Why is travelling via road unsafe in Uttarakhand?
Recently 45 people died recently in Uttarakhand. It was once again a road accident on the 128-kilometre Vikasnagar-Tyuni stretch in the Jaunsar Bawar area close to the Himachal Pradesh border. The overloaded, ill-fated bus that was ferrying passengers fell off the potholed road and hurtled down 300 metres inside the Tons River. Only the conductor and a lone passenger survived. Ironically, there had been four accidents within a ten-metre area of the same accident spot during the past few months.
The above paragraph gets repeated and reported regularly in the hill state of Uttarakhand. The only change, almost always, is in the number of the dead, the date and area where the accident takes place. Otherwise, it is often the same script that gets reiterated with sickening frequency. Overloading, bad roads, lack of crash barriers, limited monitoring, apathetic transport administration, petty-minded political self interests and missing post accident care along with non-functional trauma centres are the key ingredients which result in the frequent road accidents and casualties in the state. Human greed, drunk driving, high speed and lack of sleep aggravate the situation further.
A cursory glance at the road-accident data in the state reveals that the number of the dead and injured is increasing steadily. On an average three people are losing their lives due to road accidents on a daily basis. The last three months have been worse with an increase in the accident numbers. This is a worrying sign. Uttarakhand is also home to the annual Char Dham Yatra that is about to start soon. It has become a routine affair to see the same mismanagement year after year on the Yatra route with no signs of tell tale improvements. This clearly does not augur well for safe travel in the state.
People will continue to die recklessly in road accidents on the roads and in the hills of Uttarakhand till the time a combination of timely actions are not implemented. Clearly safer roads, sign boards, parapet railings, rumble strips, safe buses, stricter regulation, heightened awareness and a plethora of other big and small actions will have to be taken and that too with urgency and sincerity. Additional government buses are needed immediately. For instance, there are only seventeen buses taking care of one-lakh passengers on the Dehradun to Chakrata and Tyuni sector. Since buses are lacking passengers are forced to take overloaded utility jeeps or small vehicles that flout road safety rules and operate only for profit.
The ones in responsibility as well as the ones who drive need to pause, mourn, reflect and finally act. If not, we will continue to hear the flowing tears and wails of the dying and injured due to senseless road accidents from the hills of our beautiful but unsafe state. We can only hope against hope that this horrific accident will finally jolt the new government in Uttarakhand to take firm, timely and much needed road safety actions.