Two years ago, when a drunk 21-year-old drove over sleeping pavement dwellers, killing seven of them, the country shuddered. But this hit-and-run case was not a one-off: since January last year, 701 lives have been lost in such cases, making Mumbai the hit-and-run capital of the country. And with 1.5 million vehicles on the city's roads, the authorities have their hands full with bringing down accident figures.
"Lax licensing is the main cause of accidents. Youngsters get their licences as soon as they turn 18, without properly learning to drive," says Nitin Dosa, executive chairman of Western India Automobile Association. He says drunken driving is another major cause of fatalities on the road.
To curb drunken driving, Mumbai Police has taken up several drives since June 20, and till Monday, 8,948 drivers have been put behind bars.
Traffic police officials claim the drives have been successful, helping them bring down accident figures. "We have succeeded in conveying the message 'Don't drink and drive' to Mumbai's drivers," says Harish Baijal, deputy commissioner of traffic police.
"The drive has completed one year but it will continue with the same zeal and strictness," adds Baijal. The police have installed 45 CCTVs at junctions like Worli and Mahim to keep a check on rash drivers.
Last year, Mumbai witnessed 651 fatal accidents while 2,146 people were severely injured in others. This year, till July, 50 major accidents have been reported, of which over 60 per cent involve drunk drivers.