When I had been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2012, which was my first trip outside India, the first thing i could clearly make out that it as a place different from India, was the excellent quality of roads. Similar picture was strikingly evident before me when i subsequently visited places like Singapore, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One thing that was haunting my mind and still continues to is the fact as to why Indian roads are so bad? I have travelled many places across the length and breadth of India and one common thing that makes me strongly feel being in India is the poor quality of roads. I keep pondering- when there is no dearth of money in India, when Indians having their names in the top richest people in the world, when so much of tax is collected from people, still why is that the road conditions here are so bad? I have heard from one of my Professor who had been in Nigeria for sometimes that even there the roads are excellent. Similar experiences were shared by my friends and colleagues who have visited African counties like Kenya, Botswana whose GDP is much less than India, but they have managed to maintain very good quality of roads. In this case why there is a slack in the attitude towards construction of good roads in India?
Coming to a broader picture it is observed that with increasing urbanisation and population explosion in India there has been a drastic raise in vehicle density in the cities leading to a significant raise in the road traffic accidents which has been showing a secular trend of raise.
Let us compare road traffic deaths with the number of deaths occurring due to malaria. World Health Organization estimates that India has 15 million cases of malaria with 19,500–20,000 deaths annually (WHO SEARO Website). It is alarming to note that the deaths due to road traffic accidents in India are approximately ten times that of malaria deaths. Still why has it not gained importance among health authorities? There is no national programme for prevention and control of road traffic accidents.
Just like the epidemiological features of any disease will be depicted in terms of agent factors, host factors and environmental factors so also road traffic accidents have to be addressed in terms of these factors. Factors responsible for these accidents might be diverse. Agent factors include careless, reckless driving by drivers. Host factors will include ignorance in following traffic rules, not wearing helmets, seat belts, overtaking vehicles due to urgency of reaching workplace in time, and violation of road rules by pedestrians. Environmental factors include bad roads, poorly laid traffic signals. It is also observed in many of the research studies that accidents showed a peak raise during monsoon season due to the fact that roads get highly deteriorated during rainy seasons which is something the authorities have to give due attention to. This calls for an urgent need to create awareness among general public regarding the aetiology of road traffic accidents and the simple ways and means to prevent it.
Just like anti-tobacco campaign is being implemented similarly campaign against road traffic accidents can be implemented with slogans boards everywhere along the roads like- “Speed thrills, but kills”, “a short cut can cut short your life”. Speed limits have to be mentioned along the roads and people should be fined if they cross the speed limit. Heavy fines should be levied on all those people violating traffic rules and the amount collected should be used for the betterment of roads which is a model adopted by majority of the developed countries.Awareness can also be created among public through road shows, role plays in public, signature campaign etc. It also warrants the need to train common people regarding first aid management of road traffic victims so that precious life can be saved in the Golden hour.
One of the main reasons for poor quality roads is corruption. Though several crores of rupee gets sanctioned for construction of roads but when it comes to implementation only a small portion of the amount gets percolated at the grass root level for construction of roads. The government should make it transparent to all the citizens of the country as to how much budget is sanctioned in the respective area, who is the contractor and how much money is utilized per kilometre of road construction. Local people should be given the rights to supervise road constructions in their respective areas and the right to complain concerned authorities if the constructors do not comply with the foretold guidelines. Strict action should be taken in case of any malpractice found. The contractor should be made accountable and that if the roads are damaged within the warranty period, the contractor should be asked to construct it on his own cost. This will bring a sense of responsibility among the contractors and the local MLAs, deputy commissioner and other authorities to build high quality of roads which will stand the harshness of times.
In conclusion i would say that people should be made aware that having good roads is their fundamental right and that their hard earned money paid as a tax should be properly utilized. At the same time people should be educated that to abide by the traffic rules should be their fundamental duty.
About the Author:
Dr. Sanjay Kini is a Doctor of Medicine in Community Medicine. He is currently Assistant Professor, Dept of Community Medicine, K S Hegde Medical Academy, Nitte University and Life Member, CHD Group.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are the authors own.