Public transports imperative
Union roads minister Nitin Gadkari has come up with a proposal that vehicle manufacturers across all variants provide a minimum of six airbags to each new vehicle entering the market. Airbags are highly helpful in saving lives when a direct collision takes place. With a profusion of vehicles on the road, India recorded over 1,50,000 fatalities a year in recent times, meaning nearly 14,000 deaths every month. Large numbers of these deaths are happening on the highways where vehicles travel at high speed of which a significant segment of the deaths is of two-wheeler riders who tend to be adventurous. Airbag system will not help save the lives of two-wheeler riders.
Notably, several road mishaps take place across states and principal cities because of the poor condition of roads. Indian highways now boast of class, a far cry from the hopelessness of the past. Travel in hilly regions as in the north-east had in the past been difficult because of poor road conditions and landslides. There have been significant and laudable improvements now because of huge investments the Centre has made in the highways sector. At the same time, it must also be stressed that safety precautions and road engineering principles are not always adhered to even in the construction and maintenance of highways. There are one too many death traps across roads. Potholes are left unattended for weeks or months and there are dangerous, abrupt ending of lanes at many places, which are all invitations to accidents.
The minister has asked vehicle manufacturers to roll out flex-fuel vehicles running on cent per cent ethanol and gasoline. These will be environment-friendly. Electric vehicles market is developing of late and highways are being provided with charging stations. In the near future, large numbers of vehicles would be of this kind. The large numbers of road accidents are bound to continue in view of the steady and sharp increase in vehicle population. The lower middle-class too makes it a point to own a motor vehicle. Roads are unable to bear this load across cities, and even the wide roads in Delhi are mostly choc-a-bloc. The way forward is increased thrust on mass rapid transport systems like Metro Rail. Kolkata’s tram services are eco-friendly and a pleasant experience, but have progressively been phased out. The need is to have such passenger-friendly, low-speed services in more cities. A city-state like Singapore relies mostly on public transport and this is because they are well-organised and well-run. India must learn from such experiences.