One Year After Munde’s Death, Has India Learned Its Road Safety Lesson?

Posted on June 3, 2015 in Society

By Shambhavi Saxena

In India there seems to be an unspoken agreement that pedestrians have no right of way, while roads are dominated by the whims and fancies of metal-and-rubber tyrants. Road safety, that is to say being safe while on the roads, is as rare as a four leafed clover in a country where basic traffic rules are flouted with impunity, despite the occasional swell of traffic police cutting chalan – over-enthusiastic, short lived, and ultimately ineffective. Forgetting to look both ways, in front, behind and then again both ways on even one-way streets may well be a matter of life and death at any given moment.

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People break traffic rules without regard for others, because it’s “quick”, “convenient”, and “who’s gonna stop us?” Today, any monkey with an extra buck can get a driver’s license, 30% of the motorists carry bogus licenses, and the deaths of Dr Pankaj Sharma and daughter Nilisha in Gurgaon, which sparked national outrage, are neither the first or last of these tragic incidents. This needs to end.

On 3rd June – the anniversary of politician Gopinath Munde’s death – a coalition of NGOs, including Arundhathi Foundation from Bangalore, the Indian Head Injury Foundation from Delhi, and V Citizens Action Network from Mumbai, has launched an online campaign urging the government to strengthen its road safety Bill. Marking the launch, SaveLIFE founder Piyush Tewari has this to add, “We urge the Honourable Prime Minister to ensure that there is no compromise in the Bill. Enough lives have been lost and the safety of road users must be kept paramount. This is the only way to honour the deaths of [him] and lakhs of common people who have lost their lives to this preventable epidemic.

If numbers are to be believed, shockingly, “15 lakh people have been killed in road accidents in India since […] 2001.” And that the Motor Vehicles Act (pending since the same year) and the Road Transport and Safety Bill of 2014 ought to be enforced before another 15 lakh lives are sacrificed. Earlier Nitin Gadkari had announced that a new road safety law would come into place in July 2014, but the government has dragged its feet on the issue, resorting to non-committal statements like “No definite time frame can be given” (Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, P Radhakrishnan).

Most of us know of someone or the other who lost their life due to a road accident and still the country has no strong road safety laws to prevent this from happening regularly. Aiming to change this, the campaign will gather public support for the road safety bill by urging citizens to forward a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling on him to ensure the new bill is passed. For the time has indeed come for action.

Appeal to the PM for a strong road safety law. Log on to roadsafetyatrisk.in now!

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