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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Punjab road safety takes second hit

Anshu Seth, Hindustan Times  Ludhiana, December 02, 2013
First Published: 21:18 IST(2/12/2013) | Last Updated: 22:14 IST(2/12/2013)

Not recovered yet from losing one road-safety project to Rajasthan, Punjab has lost another to Vizag in Andhra Pradesh.

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After the "cashless treatment for accident victims" project moved to Rajasthan, World Health Organisation (WHO) now has pulled out the RS-10 (road safety in 10 countries) project from Jalandhar.

Call it bad luck or bad joke, a crippling blow has come to the state that loses 5,000 people every year in road accidents that maim thousands more.

For long, road-safety campaigners have blamed traffic mismanagement and the lack of law enforcement for Punjab's 76% fatality rate, second only to Nagaland.

Disappointed over the loss to Vizag, Punjab Road Safety Council vice-chairman Dr Kamaljeet Soi said he would do his best to bring back the two projects. "I am shocked, as Dr Swerkar, WHO representative to India and Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) adviser to South East Asia, told me at a conference in Bangkok that the WHO wanted to rather expand the project to Ludhiana and Bathinda," said Dr Soi.

After meeting the transport minister, health minister and other government functionaries in Chandigarh in March 2012, Dr Swerker visited Ludhiana to work out the modalities of launching the RS-10 project. Dr Soi said he was contacting the WHO to know what had caused it to change its mind.

He will also discuss road-safety action with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and begin a signature campaign to influence the WHO to reconsider its decision.

Punjab road scene

4,800 lives lost every year in road accidents
76% fatality rate, country's second highest
Amritsar and Ludhiana districts with maximum accident severity rate
60% victims in 19-29 age group

Belgium steps forward to help

Belgium has promised to help Punjab reduce its road-accident casualties. On November 24, Punjab Road Safety Council vice-chairman Dr Kamaljeet Soi met Belgium's princess Astrid; deputy prime minister Didier Reynders; ministers; and royal ambassador at a diplomatic reception hosted by the princess in New Delhi, and she invited Dr Soi to Belgium to work out an action plan.

The project

RS-10 (road safety in 10 countries)
After studies blamed drunken driving and speeding for most accidents in Jalandhar, the state health department was made the nodal agency to receive `20 crore from World Health Organisation (WHO) for breath analysers, speed guns, and education campaigns.

Global Road Safety Partnership, which has companies such as Bloomberg and Embarq, besides World Bank and WHO as partners, was the funding agency. The WHO wanted one nodal agency for proper implementation.

Why it was lost

"The state health department failed in proper follow-up action, and the project went to another state," said Punjab Road Safety Council vice-chairman Dr Kamaljeet Soi.

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