Actor Jackie Shroff to campaign for safe roads

Officials from RTO and state govt taken by surprise as Jackie Shroff's name is announced as face of road safety campaign; actor says he was only asked to attend the event, but adds that he will be happy to do his duty.

It was 8.45 am yesterday. All was in readiness for the unveiling of the Road Safety Fortnight Campaign 2012 at the hands of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. State transport department officials assembled at Marine Lines were startled by the appearance of a man who seemed totally out of place, given the context.

Get the messege Bidu: Jackie Shroff at the launch of the road safety
event at Marine Lines yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

"We saw Jackie Shroff and thought he was there for the event as an enthusiast. We had not invited him for the campaign at all," said a senior Regional Transport Office (RTO) official on condition of anonymity.

Soon after, dignitaries, including CM Chavan, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and senior bureaucrats arrived. Jackie was made to sit in the front row with a bunch of other people. As the drama unfolded, sources claim the star left the pandal in a huff, only to be brought back.

No idea!
Even now, many government officials were clueless about why Jackie was there at all. Sources in the RTO said that amidst this chaos, the actor was felicitated by CM Chavan and made brand ambassador for the campaign during the latter's speech. "No official written communication was sent to us regarding this. We had no plans to have a brand ambassador for the campaign," said Transport Commissioner VN More.

U Sarangi, additional chief secretary (Home), said: "We came to know about him (Jackie Shroff) becoming the brand ambassador only when the compere announced it."

Sources in RTO said that they had not asked the moderator to make the announcement, but now that the chief minister has declared Jackie the brand ambassador, they'll go along with it.

Now that you are here: Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy
Chief Minister Ajit Pawar felicitate Jackie Shroff at the function of the
Road Safety Fortnight Campaign 2012 at Marine Lines yesterday.
Pics/Bipin Kokate

Government officials realised much later that Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) had invited Jackie for the event. "We recommended Jackie Shroff as the brand ambassador for this campaign as he is an automobile lover and we thought this was the right opportunity. The government accepted it and he was also felicitated," said Nitin Dossa of WIAA, when asked whether there was any official communication with the state government on the matter.

"I was standing outside the pandal because there were too many other dignitaries inside. It wasn't that I'd left in anger. I was asked to attend this function two days ago. I didn't receive any official letter from the government to become a brand ambassador. I am happy to do my duty in spreading awareness regarding safe driving and will go wherever I am asked to go, keeping in mind the role that has been assigned to me," Jackie Shroff told MiD DAY.

The faux pas apart, speaking at the function, Prithviraj Chavan blamed motorists for nearly 70 per cent of all road accidents. The rest he attributed to bad roads and other technical issues. The CM also wanted respective departments to come up with a mechanism wherein it could be ascertained who is actually at fault during an accident. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was of the view that licences of those caught driving drunk should be cancelled for five years.

Home Minister RR Patil rued the fact that even after taking a number of measures, about 750 people were caught driving drunk on December 31.

What's new?
The Maharashtra government intends to soon make electronic meters mandatory for auto rickshaws. The state transport department will be coming out with a notification by February end to install electronic meters in all new auto rickshaws across Mumbai and Maharashtra.

"Another notification for installing electronic meters for old auto rickshaws will be brought out after three months from February," said SK Sharma, transport secretary.

There are 6.4 lakh auto rickshaws in the state. 1.04 lakh rickshaws ply in the suburbs of Mumbai.

"The technical committee report on electronic meters hasn't come yet. We will see what to do," said Shashank
Rao, member, Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen's Union.

Rough ride
From January to October 2011, 21,487 cases of road accidents were reported in Mumbai, in which 469 people died, 1,751 others were seriously injured and 2,575 persons received minor injuries. The number of accidents across the state in the same period was 56,810, while in the year 2010 the figure was 71,289.

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