s roads every three days.

delhi Updated: Aug 14, 2009 01:39 IST
Sanjeev K Ahuja

Paranoid about being murdered in your bed at night? Relax, it is only once in four-and-a-half days that somebody gets murdered in Gurgaon. On the other hand, four people get killed on Millennium City’s roads every three days.

So far, 276 people have lost their lives on Gurgaon’s roads this year. Another 1,000 have been injured in accidents. Of the fatalities, 110 have occurred on the Gurgaon Expressway alone.

At a crawl

What’s shocking about the number of deaths in road accidents is that traffic in Gurgaon almost always moves at a crawl.

The average speed in the city seldom exceeds 23 kmph while traffic slows to around 10 kmph during rush hours.

Parmeet Singh Sood, managing director of an export house in Manesar, said he spent almost one-and-a-half hours covering the 19 km stretch from his home in DLF City to office despite using the expressway.

Narrow roads full of potholes, poor road engineering, lack of pedestrian crossings and malfunctioning or missing traffic signals are just some of the factors that slow down traffic, apart from the volume of vehicles poorly trained traffic police personnel.

Neglected roads

Even last year, 300 lives were lost on Gurgaon’s roads. However, the traffic police seem to have learnt no lessons.

There are only 300 policemen to manage entire Gurgaon’s traffic. And they have only seven four-wheelers and 18 bikes to carry out their job.

Not surprisingly, the accident rate continues rising in the city.

KS Anand is one man for whom the deaths signify more than cold statistics. Anand had lost his son in an accident on the expressway, in March this year.

“My 19-year-old son Rahul, who was driving on the expressway, lost his life on March 7 for no fault of his. He crashed his SX4 into a stationary water tanker in the fast lane to save a jaywalker,” said Anand.

“The Gurgaon Expressway lacks safety features and has almost no presence of traffic police. It will kill hundreds of other drivers if no tough decisions are taken. I am going to fight the case in court till my last breath to ensure justice to the families of all those who have lost their lives on this deadly stretch.”

Top cop passes buck

Expressing his concern over the hundreds of accidental deaths, Gurgaon police commissioner SS Deswal said he had decided to change the manpower allocation.

He passed the blame for deaths on the roads on to the civic agencies.

“It is a pity that roads such as MG Road, Gurgaon Expressway and others were not constructed keeping in mind the poor and middle-class people who either walk down or cycle to work. There is nothing like road engineering in Gurgaon.”

Grill Session

‘Civic bodies to blame for traffic mess’ - Gurgaon police commissioner SS Deswal

This year, 276 people have died in road accidents, in Gurgaon. Is it not a reflection of your department’s failure to manage traffic?

So far as managing traffic is concerned, the traffic police play a relatively smaller role, say 20 per cent. Bulk of the responsibility lies with the various civic agencies, such as Haryana Urban Development Authority, Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon and Public Works Department. Ultimately, they are to blame for not making the roads wide enough to support the ever-increasing volume of traffic.

Isn’t the shortage of men and materials with the traffic police a bigger culprit?

The number of traffic policemen does not matter when roads are narrow and crossings are without slip roads and traffic signals. About 30 per cent of traffic gets held up at the crossings for want of slip roads. Even the traffic signals do not work at about a dozen major crossings. We have sought installation of new traffic signals at 20 crossings from civic agencies like HUDA and PWD.

Can’t the traffic police implement these measures on its own?

No, the traffic police department cannot even get a tragic signal repaired, forget buying a new one. Constructing slip roads and widening narrow roads and crossings is the job of civic agencies.

On the Gurgaon Expressway, commuters in the nonstop tag lanes get held up at toll plazas, as untagged vehicles get into their lanes. Why does not the police fine erring drivers?

We cannot spare our manpower for that job. It is, after all, the job of National Highways Authority of India. They could slap higher toll charges on untagged vehicles that stray into tag lanes.

How do you propose to bring down on-road fatalities?

We have launched a major offensive against drink driving, which is the prime cause of road accidents, at toll plazas. We also target drunk drivers on some of the major roads along which pubs and bars are concentrated.

"Five minutes early out of office saves her 30 to home"

Entrepreneur Aman Singh lives in DLF City and drives to her office in the industrial hub of Udyog Vihar.

It is just a 4 km drive, and Singh is an avid driver. But she prefers to let her chauffeur steer her Suzuki SX4 through the jam whenever she’s caught in rush hour.

Usually, Singh leaves work a little early to avoid the dreaded jams.

A few minutes’ headstart makes all the difference between driving home quickly or spending 40-45 minutes on the road, idling at Shankar Chowk, under the flyover on Gurgaon Expressway.

During rush hour in the morning as well as the evening, all the service roads leading up to the crossing from Singh’s office get choked with thousands of vehicles.