It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. And, the Millennium City, which claims to have changed the landscape of urban India, has miles to go before it can stand out as the land of promise that not just nurtures dreams, but also keeps the dreamers safe in its cradle.
With more than 300 people losing their lives in road accidents every year, the city desperately needs to improve its road infrastructure and related paraphernalia.
Even as a World Health Organisation report suggests that the burden of disease of road accidents is comparable to TB or malaria in the developing world, Indian cities have largely ignored the fact that road and traffic safety are a stepping stone in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
“About 25 per cent of the total hospital beds are occupied by victims of road traffic accidents. For this, the health department has a contingency plan that can accommodate 50 patients from this category. The plan is a part of the disaster management plan that was chalked out five years ago,” said Dr Sanjay Narula, senior medical officer and head of the casualty ward at Gurgaon Civil Hospital.
According to Dr Naresh Trehan, chairperson and managing director of Medanta - The Medicity, with the increase in number of highways and expressways, the number of road traffic accidents is bound to see a spurt as well.
Though successive governments in Haryana have gifted the city numerous expressways — it has earned the epithet of the City of Expressways — making the roads safe and traffic flow smooth have not figured prominently in the political schemes of development. “Transport is the basis of sustainable development; you cannot build a city first and then ask transport to follow. All development should be transport-led,” says Rohit Baluja, president, Institute of Road Traffic Education, New Delhi.
The traffic in the city and on and along the expressways, most significantly the Gurgaon-Delhi Expressway, has been mired by a range of problems, from paucity of traffic cops to faulty road engineering. Police commissioner Alok Mittal, in his numerous interactions with HT, had said, “I accept that traffic management is the biggest challenge to the police force in the city. There is a paucity of traffic cops, just a handful of 300, which is why most of the new recruits, who will be inducted most probably by the end of July, will be channelled into traffic duty.”
The most bugging of malaises for Gurgaon traffic have been either the lack of or broken service roads, especially along the Gurgaon-Delhi expressway; traffic lights that do not function properly and are without a power back-up; poorly engineered roundabouts and roads; absence of pedestrian walkways and foot-over-bridges or underpasses; and, as the State Crime Records Bureau recorded in a report last year, overspeeding and overloading. Absence of traffic sense is another problem area, which when coupled with skeletal public transport system, spell mayhem for commuters.
“The three most severe problems with traffic management in Gurgaon are: First, residents have no traffic sense — they deliberately disobey traffic rules and that cuts across class lines. Second, Gurgaon is still in the process of development and thus numerous construction works, like the Rapid Metro, are going on which disturb the traffic. Third, there are no alternate routes to travel to nearby places,” said assistant commissioner of police (traffic) Ravinder Tomar.
Traffic police data shows that over 200 people have got killed on Gurgaon roads this year.