Union road transport and highways minister Oscar Fernandes on Sunday said the Centre would soon launch a cashless treatment scheme for road crash victims in Punjab as well.
Fernandes was commenting on the Punjab government’s allegation that the Centre discriminated against the state by shifting the pilot project of the scheme to Rajasthan. He was in the city to attend the coronation ceremony of newly-appointed Bishop of Diocese of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal.
“It was just a pilot project. Shifting it from Punjab to Rajasthan doesn’t mean the state is being discriminated against. We will soon launch such a treatment scheme in Punjab as well. The pilot project is aimed at saving precious lives and such a scheme can be started from anywhere,” Fernandes told Hindustan Times.
The scheme provides for cashless treatment for the first 48 hours after the road crash at Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) rates, subject to overall monetary ceiling of Rs 30,000. Currently, there is no legal provision to meet the expenses of treatment of such victims. Such timely treatment would check the fatality rate.
On being reminded that the road crash fatality rate is 75.8%, the highest in India after Nagaland, which is a tiny state, the minister said the Centre was considerate towards the demand, while road safety and post-road crash care were the ministry’s utmost priorities. Interestingly, the fatality rate for Rajasthan is 41.5%, as per the National Crime Record Bureau’s 2012 report.
The pilot project was planned for Punjab for the Amritsar-Pathankot highway (NH-15) in the backdrop of 4,795 deaths in 6,328 road crashes last year. The Centre’s U-turn came a year after the project’s pre-launch meeting held in Amritsar on August 24, 2012.
On whether the Punjab government had approached the ministry on this issue, Fernandes said no formal communication, particularly for this pilot project, had been received so far. “Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal had sought an appointment with me after I assumed the ministry’s charge, but he could not call on that day owing to his engagements. We will discuss state issues whenever Sukhbir will meet me next time,” he said.
Amardeep Singh Cheema, vice-chairman of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, who designed this cashless treatment project for people injured on the Amritsar-Pathankot stretch, earlier had taken up the issue with Fernandes. “The minister assured me the project would be implemented on this stretch as one of the five pilot programmes countrywide to be implemented through Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan,” said Cheema.
“I had mapped more than 45,000 kilometres of the 75,000-km national highway length for this purpose and identified youth volunteers who live within 500 metres on either side of the highway and will execute the scheme,” said Cheema, adding: “Fernandes’ announcing to launch the treatment scheme on the Amritsar-Pathankot stretch is a welcome step.”