The recent tragic death of Sahib Singh Verma brings one very important question which has been ignored so far.
Former Delhi chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vice president Sahib Singh Verma, 63, was killed in an accident on the Delhi-Jaipur highway in Rajasthan.
Verma’s driver and security guard were also killed in the mishap when his Tata Safari car, carrying three more people, collided with a speeding truck on the stretch of the highway touching Shahjahanpur, close to Alwar. He was returning to Delhi from Sikar in Rajasthan.
“The incident occurred at around 2.20 pm, when a truck coming from the opposite side jumped the divider and had a head-on collision with Verma’s car. Three people have died in the accident,” Deputy Superintendent of Police (Alwar) Rajesh Gupta said.
How safe are the National Highways in India?
Even the External Affairs minister wasn’t spared.
The accident occurred Saturday night in Nadia district when a stone chip-laden lorry swerved out of control after a tyre puncture and overturned on the bulletproof car in which Mukherjee was travelling with party leaders.
The accident also hurt Congress leader Manas Bhunya who was with Mukherjee.
The incident has embarrassed the Communist government in West Bengal since the provision of Z-category security for VIPs must guard against such road mishaps. All vehicular movement on the road is generally brought under control 15 to 20 minutes before the VIP passes through a particular stretch, said senior police officials.
If our roads are not safe for people with Z-category security then forget about it being safe for common citizens. Being a frequent traveller on roads, I have seen badly damaged trucks/busses/cars lying on the side of highways. Such scenes are not rare on any national highway. The major cause of accidents are-
1. Drunk drivers- Bars are in myriad through out the stretch of National Highways, especially highways that pass through Delhi. The easy availability of alcohol entices the drivers to enjoy drunk driving. Sadly the government has not attempted in bringing this under control.
2. Common lane- Majority of highways in India don’t have a clear demarcation between traffic from both sides. Busses and trucks occupy 3/4th of the road and thus pushing the smaller vehicles to a small part of road. Often accidents are head-on collisions caused because of smaller roads. The government has, in partnership with private players, taken lot of steps. The 6 lane expressway between Mumbai and Pune is an example. This expressway is one of the best highways in India in terms of facilities. The cost involved is so huge that not many private players have the required resources. Plus the toll tax takes a while to recover the initial investment.
3. Villages/Settlements on the side of NHs- Sahib Singh Verma’s car collided with the truck because the truck driver tried to avoid hitting a cycle driver. Often villagers use the NHs for their commutation. They even take flocks of animals on the road, often causing traffic jams. Another major reason of accidents is their presence on the road.
4. Carelessness on the part of private operators- My bus once collided with a stationaryÃ‚Â truck in the night because the bus was moving without the headlights on! Bihar/Bengal/UP are worse when it comes to private buses. People are jam packed in it and every method to save fuel is deployed, many resulting in fatal accidents.
5. Unfenced roads in mountainous terrains- Roads that are built by carving mountains are often left unprotected thus exposing the vehicles to the risk of falling down the hills.
The maintenance of National Highways is an absolute must for India. The infrastructure has to be first developed and then maintained or else such incidents will keep happening.
The above incidents are shocking because no bullet proof car can sustain collision from a huge truck. The Indian security agencies often leave me bewildered at their ineptness in controlling such incidents. Its only after their vulnerability is exposed, they get into action. The death of Sahib Singh Verma is indeed tragic. I hope the government takes action to prevent such incidents in future by upgrading the existing infrastructure like a lane demarcator, building an alternative kachcha road for cycles, bullock carts and other non-powered vehicles. C’mon every road cannot be an Mumbai-Pune expressway!
For air flyers who want to taste ride on Indian roads, try Air Deccan.