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High-profile accident puts National Highways Authority of India under scanner

Updated on: 06 September,2022 07:46 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma |

NHAI has been accused of ignoring letters about poor condition of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway that has caused multiple deaths, and non-payment of power bill

High-profile accident puts National Highways Authority of India under scanner

An uneven patch of the stretch, where the accident happened, can be seen on Monday

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) could not care less about the condition of the roads even though the government body was informed many times about deaths on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway, said an activist. Harbans Singh Nanade from All India Vahan Chalak Malak Mahasangh, told mid-day there has been no response to his letters to NHAI or RTIs he filed to know if a safety audit was conducted.

The accident on Sunday, which claimed the lives of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his friend Jehangir Pandole and injured two others, brought to light the alleged negligence of the NHAI. “I have written multiple letters to the NHAI and also filed RTIs to know if the safety audit of the highway was ever conducted. But, a response is still awaited,” Nanade told mid-day.

Also read: 9 robbers held for looting steel rods from warehouse on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway

The police at the accident spot on Monday. Pics/Hanif Patel
The police at the accident spot on Monday. Pics/Hanif Patel

“The engineers have built the road, which is of poor quality. There are several potholes on the highway, which are also uneven in many places. However, the authorities, including the NHAI, have adopted the attitude of not caring about the motorists. The public is forced to drive on poor roads and risk their lives, but the authorities refuse to take the responsibility, even if there are deaths,” he said.

“The NHAI must now look into the issue seriously, as motorists are dying because of multiple errors in their road engineering,” Nanade said, adding that besides the available figures on deaths, many road accident fatalities go unreported.

Sources in the traffic police department told mid-day on Sunday that 106 people have died over the past 18 months, in accidents on just 52-km stretch between Manor in Palghar district of Maharashtra and Achad in Gujarat, on the highway.

Unpaid bills

Nanade also alleged that the NHAI has not paid the electricity bill to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited or MSEDCL, which in turn has disconnected the supply. This is the reason behind the switched off street lights near the accident spot and near Mahalaxmi temple on the highway, he added. “This shows the carelessness of the NHAI,” he said. Calls and messages to NHAI official Rahul Jalan went unanswered at the time of going to the press.

The car rammed into the divider on the flyover on the highway, before Charoti toll naka. Pics/Hanif PatelThe car rammed into the divider on the flyover on the highway, before Charoti toll naka. Pics/Hanif Patel

When asked if Palghar police have written to the NHAI to get rid of the blackspots on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway, SP Balasaheb Patil said, “Yes, we have, as people have been complaining about regular mishaps at some places on the highway, like the junction of Manor-Jawhar road which is a very dangerous point. Motorists travelling from Jawhar to Manor face difficulties while touching the highway. So, we have given the NHAI some suggestions to build a flyover on the highway to stave off any accidents.”

Mistry and the other three occupants travelling in a Mercedes car were rushed to Kasa hospital 1.25 hours after the accident on Sunday. The police said the average speed of the car was around 90 kmph. The car crashed into the divider on the flyover over Surya river near Charoti toll naka in Palghar district at 2.25pm. But, they were taken to Kasa hospital at 3.50 pm, Palghar district Civil Surgeon Dr Sanjay Bodade told mid-day on Sunday.

Superintendent of Palghar police Balasaheb Patil told mid-day that the Mercedes car, in which Mistry was travelling along with well-known gynaecologist Dr Anahita Pandole, her husband Darius and his brother Jehangir, crossed Dapchari check naka at 2.12 pm. “In the footage of a CCTV camera, the car is seen crossing Dapcheri check naka at 2.12 pm and the accident took place around 2.25 pm. The distance between the checknaka and accident site is 21 km, which means the average speed of the Mercedes car was 90 kmph,” Patil said.

Eyewitness Speak

Yashwant Pachalkar, who witnessed the accident, told mid-day he rushed to the accident site and found all four victims unconscious in the car. “The two people in the front seats were moving, while one occupant in the rear seat [Jehangir] had fallen down in the car, and the other [Cyrus Mistry] was lying unconscious on his body. We were three people and none of us dared to touch them. Later, passersby stopped their vehicles and called an ambulance that came after 20 minutes,” Pachalkar said.

“The police team came after the arrival of an ambulance,” he added. However, Palghar SP Patil said, “The Kasa police received the first call at 2.34 pm and the police team reached the accident spot within 6 minutes.”

“The response time of the ambulance should be within 7 minutes or a maximum of 10 in certain cases,” he added in response to a query. Meanwhile, the people from Mercedes examined the car, collected the required details and made a video of the vehicle. They will submit a report to the police soon, said officers. 

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