January 19, 2014
As lives continue to be lost to fatal road accidents in Dakshina Kannada, the RTO seems to be snoring
The front pages of Mangalorean newspapers and websites are packed with disturbing and painful reports of road accidents, almost everyday. Although, these accidents peak during monsoons, they maintain a steady rate all through the year, radiating as the chief threat to life in the regions of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, turning them into valleys of death.
These regions are known to play spoil sport and make hue and cry over trivial issues, which have no social significance or day to day relevance. But the heavy toll of human life lost to road accidents, remains a burning issue that nobody has ever paid attention to.
After a series of fatal accidents that followed over the last few weeks, One of my friends made this point, His mother wouldn’t be more petrified to send him to the Indian Army to fight wars, as much us she would, when he leaves to college in his motor bike.
Over the last fifteen years or so, as the people progressed and prospered, road accidents dictated more deaths, than any other form in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. Many have lost their loved ones, people who left their homes never returned , some were young, other’s were old; rich, middle class, poor, it made no distinction, death came to bite them in a fraction of a second.
Although, spot analysis and forensic evidence show that these accidents have a lot to do with human errors, rash driving and safety evasions, people have mindlessly ignored the issue. No political figure, no civil body, no NGO, no student organization or even the angry high voltage super-nationalist groups (that often haul loud noisy music on trivial issues), have yet raised this matter with seriousness. With less than thirty lakh population, these districts have been at the helm of road accidents, topping the countrywide charts.
Who should take the blame?
Dakshina Kannada has one strange peculiarity in terms of passenger transport. There are no government buses (except in a few remote rural areas) and the passenger transport throughout the region is run by powerful private transporters. These buses run within the city and through national highways, with least control and monitoring from the Road Transport Authority.
The city buses which operate within cities are often seen ramming with high speed, overtaking each other & other vehicles, using the wrong lane, which have resulted in major collisions. The express buses running through highways, generate excess-high speed, often crossing speed limits, and have caused considerable mayhems.
In 2009, during a symposium held at AIMIT (Aloysius Institute of Management, Biri), a prominent Mangalore based lawyer Mr Ivan Dsouza was invited as a guest speaker on road transport in Mangalore city. Then, Ivan Dsouza was serving as the president of private auto rickshaw and bus drivers' union. Soon after his talk, I penned down a question to him regarding the massive rise in hit and run cases involving private buses. He had absolutely no answer, and then deviated it by saying they were pressurized from bus owners and RTO (Road Transport authority) concerning their timings, and hence were forced to drive at high speed.
The hit and run cases have been frequent ever since the early nineties, when number of private buses rose steadily. Since then, the private bus owners have only succeeded in creating a cartel system, where by they decided to run passenger transport on their own terms. They fixed minimum number of buses in specific routes, and made sure that their buses were crowded.
And as the population of the city got bigger, the buses remained fixed and the owners benefited enormously. Ladies thronged the front rows and Men jam-packed the back rows, youngsters and students started clinging on the door steps, tilting the bus to one end. The traffic policemen were paid in pocket full by the bullying owners and the Road Transport Authority slept over these grave traffic and transport offences.
Safety evasion and dodging traffic rules
The first step towards safety is a careful man. Indians by far, are the least careful and the most neglectful people in the universe. A British television documentary on Konkan Railways, makes a significant observation on train safety. Here, the English host reads some safety instructions carved on the platform, and the very next moment sees all safety instructions being flouted as the people cross track lanes, while the train is just meters away. The host gets boggled by the utter negligence and imprudence of the passengers and curses, them as ‘stupid people’ and yells saying all safety instructions outlined as ‘nonsense’.
Ever since helmets have been mandated, one finds that people wear it as a means to escape traffic police surveillance; they don’t even buckle the strap, without realizing the rule was made to avoid spot deaths caused by head injury.
Another major reason, for rise in accidents have been the bottleneck roads. Even the national highways, where goods are transported through heavy trailers and trucks, are extremely narrow, creating very little space for other vehicles, resulting in disastrous accidents.
The Private Buses invariably play a predominant role in devastating road accidents that occur every single day. Hit and Run cases are frequently reported. So far no bus driver has been nabbed or locked up; No Bus Owner has been questioned by the authorities. It’s a shame that in a region with leading educational institutions and with a significant educated population, not one student organization or Non governmental organization has shown potency to step out and raise the issue and hold the culprits accountable.
At the worst, private transport buses have to be banned and Government Buses should be introduced, Or the authorities have to regulate and take stringent actions against Private Bus Owners.
What is the Road Transport Authority doing? Why hasn't an MLA or an MP, or any politician bothered to take this issue? Why haven’t the angry high voltage super-nationalist organizations come out in the streets, as they usually do? The answer lies in the question itself. They are either sleeping or been bribed by the Private Transport Goons. Human Life has been valued at a very low price in these regions, How many more lives need to be lost, for someone to take a stand and derive strong measures to prevent further casualties?
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