Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has committed himself to reduce fatality in road accidents substantially within a short time. However, the government machinery is refusing to match his urgency. The Supreme Court directed every state to set up a lead agency for implementing all road safety measures by December 31, 2016, but till now the transport department, the nodal department, has not been able to set it up as two departments – health and education – have not named their representatives for the six-department agency. The formation of the agency does not require a lot of planning and strategizing. It is a pity the authorities of health and education departments could not forward names of senior officials to the transport department for their inclusion in the list of the members of the agency. It is even more bizarre that they have not been able to do so four months after the deadline ended, forcing the nodal department to send off a strongly worded communication to them as they have to report to the Supreme Court on the formation of lead agency.
It is obvious that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has to move indifferent mountains of government departments to make them work with urgency and dedication on the mission of reducing road fatality. He must take along the ministers concerned and the top officials of the departments as fast as he wants to go himself. It is sad in itself that a government acts according to the Supreme Court direction. In this case, the two departments are not even bothered despite the Supreme Court directions. The directions were issued to ensure proper coordination among the departments concerned for the implementation of road safety policy. While the transport, police, public works and excise departments have complied with the requirements, the health and the education departments have failed to do so. Such indifference to the concern for the lives of people dying in accidents is inexcusable. Everybody in the government should work to save lives on roads.
The agency once set up would be empowered to take suitable measures to eliminate chances of mishaps in accident-prone zones and attend to complaints regarding road conditions. The main function of the stakeholding departments in the lead agency is to strategise on reducing road accidents in the state. Such a panel was necessary in wake of the rising number of road accidents and deaths. Though electronic gadgets could help in taking action against those violating traffic rules, the lead agency could help in ensuring speedy corrections on the roads, like accident-prone areas. The role of the health department is vital as it has to monitor golden hours so that those with severe injuries are attended to within the first hour of occurrence of accident. The education department has a crucial role to play to improve upon road safety education by conducting road safety programmes frequently in schools and colleges. It is never too late to make a beginning and the Chief Minister should ask the two departments to be part of the agency without further delay. The delay in sending the names of the representatives to the transport department for formation of the agency by the health and education departments appears to be an act of negligence which should be severely dealt with.
While the state government has proclaimed its promise of preventing accidents by taking various measures including improvement of roads and equipping the law enforcing officials with adequate number of high-end gadgets to track down law breakers and punish them, the lead agency could help the government by acting upon all road safety measures as listed in the National Road Safety Policy. The traffic laws should be vigorously implemented till the time people become self-disciplined and adhere to the laws. Educating the young through school and college curricula would go a long way in spreading the message of traffic discipline and the education officials have a major role to play in this mission. There is a craze among many parents in the state to train their children as young as 10 years in riding two wheelers or driving four wheelers. Teaching traffic rules and laws could help send a message to the parents to desist from breaking the law and contributing indirectly to the risks of accidents and casualties. A lead agency would go a long way in implementing the road safety policy. However, there is need to implement the traffic rules and laws continuously to prevent accidents and save human lives. All the concerned government agencies, civil society groups devoted to prevention of accidents and the citizens themselves should join hands in this mission.