Road to safety only on paper
Each year without fail, the state’s chief minister flags off the annual road safety campaign amidst considerable fanfare, in the presence of ministers and senior bureaucrats from different departments of the state and the police. The speeches they deliver at the inaugural function are heavy with concern and alarm over the rise in accidents each year, which result in so many deaths.
This year was no exception, with the state government just having completed its fortnightly campaign yesterday. And yet again, the campaign has made little or no difference to the actual state of the city’s roads and the traffic equipment therein.
It is safe to say that pedestrians and motorists on the roads are just as unsafe as they were two weeks ago - driving conditions on the roads are just as poor as they were on January 1, with street lights out of order, broken dividers, obscure signposts, malfunctioning signals and faded or absent pedestrian crossings. MiD DAY’s search for signs of change ended in despair and defeat.
Apart from a few cosmetic efforts like talks and hour-long workshops, no sustained efforts had been made that imposed any measure of discipline or resulted in any noticeable improvement on the conduct and movement of traffic in the city.
It’s not like the departments had no time to plan and implement change. The traffic campaign was announced in a government directive issued on December 20 last year by the state transport department, which is a part of the home department at Mantralaya.
The seven-page directive put the onus on transport commissioner and additional director general of police (traffic), appointing them as coordinators of the campaign. Nine different wings - the traffic police, RTO, public works department, MSRDC, school education department, public health department, goods transporters association, BMC and DGIPR - were asked to implement certain measures to ensure that the campaign actually had some kind of palpable effect.
Apart from routine, elementary drills to create awareness like circulating pamphlets and putting up banners, the departments were asked to organise corner meetings, organise workshops for drivers, install reflectors, register cases for drink driving and come down hard on other violations such as overloading, illegal passenger traffic and so on.
They were also asked to put up signposts and boards with telephone numbers of the nearest police station, hospital, ambulance and crane service.
Needless to say, almost nothing was done to implement many of these well-thought-out guidelines. MiD DAY’s survey shows evidence of the perfunctory, half-baked efforts by different departments. Even the photographs that our lensmen clicked during the campaign provide an ironic counterpoint to the speeches, resolutions and promises that are made every year.
Guidelines issued to the DGIPR
The state directorate general of information and public relations (DGIPR), which handles media and publicity for the state government, had been given a clear-cut brief by the state government: Their duties involved:
Publishing a booklet on road safety
Posting banners and posters on state transport (ST) buses and highways
Pasting signboards with catchy slogans on highways and major roads
Organising programmes at movie halls, with television channels and FM radio channels
Asked about how many of these guidelines were implemented, a senior official from the department spoke on a tangent, saying that the department had promptly issued news items forwarded by the home and transport departments to the print and electronic media.
“We asked the concerned department to go for publicity, and submitted details of the budget required for it. But the transport department did not show any keenness,” said the official, requesting anonymity.
The nine wings enlisted to enforce safety measures:
Public works department wMSRDC
School education department
Public health department wGoods transporters association