By John Gaingamlung Gangmei
The day when Manipur woke up to witness triple tragic road accidents of two National Highways i.e. NH 2 & NH 39 which has claimed more than 22 (twenty-two) lives and many critically injured. The Governor, Chief Minister and peoples have condoled the death of peoples. The government has also announced an ex-gratia of rupees 2 lakhs, 50,000 and 30,000 for the deceased victim family, serious and minor injuries victims respectively. Nevertheless, we are left with the questions, what could be the cause of these road traffic accidents? Whom to be blamed? We shall retrospect these questions later in this article. The lifelines of the State have been death-lines due to State apathy toward the road safety of National Highways. The previous government (people representative) has failed us to provide good road infrastructure despite being in power for three terms. Our elected representatives fly in and out from Tulihal International Airport for their official and personal tour. Therefore, there is no question of understanding the hardship faced by daily commuters choosing to use our highways. We all are aware that no amount of ex-gratia, compensation and insurance are capable of replacing the loss of precious human life and disability caused by the road accidents.
The UN and Road Safety describes that Road traffic injuries remain a major public health problem and a leading cause of death, injury and disability around the world. Each year, nearly 1.3 million people die and between 20 million and 50 million more are injured as a result of road crashes. More than 90 per cent of these deaths occurs in low-income and middle-income countries, which have less than half of the world’s vehicles. Road traffic injuries are among the three leading causes of death for people between 5 and 44 years of age. It has been estimated that global losses due to road traffic injuries total $518 billion and cost Governments between 1 and 3 per cent of their GNP (Gross National Product). It also places a heavy burden on a nation’s economy as a result of their direct impact on health-care and rehabilitation services, as well as through indirect costs. Apart from losing the victims earning, they can put considerable financial stress on victim families, medical and rehabilitation costs and funeral cost, in addition to extensive emotional strain.
India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration and is committed to reducing the number of road fatality by 50 per cent by 2020. However, there are challenges ahead to achieve such goal. In 2014 and 2015 India has witnessed 1,38,000 and 1,46,000 road accident death, many were left seriously injured and the rate of disabled are even higher in the range of 25 to 26 lakhs. In case of Manipur according to the Department of Transport, from 2011 to 2015 the State has witnessed 3472 accidents, 794 deaths, 2121 fatal injuries and 4175 minor injuries. Whereas, in 2016 by 30th June, there was 295 accidents, 47 deaths, 107 grievous injuries, 407 minor injuries. Out of 295 accidents, 183 was on NHs, 60 on SHs and 52 on other roads. It implies that 62 per cent of the accidents is prevalent on National Highways of Manipur. This also indicates that there are incidents of two accidents in a day and one person killed in every two days. The Department also claimed that in the last 5 years, number of fatal accidents as well as fatal injuries in decreasing with radical increase in minor injuries. According to MoRT&H (Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) vulnerable road user, as well as unsafe road infrastructure and vehicles that are in poor condition all, contribute to high fatality rates seen on India’s road. Therefore, The State and concern authority for road safety is accountable for fatality.
The international organisations were appraised by the need of the hour on the Road Safety. According to UN road safety is one of the economic and human development indicators. With this perspective, UN Road Safety Collaboration has developed a Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. This framework provides major five “pillars” of activities such as (a) building road safety management capacity, (b) improving the safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks, (c) further developing the safety of vehicles, (d) enhancing the behaviour of road users, (e) and improving post-crash response. The above indicators have been developed to measure progress in each of these areas. To achieve the above goals various Governments, international agencies, civil society organisations, the private sector and other stakeholders are invited to make use of the Plan as a guiding document for the events and activities they will support as part of the Decade. Based on the MoRT&H guidelines, there are major road safety signs that comprise of (a) Informatory Road Signs, (b) Cautionary Road Signs and (b) Mandatory Road Signs. In the case of Manipur roads and highways, such signs are hardly seen or missing. This signs could have averted or mitigated some of the road accidents.
When the State failed the denizen, what could be the alternatives measures can they expect? We have some instances in Manipur, denizen took up various initiatives and strategy to advocate for the constructions and maintenance of roads. To mention one of them out of many organisations, recently SET (Society for Enhancing Tamenglong) are resorting to public funding for repairing and maintaining of Tamenglong headquarter road, such innovation and activities indicate the lackadaisical attitudes of the concern State authority. Nevertheless, the Government of Manipur has taken initiative to monitor Road Safety by forming State Level Road Safety, District Level Road Safety Committee under the chairmanship of Transport Minister and the District Magistrate from 2006. The core responsibility is to conduct field visit for identification, rectification and maintenance of the road. However, the committees also need to retrospect their performance from time to time. The current Manipur Government under the leadership of CM N Biren seems to be serious about the infrastructure of the road and highways. Therefore, it’s essential for the State to work with various stakeholders in ensuring to implement the best practice of the road safety, improve road condition and enhance mobility. Nevertheless, keeping in mind on the accountability of quality and quantity of road infrastructures as well as including public transports. “The Decade of Action for Road Safety can help all countries drive along the path to a more secure future… Today, partners around the world are releasing national or citywide plans for the Decade, hosting policy discussions and enabling people affected by road crashes to share their stories widely. Now we need to move this campaign into high gear and steer our world to safer roads ahead. Together, we can save millions of lives.” as Ban Ki Moon then the UN Secretary General said on the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
This article has been submitted by John Gaingamlung Gangmei (MSW, M.Phil-SRF, TISS- Mumbai), Assistant Professor cum NSS PO, Department of Social Work, Rajiv Gandhi University (A Central University), Arunachal Pradesh.