Himansu Shekhar Rout

Illegal parking of vehicles along National Highways (NHs) continues to take a heavy toll on human lives in Odisha. At the very outset of the Zero Fatality Week observed by the Transport department, a tragic accident occurred on NH-20 near Ghatagaon in Keonjhar district. 

Eight people from two families lost their lives while twelve others were critically injured in the accident which was reportedly attributed to illegal roadside parking of vehicles, since the van carrying the victims had rammed into a stationary truck on NH-20.

The mishap triggered a blame game between the Transport Department and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The secretary of the Transport department immediately sent a letter to the NHAI and held it responsible, with a warning of stern action against the errant employees.

However, the head of the NHAI (Odisha) tried to shirk its responsibility, saying that regular patrolling is being done on the NH, but it is the responsibility of the local administration to lift away the vehicles parked on road sides.

A similar accident occurred in Barchana area of Jajpur on Monda, when a passenger bus hit a stationary truck from the rear. As many as 10 pasengers were injured. Illegal parking of a vehicle caused the accident.   

In the letter to the NHAI superintendent, Secretary of the Transport Department Usha Padhi said that such a tragedy has happened on the NH-20 due to the insensitive attitude and negligence of the NHAI’s patrolling staff. She warned that loss of human lives will not be tolerated for negligence of some people and criminal cases will be initiated against those responsible. 

The transport secretary also made it clear that whenever ambulance staff or patrolling staff go on strike, the NHAI is bound to make an alternative provision. The transport secretary also sought to know why though the accident site was identified as a black spot, why the NHAI had not taken preventive measures there earlier. 

In his reply to the question, Virendra Singh, the chief of the NHAI (Odisha) countered it that the accident spot is not a black spot and an NHAI team had rushed to the spot within 45 minutes of the accident. He also said that if any staff or agency is found faulty, action will be taken against them. However, he made it clear that the local administration is responsible for checking the roadside parking of vehicles. 

Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Joint Commissioner of the State Transport Authority, observed that the absence of road markings and signages, lack of patrolling and dark places are some major elements on the NHs. “NHAI needs to carefully handle all such problems. Due to their negligence, such tragic accidents have happened,” Mohanty added.  

However, Pradip Kumar Ransingh, patrolling in-charge of NH-49, asserted that the NHAI is carrying out its patrolling properly.  

Amid such a blame game, pertinent questions arise about who is really responsible for the deaths on NHs and how such accidents will be curbed. 

Subrat Nanda, an expert on road safety said, “There is a lack of coordination between the departments. Blaming each other will not curb the accidents. Both the state government and the NHAI should work out plans and measure to prevent such accidents on the NHs.”   

As per reports, road accidents are taking a large number of human lives every year in the country. Approximately 5,000 people die in road accidents while 2000 of them lose their lives in the accidents occurring on the NHs.

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