HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Punjab's killer roads: Leaders’ route leading killer

Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times  Patiala/Bathinda, November 02, 2013
First Published: 12:52 IST(2/11/2013) | Last Updated: 13:10 IST(2/11/2013)

On road to the ruling family’s heartland through the city of the previous chief minister, many journeys end before the destination.  

National highway-64, which connects Badals’ Bathinda with Captain Amarinder Singh’s Patiala, lords over all roads in the state in claiming lives in accidents. The toll this year is nearly 500, so far. That’s almost two deaths a day, besides more than 1,000 people injured.

The narrow, single- lane route from Chandigarh to Bathinda has nearly 90 dangerous stretches. As the journey begins from Bathinda, traffic keeps adding from Rampura Phul, Barnala, Sang rur, Patiala, and Rajpura until you are in the state capital. Minimum until Barnala, the accident rate builds up in Sangrur, and in Patiala, the road turns bloodthirsty.

Malwa region’s change of fortune because of windfall in real estate also took its number of vehicles to three times in five years, so the road that was deserted not long ago is choked with the SUVs and other four-wheelers suddenly. Its most dangerous hours for driving are 7 to 10 in the morning and 4 to 7 in the evening.

“In 30 years of my driving on this road, I am most scared now. I have seen more accidents in the past three years than I have in my entire life,” said Rajwinder Singh, taxi driver from Barnala. “Private luxury buses have raced ahead of others in rash driving. At Badaruka, Hari Garh, Danula, Rampura Phull, Rajpura, every day you hear about an accident,” he added.

For the traffic pressure on this road, Sangrur’s senior superintendent of police Mandeep Singh Sidhu blames the lack of rail connectivity between Bathinda and Chandigarh. “The only solution is converting the road into four lanes, which is in progress,” he said.

 At 34 dangerous points in Sangrur district, there was no warning sign, traffic lights, or an indication of speed limit. In 2011, 334 road accidents were reported in this police jurisdiction. At 10 points in Patiala district and five in Barnala, the situation is similar.

Drive even more carefully when you hit Patiala, most dangerous stretch on NH-64, where the death figure this year is 400 already against 307 last year.

“It’s terrible to drive from Mohali to Patiala. You can’t overtake because of traffic,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, who lost his cousin brother recently in a road accident on this route. “Tractor trailers from illegal sand mines join into this rush and cause mayhem,” he added.

Floated twice, the tender for the four-laning of this national highway has never been awarded. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is about to float it again.

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