A lethal carelessness of HP PWD that goes unnoticed
Shimla: As per Social Welfare Council of India, in Himachal Pradesh, road accidents account for the highest percentage of deaths by far from any calamity. Out of the total, 15 percent accidents in hilly areas of India are caused by ill-maintained roads despite the fact that these accidents are easily avoidable.
As part of the safety measures, the road surface should be free of moisture, potholes, loose gravel, dust etc. Everday, several minor accidents occur in a bid to avoid potholes on the roads, but the matter receives no significant attention of government and the public.
The poor and unsafe road conditions are directly associated with corruption.
Here, the Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department and the private contractors deserves a mention. The duo is perhaps the world renowned for the poorest job in road construction and maintenance as the State is an international tourist destination.
Poor quality asphalt concrete with an almost negligible amount of bitumen is used in tarring of roads. The roads are approved by the government. As a result of it, these roads easily wash away in rains, leaving behind layers of loose gravel and dust on the road surface. This loose gravel poses a huge risk of road accidents. Especially, it is lethal for two-wheel riders.
A resident of Tutikandi in Shimla city shared his encounter with death on the Shimla-Dhali bypass road, all because of the carelessness of the contractor undertaking maintenance work.
The bypass road was tarred in 2017 but returned to a state of tatters after the monsoon. The entire stretch is full of potholes, loose gravel, and lots of dust.
The contractor is doing an equally poor patch-work these days. On Monday morning, the man was on his way back to home at about 10:30 PM. He was riding at a speed of 30-35 kms per hour.
Near the crematory in Lalpani, he realized an over-speeding truck was compensating a sharp, blind curve in a way that left little room for his bike. Still, the rider could have managed the situation very easily.
However, he realized that he has pushed brakes on a layer of loose gravel that was left as it is by the laborers after doing a poor patch-work.
In a fraction of a second, the bike skid on this gravel. The rider fell down, rolled over several times and reached the middle of the road. His head smashed against the road at least thrice.
For about 30 seconds, he found it unable to move. Unfortunately, he was laying in the middle of the road at a blind curve and there was every chance that he would have been mowed down by other vehicles.
Luckily, he managed to get up and crawl to the edge of the road. Somehow, he dragged his bike to safety and sat down for a while.
After getting back to his senses, he tried to identify what damage the accident caused to his body. He realized his knees, ankle, and arm were hit.
After a little while, he got up and moved his limbs to confirm there is no fracture or bleeding. Luckily, his helmet and jacket saved him from a great pain.
He was left with a broken laptop display and mobile screen and a damaged bike.
After a while, he took a moment to analyze what actually happened.
None of it had happened if the contractor had bothered to sweep the road to clean the loose gravel.
The man received minor injuries and bruises but managed to ride the bike upto his home.
He was thankful to his helmet that saved him from serious head injury which was otherwise inevitable.
Though I wearing a helmet, I could still feel the blow everytime my head hit the ground,
said the man.
At that point, I realized that this carelessness on the part of the contractor, thus, HPPWD had almost caused me my life,
This incident is another opportunity to draw the attention of the otherwise indifferent and insensitive government departments and contractors hired by them.
The HPPWD has closed its eyes towards the quality of the work. There is no supervision over the contractors.
There is no measure to ensure these contractors are following standard practices and following all mandatory guidelines related to road safety.
Considering the fatality rate in road accidents, the Indian government had announced Road Safety Policy on December 26, 2016.
HP government had notified establishment of “The State Transport Development and Road Safety Council.”
The Council was supposed to consider all aspects that contribute to road accidents and take measures like better road designing with engineering solutions, safety audits for selected stretches of National Highways, rumble strips, reflective stickers at junctions, fixing signboard/ cautionary board, providing signage and speed restrictions.
Sadly, the grieve issue of gravel proves, the State is far behind in the implementation of any of these road safety measures. Ensuring removal of gravel after repairs does not require additional budget and it can avert several minor incidents of road accidents such as the one narrated above.