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Making Goa’s Roads Safe

Travelling on the state roads is turning into a nightmare, what with accidents claiming one life every 30 hours. Road accidents have claimed over 260 lives this year by November in 248 fatal accidents as compared to 242 lives in 239 accidents last year. The main reasons for accidents are narrow roads, sharp curves, no grade separations or road dividers, overspeeding, stray animals on the roads, absence of signs and traffic signals and two-wheeler riders without helmets. There is no government focus or urgency seen in making infrastructural improvements to reduce accidents. Nor is enforcement of the existing laws done with any regularity or deterrence.
A fresh audit of state roads to identify accident prone zones has been announced but not started yet. The Public Works Department, police and road transport departments had earlier identified accident prone places but they have failed to implement corrective measures. There are tracks where wide roads end abruptly and narrow stretches begin which lead to traffic congestion as also accidents. The road between Porvorim and Panaji has claimed scores of lives in accidents, but neither a speed breaker nor any other measure has been put in place. Though some roads were widened the absence of grade separators together with impatience of drivers wanting to reach their destination in shortest possible time need to be addressed.
Every time a major tragedy takes place the authorities pledge to put an end to the miseries on the Goan roads and action appears to be “visible” on the roads with traffic police and transport officials doing their duty. Such action is short lived. The presence of the law enforcement authority should be there every day in order to put fear in the minds of the drivers. Owing to no traffic policemen or transport officials being there to catch them, the violators every day have a field day. The reason usually given by the police authorities for poor traffic management is manpower shortage. They also cite lack of gadgets like speed guns and other equipment. The traffic officials also do not take the risk of chasing law breakers fearing that it could lead to accident and they be blamed for the same.
The government has already acquired land for widening of the National Highways and there appears to be no possibility of any opposition from the people for the widening as it would be in their interest. Delay in starting and completion of work could lead to illegal occupation of the land and the resultant litigation could come in way of improving traffic safety and smooth flow of vehicular movement and prevention of accidents. Alarmed by the rising number of accidents due to “faulty” road engineering and subsequent deaths the government has decided to give training to PWD engineers in preparing “foolproof” road plans and better infrastructure development. But the state cannot afford to wait for the training to be completed. The state could engage the services of professionals in the field to draw up plans and execute them while its officials are trained.
While the widening of the National Highways has been facilitated by land acquisition, the state government has a task at hand while dealing with the widening of state highways and main district roads along with hundreds of houses touching the roads. The land acquisition for widening of SHs and MDRs could face resistance from people likely to be affected by the land acquisition and the state government has to draw a plan to ensure that the process does not get delayed due to litigation and alternative housing or rehabilitation plans should be drawn first and timely completion of the projects should be given top priority in achieving the goals. Besides, installation of CCTV cameras (which could serve as deterrent), traffic signals at major junctions and deployment of traffic officials should also be ensured so as to curb traffic violations as also to prevent accidents and resultant deaths.
The authorities should not only limit themselves to making promises but also show that they have the will to curtail the growing number of mishaps by taking corrective measures to ensure smoother traffic movement by widening road and providing safety measures as also by taking all precautions to prevent accidents and ensure people’s safety. Adequate funds should be allocated on priority to ensure that good infrastructure, with road widening and other works are put in place as early as possible to prevent accidents and deaths. Besides, it would be necessary to strictly implement laws, especially against those involved in overspeeding and rash and negligent driving, as also against the owners of stray animals to ensure that Goan roads are safer to drive along.

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