There were over 17,000 road accidents in Goa killing over 1,200 persons and injuring a few thousand others in the past four years, but the transport department has not cancelled the licence of a single one of the drivers who by their intemperate driving caused so many deaths and injuries. Does not that tell us that your life on the road is at greater risk, with the drivers who killed 1,200 persons and wounded thousands of others by caring a hoot for speed and overtaking limits still driving their vehicles along the Goan roads – insanely, because they have not been stripped of their licences?
During the period merely 117 licences were suspended, that too temporarily. The reason is simple: the penal system is dysfunctional. The transport and police departments are caught up in a bureaucratic tangle on how to make the penal system work. The process is as follows: Under the Motor Vehicle Act, the driving licence of a person driving dangerously causing the death of or grievous hurt to one or more persons can be suspended for six months. The police, after registering the case of an accident, send a letter to the transport department proposing suspension of the driving licence of the person whose dangerous driving caused the death or grievous hurt. The transport department follows the rules of natural justice and sends a notice to the offender asking him why his licence should not be suspended. In most cases, the offender does not appear before the transport court. Nor does the offender inform the transport court that the case can be decided ex-parte. The transport department is therefore unable to give a verdict purely on police recommendation as they say it would be a one-sided order.
It is disturbing to note that if the road offender’s licence is not suspended even once, the cancellation of his licence is not possible as that is done only for repeated violations. No wonder driving on Goa roads is turning into a nightmare. The weekly or fortnightly road safety campaigns run by transport and police departments have served little purpose, as the rising number of road accidents shows. Spurts and bursts of action on the Goan roads by transport and police officials are in any case spurts and bursts: they do not last. The drivers return to their old ways. There is no fear of law enforcement authority injected in the minds of drivers. As it is, the police department cries about manpower shortage whenever they are asked about the absence of traffic management and hence absence of traffic discipline on the roads of Goa. The reality is the police department has never applied its mind to use its existing manpower efficiently and effectively. A few people can do wonders, provided they are properly trained and strategically deployed. As of now, the training of policemen in traffic management is extremely poor and the deployment is erratic and irregular. Today you would find a traffic cop at a busy junction; tomorrow you might not find another there.
The police department also says they do not have interceptors and speed guns to catch over-speeding vehicles. They must be provided these equipment in sufficient number. There is also need to provide finance for police to install and manage traffic signals, which can bring discipline on the roads and reduce the number of accidents. Many roads are narrow and curve sharply. Roads must be widened in general and particularly in the accident prone zones. The Public Works Department, police and transport departments have identified accident prone zones but left it at that and not taken measures to reduce incidents of accidents in those spots. The state government has announced a fresh audit of state roads to identify accident prone zones but the work has not yet started. Land acquisition for building or widening of roads has been a major problem in the state. As far as the National Highways are concerned land acquisition issues have been resolved. However, when it comes to two laning or four laning of state highways and district roads land acquisition attracts resistance owing to the existence of old houses on both sides of the road. For making bypasses too land acquisition has not been easy.
However, resolving such issues is why we have a state government. Public representatives from panchayat to Assembly level should be roped in to convince the people of the necessity of widening of roads as ultimately they are going to be beneficiaries too. Adequate compensation must be paid to the land acquired from the local people. There are other measures that are needed: Road dividers and speed-breakers need to be put up in order to reduce the number of accidents. CCTV cameras should be installed at busy junctions to catch violators.