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A Dedicated Body For Road Safety And Traffic Management: The Need of the Hour

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By Waled Aadnan:

For the Government of India which is on the fast track towards expansion of infrastructure facilities in the country, it is time that priority is accorded to road safety along with road network expansion. This urgent need comes in the wake of India being the country with the largest number of road deaths. This dubious distinction was revealed by the World Health Organization in 2009 when it released its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety. In three years it may have been expected that a more comprehensive policy on road safety involving scientific approaches to traffic engineering would have been adopted by relevant authorities. However, the efforts in this regard remain far from being adequate.

The latest year for which the relevant data on road accidents is available is 2009. The annual publication “Road Accidents in India” for the year 2009 was released in April 2011 by the Transport Research Wing (TRW) of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India. The picture it paints is a grim one. In 2009, there were 4.86 lakh road accidents in India based on the records of respective State Police Departments. These accidents led to 1.25 lakh deaths and injuries to 5.15 lakh people. It translates to a road accident every minute and a death due to a road accident every four minutes somewhere in the country. The biggest victims of such accidents are occupants of trucks and lorries followed by occupants of two-wheelers.

The figures stated above are even higher than that of China’s which has a larger population than India does. Indeed, road accidents have reached an epidemic state in India. And apart from the loss of life and limb, road accidents involve a very high economic cost, especially to a developing country. The Working Group set up by Planning Commission in the year 2000 chaired by Shri Prakash Narain estimated the cost of road accidents to be Rs. 55,000 crores (at 2000 prices), nearly 3% of GDP.

A look into the causes of road accidents would provide us with a better understanding of what needs to be done to improve the road safety scenario in the country. It is estimated that nearly four-fifths of all road accidents occur due to the fault of the driver, while in only 2.2% and 1.3% of the cases is the fault due to the pedestrian and defects in road conditions respectively. The government’s response to the problem has been mostly monetary, with not much strategic improvements made in incorporating scientific traffic engineering as a compulsory ingredient during road design and planning. For the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) an amount of Rs. 448 crore has been proposed for road safety activities. The allocation towards road safety activities increased dramatically from Rs. 79 crores in 2009-10 to Rs. 180 crores in 2010-11. But the point to be noted is that actual expenditure lags far behind allocation at Rs. 22 crores and Rs. 58 crores for the respective years. Thus, it can be seen that while the monetary fillip is present, the authorities lack an integrated approach towards utilising it efficiently.

An important aspect of road safety that needs urgent introduction in the country is lane driving rules. A large section of National Highways have either been upgraded to four or six lanes or are in the process of such an upgrade. As such, drivers need to be educated, either through direct training or conspicuous signs on roadsides regarding the rules to be followed while deciding which lane to drive in. The following guidelines, if adhered to, would go a long way in reducing the incidence of road accidents in India:

When on a four-lane highway, the driver should always stay on the leftmost lane and use the right lane to only overtake the vehicle in front. The driving behaviour changes in case you are on a six-lane Highway. The speed of vehicles increases as one moves from the leftmost lane to the rightmost lane. Any lane switching in a four-lane or a six-lane highway must begin with the relevant indicator light to change lanes. It is generally believed that once one’s indicator is on, the driver in front would change his/her lane within the next 5- 10 seconds. Hence it is all the more important to respect the driver in front of you if he/she turns on the indicator to change the lane. Most accidents on the 6 lane highways occur either because of incorrect switching of lanes or because of slow vehicles travelling on the wrong lane (rightmost lane).

Keeping these general guidelines in mind, the government’s responsibility in the near future would be to create a dedicated body on Road Safety and Traffic Management, strengthen the system of driver licensing, ensure safety of vulnerable road users, enforce appropriate legislations as well as provide for greater availability of emergency medical attention within the golden hour.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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