A pilot project under the country's first-ever cashless treatment scheme for road accident victims has been shifted from Punjab to Rajasthan after a one-year delay in its launch.
The Punjab coordinator for the scheme, Dr Kamaljeet Soi, said the union ministry of surface transport had submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court in June 2012 that it was launching the project on the Amritsar-Pathankot highway (NH-15). The Centre's U-turn came a year after the union ministry held the project's pre-launch meeting in Amritsar on August 24, 2012.
The decision to shift the project is being seen as politically motivated in view of the assembly elections due in Rajasthan later this year. Incidentally, Congress MP CP Joshi, who belongs to Rajasthan, was the union minister for surface transport till the recent reshuffle of the union cabinet.
Dr Soi on Thursday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, stating that the pilot project was scheduled to have been launched in Punjab in the backdrop of 4,795 deaths in 6,328 road accidents in the state last year.
"The accident fatality rate in Punjab is 75.8%, the highest in India after Nagaland, which is a tiny state. This rate for Rajasthan is 41.5%, as per the National Crime Record Bureau's 2012 report. By ignoring Punjab's crucial needs, the Centre has played a cruel joke on us," Dr Soi said.
"This is a great injustice to pilgrims from across the country who visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu via the Amritsar-Pathankot highway," he said.The project's pre-launch meeting in August last year was chaired by the union government's then joint secretary, transport, Nitin R Gokarn. It was held at the office of the Punjab inspector general (IG), border range, in Amritsar.
It had been decided that the project would have provision for cashless treatment for the first 48 hours after the accident at Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) rates, subject to overall monetary ceiling of Rs. 30,000.
The project has been initiated under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, as there is no provision for fixing liability on anyone for incurrence of expenses on treatment of road accident victims. The objective of the scheme is to bring out high rate of fatalities in road accidents by providing timely treatment.
D S Bains, principal secretary, home, who had been appointed chairman of a committee to oversee the Amritsar-Pathankot project, told HT that Punjab had not received any communique so far from the Centre on the issue. "We will surely take up the matter with the Centre," he said.
Sources said Bains had been alerted at a meeting on road safety more than a month ago that the pilot project might be shifted to Rajasthan.