Overloading, bad roads snuffing out lives in J&K
Overloading, absence of crash barriers, bad roads and inadequate buses are the prime reasons for frequent road accidents in the hilly Doda region of Jammu and Kashmir.
While 10,000 people died in over 55,000 road accidents in the past decade in the state, successive governments did just a cosmetic exercise in the name of road safety. On July 1, at least 35 people were killed and 17 injured when a minibus plunged into a deep gorge at Keshwan in Kishtwar district of the state. Against the seating capacity of 28, the bus was carrying 52 passengers.
“One does not need any scientific study to go into the root cause of frequent road mishaps in the Doda region that comprises Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda districts. We are in a geographically disadvantaged area and the government apathy makes it worse. The roads here are illmaintained and dangerous and sans crash barriers,” said Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) MLC Firdous Tak.
“Inadequate bus service leads to overcrowding, which is one of the main reasons for fatal mishaps. Only eight J&K State Road Transport Corporation buses ply in entire Doda region and the number of private buses are also few. This leaves no option for commuters but to travel in overloaded buses on killer roads,” said Tak. Though crash barriers were installed along some dangerous stretches, but they were stolen by scrap dealers and police didn’t take any action, he added.
Arshad Ahmed, a Kishtwar resident, said: “The bus service is erratic and most of the vehicles plying in the area are not in a good condition. Roads are bad and drives of private buses are untrained. There is no check on overloading too.”
“Our road safety policy talks about multi-pronged strategy such as upgrading of roads, installing signboards, crash barriers, implementation of traffic regulations and increasing number of buses in hilly terrains to check road accidents, but there is nothing on the ground,” said a home department official.
Amit Sharma, special secretary, transport, who has an additional charge of the J&K Road Safety Council, blamed overloading, bad roads and old vehicles for frequent road accidents.
“The government is planning to introduce more buses in the hilly and remote areas to check overloading,” said Sharma.
The government will add 32 new buses to the state road transport corporation for the Doda region. “Coordination is needed among district administrations, traffic police and transport department to keep a tab on vehicles plying in the hilly areas,” he said.