Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
Tragedies to avert on the highways

Can such tragedies be averted? Largely, the answer is yes

As the news of the tragedy that occurred on the Mumbai Pune Expressway sinks in, thoughts that come to mind is what one could do to avert such tragedies. It takes me back to the days when the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway was a four-lane one of substandard width and a substandard shoulder on either sides as well as trees lined along both sides. Travel at night would be fraught with dangers. The edge and median road markings were not of importance then. Practically no extra space was provided on the shoulder to stop a bus or truck near a village. A puncture had to be attended to on the hard, clear road surface. Motor Vehicle Rules, 1939, was still in vogue; the 1989 version was perhaps under discussion.

The only vehicles displaying the “Caution Triangle” sign were driven by people who had lived abroad and felt responsible and followed safe practices in their driving.  Trucks carrying long protruding reinforcement bars had only a red cloth to warn vehicles in the rear to keep good distance. At night time, only the silhouettes would appear duly hidden in the foreground of the trees and many a time an accident was averted at the last moment due to the alertness of the driver.

Things are different now, with Golden Quadrilateral of the National Highways and other expressways constructed to international standards and practices. And yet increasing number of accidents take place with national annual fatalities touching unenviable 1,25,000. 80% of these occur in non-urban settings. There are technical driving related issues that need to be looked into, but for now, let us look at some pointers that can avert tragedies of the kind that occurred on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway with the marriage party returning home.

1. People who book transport should insist on buses to have retro-reflector strips stuck on the buses on all sides—white on the front, yellow on sides and red on the rear. If these vehicles do not have these strips fixed, they should not only reject hiring such buses but also be firm and complain to authorities even if the buses are not being hired by the party.

2. Totally avoid leaving a marriage function after dinner event, late at night, simply because even the drivers eat marriage food and it works on their system and are not up to the alertness levels that is required while driving.

3. Tragedies with such large fatality figures do not occur often but they do, especially related to marriage parties. Usually the people travelling together in these buses are kith and kin of the bride and groom. When an accident takes place, the tragedy is that it affects the close family members. The otherwise ever available family and friends support system is all altogether unavailable at the critical time, in addition to the deaths that have struck. Therefore it is best to avoid all family members travelling in the same vehicle. This is a practice followed by government functionaries where senior functionaries avoid travelling together so as to enable administration not to get disrupted when important functionary meets with a tragedy while travelling.

4. Placing a caution sign with reflector strip about 50 metres prior to where a vehicle has halted alerts the oncoming driver to become cautious in advance. People hiring a bus must insist upon such signboard being available on the bus. As in the case of retro-reflector strips, threat of reporting and actually reporting should be adequate for compliance.

5. Toll plazas should be fully automated so that a random check at toll plazas for (i) retro-reflector stripes (ii) caution sign board (iii) vehicle permits (iv) driving license, (v) functioning of lights and signals and (v) road worthiness of tyres must be done and those not complying should not only be penalized but fixed and charged for it. Even a breath analyser test should be carried out. The randomness will ensure compliance.

6. People should never wait at dangerous locations such as on the carriageways even at berms and should always be alert to vehicles moving on the highways. This includes sitting between vehicles.

7. People must insist on the bus driver keeping within the speed limits stipulated for respective stretches of roads. Based on that, the journey time must be arrived at. People shall not demand the driver to make good time delays that might have taken place for whatever reasons.

8. Since driving on highways differs from that on urban surroundings, every entry point of highways into the city must have a compulsory five-minute halt time from where the driver is able to respond to urban driving requirements.

There could be many other points that could help in averting tragedies of the kinds, but these eight should suffice to begin with.

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee [2006-07]. While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])


Seven accused in Adarsh scam get bail

The accused pleaded for bail, saying they were entitled to be released as the CBI had not filed charge sheet within the stipulated 60 days

Mumbai: The seven accused in the Adarsh Housing Society scam, including its chief promoter and former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, were on Tuesday granted bail by a special court, reports PTI.

The accused were directed to furnish surety of Rs5 lakh each and asked to report to the CBI office in Mumbai on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week.

Of the nine accused, those who secured bail include IAS officer Pradeep Vyas, former deputy secretary in Urban Development Department PV Deshmukh, Brigadier (retd) MM Wanchoo, retired Defence Estates Officer RC Thakur, Major General (Retd) AR Kumar, Major Gen (Retd) TK Kaul and former MLC Kanhaiyyalal Gidwani.

All the accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy under IPC and various sections under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act.

The accused pleaded for bail, saying they were entitled to be released as the CBI had not filed charge sheet within the stipulated 60 days.

Opposing the bail, CBI argued that they intended to add stringent sections of IPC such as section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and section 467 (forgery) which would attract life imprisonment for the accused. In such case the time limit for filing charge sheet would be 90 days.

Prosecutor Bharat Badami told the court that they had collected samples of signature of the accused and this had been sent for analysis. CBI is collecting evidence to prove that the accused had committed offence under sections 409 and 467 IPC.

The scam pertains to alleged irregularities in construction and allotment of apartments in the 32-storeyed high rise, originally meant for families of Kargil war heroes, in the upmarket Colaba area in south Mumbai.


Malaysian Airlines to pay Rs1 lakh to woman for losing her bag

A bench of New Delhi district consumer forum asked Malaysian Airlines to pay the compensation for losing her baggage en route

New Delhi: Malaysian Airlines has been asked by a Delhi district consumer forum to pay Rs1 lakh to a woman for spoiling her trip to that country, where she had gone to attend her friend's wedding but the airlines lost her baggage with her party wears and other essentials en route, reports PTI.

A bench of New Delhi district consumer forum asked the airlines to pay the compensation to Mumbai resident Farah Mehta, who had taken the flight to Langkavi there but ended up as an anguished lot.

"In light of the fact, the total tour was spoilt, and she suffered great emotional, physical, mental anxiety and worry, with no words of comfort or regret. The paltry offer (of the airlines) for loss only added insult to her injury.

"In our consideration view an amount of Rs1 lakh, in total would be just compensation to the complainant in the facts and circumstances of the case," said a bench of forum's President CK Chaturvedi and members SR Chaudhary and Asha Kumar.

Mehta approached the forum complaining that she had lost her baggage during the journey with the airlines from Delhi to Malaysia on 7 March 2008.

The woman said she had gone abroad to attend her friend's wedding but on reaching there, she could not find her bag in which she had kept her dresses and gifts for the occasion.

"She had to stay in hotel on the day of marriage without a dress for the occasion. She also was on medication for acidity. Her problem become acute, due to extreme anxiety, uncertainty and stress," the complaint read, adding that the airlines staff was of no help in locating her luggage.

She could not locate her bag even after returning to India and on complaining at airlines office, they offered her Rs16,000 according to her luggage's weight, she said, adding that she had refused to take the said amount.


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