H. Kishie Singh
One woman, two kids dead as Pakistan pounds villages along LOC,” a headline read. Right next to this, another went: “10 killed, 30 eight injured in three road mishaps!” Our roads are where the wanton killing is taking place, not on the Border. The enemy is within!
A 93-km stretch on NH-95 has claimed 1,700 lives in six years. The construction company and NHAI signed the agreement in 2011. Work begun in 2012 and was scheduled to be completed by 2014. Today, eight years later, as 2019 draws to a close, the road is incomplete! No responsibility, no accountability. People see through incompetence and apathy. A Ludhiana resident has filed a case against the contractor for endangering his life due to the poor quality of construction.
A major culprit behind road accidents is potholes. They’ve become such a menace that the Supreme Court has referred to it as the ‘pothole peril’ and has appointed a Committee to look into the issue.
In 2018, there were 15,000 deaths in the country due to potholes; of them, 686 in Bangaluru alone. This is more than cross-border terrorism related deaths. Almost 2 lakh people are killed on our roads each year. This is more than the faujis killed in all the wars since 1947! So, the enemy is within. But who do we hold responsible for this? Obviously the contractors.
First reason is substandard material used. At the first monsoon downpour, cracks appear, then chunks of asphalt crumble and pop out, leaving a potholed road for you to battle with! Two wheelers and scooters, which have small wheels, are easy victims.
Normally, a properly built road should last a minimum of five years. However, two-three years is a more realistic figure. Reason: no quality control on the material being used and using whatever shortcuts can be taken to save the cost of construction. This means re-carpeting every two-three years and incurring expenses all over again. Also earning the ill-will of the public, inconvenience to the motoring fraternity. Not to mention the lives lost! There is another hidden cost. Bad roads damage vehicles, accumulating unnecessary costs on repairs. The money the government spends on repairing public transport could translate into profit.
Once on a visit to the Rolls Royce Factory in the UK, I saw a signboard: “If you have time to do a job second time, you had time to do it properly the first time!” The senior engineer explained, “We build our cars to such perfection that they never have to come back for repairs!”
Now, the other factors contributing to road fatalities: Badly designed roads! Get an expert. Bad driving habits. Strict enforcement of rules. Over-speeding. Poor signage. No footpaths, not enough zebra crossings. Apathetic attitude of the authorities. Talking! Indians are an extremely loquacious people. Nothing distracts a driver like useless chit-chat. Avoid it.
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