POTHOLES: EATING HUMAN LIVES

This article is about the pothole deaths that occur in India and portray the accidents which are killing more people in India than terrorism or natural disasters. Risk factors can be grouped as human and environmental causes. Better road safety plans for execution since morbidity mortality disability and economic impact of road traffic accidents high due to poor engineered roads. Analyzed the available data on RTA and find out the epidemiological factors, morbidity and mortality pattern from 2013-2018 and to assess the possibility of achievement of Brasilia declaration in India by 2020. Materials and methods are laid down as a retrospective study was done from the time period 2013 to 2018. Among the 50 studies, 23 articles were included for this study after meeting these inclusion criteria.

With the data that has been compiled from the year 2013-18, distribution of road accident with respect to epidemiological factors in India has been charted out, and analysis has been if we can achieve the goal of Brasilia Declaration, discussed below.

The paper urges the need to mark the indication that the authorities concerned are not maintaining the roads properly as it is unacceptable that such a large number of deaths take place on roads due to potholes. It is almost 15,000 deaths in five years, probably more that those killed on border or by terrorists, and these are now just the government figures.

Introduction

In India, on an average, 7 people die every day due to accidents related to potholes. Due to poor drainage system around roads, and use of poor quality materials for road constructions, introduction of potholes in Indian roads is very common. This structural failure is generated due to presence of water below the supporting structure of the road and then exacerbated by heavy traffic near the weakened zone, resulting in formation of a pothole.

India unfortunately ranks at the top with the highest number of fatalities with about 11% share in the world. The data generated every year should make the policy makers put in place focused initiatives to address the menace of rising road accidents and resultant fatalities. The data collected from all the States and Union Territories should be compiled in publications for better and faster working methods. The total number of accident related deaths in 2018 stood at 1,51,417 indicate an increase of 2.3% over the figures for 2017. About 85% of the accident related deaths happen in the most productive age group of 18-60.

Road traffic continues to be a major developmental issue, a public health concern and is a leading cause of death and injury across the world, killing more than 1.35 million globally with 90% of these casualties taking place in the developing countries and 11% alone being accounted by India. As per the Report on Road accidents in India 2018, the accident related deaths in India in 2018 were 1, 51,417. It is indeed a matter of great concern that despite the continuing efforts of the Government in this regard and our commitments for halving deaths by 2020 in the Brasilia Declaration, we have not been able to register any marked progress on this front.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has been taking multiple initiatives including those related to vehicular and road engineering as well as educational measures for raising awareness in the field of Road Safety. The year 2019 has seen the culmination of our efforts in the field of Road safety through the enactment of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019 which among other things, provides for a stiff hike in penalties for traffic violations with the aim of bringing in discipline and a responsible attitude amongst road users and creating better engineered roads.

Road accidents deaths not only cause severe trauma to the family of the victim but they also result in huge economic loss to the Nation. One shall remain deeply committed to reducing road accidents in the country and have been taking several measures to reduce the same.

The interventions on Road Safety should include Engineering interventions like the identification of Black Spots on Roads and rectification of the same followed by a strong advocacy policy.

Going through various reports, it is providing a brief overview of Road accidents in India. It underlines the commitments made by India at the second global high level conference on Road Safety in Brazil in 2015 to halving deaths and injuries from accidents by 2020.

India however ranks 1 in the number of road accident deaths across the 199 countries reported in the World Road Statistics, 2018 followed by China and US. As per the WHO Global Report on Road Safety 2018, India accounts for almost 11% of the accident related deaths in the World. A total of 4,67,044 road accidents have been reported by States and Union Territories (UTs) in the calendar year 2018, claiming 1,51,417 lives and causing injuries to 4,69,418 persons.

In percentage terms, in 2018, the number of accidents has increased by 0.46 percent, persons killed has increased by 2.4% and injuries have decreased by 0.33 percent over that of the previous year i.e 2017. Road accident severity measured by the number of persons killed per 100 accidents has seen an increase of 0.6 percentage points in 2018 over the previous year.

There have been many headlines in newspapers that throw light over claimed average of 2,640 lives lost in pothole related accidents in India. However, if one were to go by details collected from states, there were about, 2000 pothole related deaths in 2018 as compared to 3,597 in the previous year, with comparative analysis among the major contributing states showing a sharp decline except in the case of Uttar Pradesh.

 

ROAD ENGINEERING : The only way to safeguard the road to hell ; Identification and rectification of accident black spots

High Priority has been accorded for identification and rectification of black spots (accidents prone spots on National Highways). Concerted efforts towards improvement of road safety through engineering measures on National Highways have been made. 789 black spots based on fatalities in 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 calendar years have been identified and notified with unique ID numbers assigned to each of the spots. Guidelines have been prepared and notified for investigation and rectification of the road accident black spots on National Highways. So far 362 spots have already been rectified. Rectification measures at 230 spots have been sanctioned which are in various stages of implementation, 36 are in bidding stage. 139 spots are on state Government roads/with other agencies. The balance 22 spots would be taken up separately or would be rectified as part of ongoing projects.

As investigation, design of rectification measures at the black spots is a time taking process, it was decided to install immediate cautionary measures to alert and caution the road users about the road accident black spot through signs, solar blinkers and speed reduction measures till the black spots are rectified through long term permanent measures. Ministry has delegated Powers to Regional Officers for technical approval to the detailed estimates for rectification of identified Road Accident black spots for expediting the rectification Process to ensure safety of road users.

Road Safety Audits:

Detailed guidelines for taking up road safety audits on National Highways have been notified. Road safety has been made an integral part of road design at planning stage itself. Road Safety Audits at different stages have been made part and parcel of all road development projects on EPC and BOT modes. Ministry has issued circular which makes it mandatory to carry out road safety audit for all new road projects having length of 5 km or more at the stage of Detail Project Report (DPR)/Engineering Design. Out of total 46,651 kms of NHs under NHAI, total 26,811 kms of National Highways have been audited.

Installation of crash barriers: Roadside Safety Crash barriers are installed at roadside hazards as per provisions mentioned in “Manual of specifications and standards for 2/4/6-lane highways”. Provision of crash barriers at all the required locations is an integral part of NH development/improvement project.

Moreover, Ministry has also taken up installation of crash barriers on National Highways in hilly states at accident prone locations. A report of different aspects of identification of stretches and installation of selected type of crash barriers has been prepared and circulated. So far installation of crash barrier for length of 280 km has been sanctioned.

The Training and capacity building: Ministry of Road Transport & Highways supports the idea of capacity building in the field of road safety. An audit of road safety is essential to reduce the possibility of road accidents through corrective measures. A certification course for Road Safety Auditors was conducted by IAHE and 54 auditors have been certified.

 

The Quest

In the case of HC on its own motion vs. St. of Maharashtra & Ors.

 The Court marked itself by stating factors like, there is an absence of a well-organized mechanism to enable the citizens to file complaints about the poor conditions of streets. There is one more major cause of the poor condition of the roads and foot-ways. Various agencies like Telephone companies, Internet service providers, gas companies etc are granted permissions to do digging work on the streets. But there is no control on completion of their work. There is no time limit to restore the streets to its original condition. The citizens do not know as to which agency is doing the digging work and whether the concerned Competent Authority has permitted the work. Even in case of major road repair work undertaken by the Municipal Corporations and the other Authorities, the citizens 24 of 33 25 pil-71.13 have right to know when the work will be completed. We propose to issue appropriate directions on these aspects.

The interim orders of the Court further directed that ;

All the Municipal Corporations which are parties to the PIL shall maintain all the streets/roads including foot-ways/ footpaths within its jurisdiction in good and proper condition. It shall be the responsibility of the Municipal Corporations to keep the roads and footpaths properly leveled and surfaced. It shall be their responsibility to ensure that potholes and ditches thereon are properly filled in. The work of filling in the potholes shall be carried out scientifically as an ongoing project. While granting permissions to various authorities to do digging work on the streets, a condition shall be incorporated by all the Municipal Corporations/other.

Also, other than this, The Supreme Court on Thursday remarked that more people die in pothole- related road accidents in our cities and towns than skirmishes on the border or even in terror incidents, and demanded an explanation from the central government on a report to this effect submitted to it by a court-appointed panel on road safety. The panel is headed by former top court judge KS Radhakrishnan. A report submitted by the panel placed the number of casualties in the last five years from pothole related accidents at 14,926. This figure was unacceptable, a bench headed by J. Madan B. Lokur, said. The figure, it said, was “probably more than those killed on border or by the terrorists.” This related to the period 2013 to 2017.

J.Deepak and J. Hemant Gupta who were also part of the bench said that the high figure displayed the indifference of the authorities concerned towards maintaining the roads. The top court had earlier in July asked the committee to examine the issue dubbing the magnitude of the problem as “frightening” and get back to the court with facts and figures within two weeks. It had also suggested compensation for all those who lose their lives in such accidents.

Besides, it had asked the panel to suggest ways and means to deal with the menace posed by potholes to pedestrians and vehicular traffic. It’s a matter of common knowledge that a large number of people have died in such accidents because the authorities who were supposed to maintain the roads weren’t doing their duty, the bench had then commented.

Conclusion 

It is high time that all concerned clearly understand that a right to have properly maintained roads is a part of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of The Indian Constitution and in the event any loss is caused due to its violation, the citizens should have a right to seek compensation. It shall fall upon as the mandatory duty of the municipal corporations to maintain and improve the public streets and remove obstruction upon such public streets, including footpaths, roads, highways & lanes and keep them properly leveled, free of potholes and properly surfaced.

The bad roads not only because jams and inconvenience but also loss of human lives and errant officials should be liable to all the disciplinary actions. The dedicated website that has been constructed in the case of ; MMRDA should have a strict maintenance and proper working where the citizens can exercise their right to complain about poor roads, especially potholes on the roads. The website should receive and track complaints and portray the effective redressal.

 

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