New politician demands suspension of the NHAI authorities, contractor

Referring to the recent accident on the Pune-Bangalore Highway, wherein four ad executives lost their lives after their car fell into the Neera river, member of the newly-formed Navbharat Democratic Party Vinita Deshmukh said she would be writing to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, asking them to suspend National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) authorities and contractor. 

Leading the charge: Vinita Deshmukh of the Navbharat Democratic Party discusses the issue of rising number of accidents on the highways across the state at a meeting in the city yesterday. Pic/Sachin Thakare

She met citizens yesterday to prepare a citizen action plan against the negligence of NHAI authorities. The bodies of all the four advertising professionals and their car were recovered from the river five days after they went missing on November 2. “The authorities are trying to pin the blame on the deceased, saying that they were speeding.

However, a similar accident had happened at the same spot on the Neera bridge wherein three people lost their lives after their car fell into river. But the authorities took no action. Neither they installed crash barriers nor deployed a security guard at the spot. The four youngsters could have been saved, had there a security guard been deployed at NH 4,” Deshmukh said.

Stating that she would also file a PIL against the shoddy work by the contractors on all the highways in the state, Deshmukh said she is compiling data of accidents that have occurred on all the highways in the state. “Based on this data, we are going to file the PIL in next the 15 days.”

She added that a demand would be forwarded to the NHAI chief, asking him to blacklist the contractor for Pune-Bangalore highway, and to stop charging toll unless the highway becomes safer for commuters.  

A frequent traveller on Pune-Bangalore highway and the resident of Satara, Shrinivas Varunjikar said he wrote to the NHAI authorities son several occasions informing them about the necessity of having a police check post and a need of security guard on the highway. Varunjikar clayed he is yet to receive a reply from the NHAI. RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar claimed that all the highways in the state had become accident-prone due to poor quality of work.

When contacted, NHAI Project Director (Pune) Rajesh Kaundal said deployment of security guards on highways was the responsibility of the police, not theirs. “Its not only about the Pune-Bangalore national highway, the NHAI doesn’t provide security at any of the highways in the country,” he said.

Superintendent of Police (Highway) Dilip Bhujbal said because the spot on the Neera bridge was not included in the list of accident-prone areas, the police did not set up a check post in the area.  

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