NEW DELHI: Concerned over alarmingly high number of road accidents in the country, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said the government will spend Rs 11,000 crore over the next five years to improve the road infrastructure.
Stating that road accidents cause an annual loss of around Rs 60,000 crore, or 3 per cent of the GDP, to the country, the Road Transport and Highways Minister said the Centre has initiated a slew of steps aimed at minimising such mishaps.
Marking the start of the Road Safety Week with a 'Walkathon' from India Gate, Gadkari said the government has identified and started work on ten major accident black spots in Delhi. He further said that India is among those countries that suffer a very high number of road accidents every year and even wars do not witness such a high number of casualties the nation is suffering due to this menace.
"In a year 5 lakh accidents take place in the country, of which 1.5 lakh people die and another 3 lakh are crippled for life. So many people do not even die in wars. This is a serious concern," Gadkari said. The Minister said that India can learn in this regard from Sweden that witnessed just one accident last year.
"The government will spend Rs 11,000 crore in the next five years to improve the situation and work will soon start in correcting problems related to 10 identified black spots in Delhi," he added. The ten black spots identified include Sarai Kale Khan, Kashmere Gate chowk (Morigate), Nigam Bodh Ghat, Mukundpur Chowk, Dr Bhahbha Marg crossing, Punjabi Bagh Chowk, ISBT Kashmere Gate, Mahipalpur Flyover, Shani Mandir and Shahdara Flyover.
Gadkari said that a large number of people have died on these accident spots, of which the majority were in the age group of 25-33 years. "The government is committed to make National Highways accident-proof and has taken a number of steps to improve the situation including launch of a website where people can inform about such spots and improving the road engineering, construction of flyover and underpasses etc," he said.
Terming it unfortunate that about 30 per cent of driving licenses were "bogus" in the country, he said that the system for grant of licence would be made electronic. On safety measures in vehicles, he said that "no car will be built without airbag and trucks cabin will require mandatory air-conditioned fittings".
Stating that the focus is also on developing light helmets as available in Korea, Gadkari urged people to adhere to traffic rules and expressed hope that Parliament will soon pass the Road Transport and Safety Bill which has a number of steps to minimise road accidents.
He said the government was aiming to reduce accidents by at least 50 per cent and roads are being equipped with CCTVs in 12 cities to check the traffic violation. At the Walkathon event, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that a life is lost every four minutes in road accidents and stressed on the need for a National Road Safety Authority.
Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan, who was also present on this occasion, stressed on the need to make fastening of belts mandatory for people in the back seat of vehicles. Vardhan recalled the accidents causing death of former Union Minister Gopinath Munde and ex-Delhi CM Sahib Singh Verma, while also mentioned the mishap taken place with the BJP's Mathura MP Hema Malini. He further said there should be norms for building speedbreakers as faulty designs often cause accidents, and also demanded a ban on use of horns as prevailed in many countries.
The Minister also urged the youth not to use mobiles while driving and stressed on the need for adequate safety measures to prevent accidents. Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi said people should adhere to road safety norms on the ground of humanity rather than out of fear of paying penalty or suspension of driving licence.
Delhi alone witnessed 1,500 deaths in road accidents last year, he said. Road Transport and Highways Secretary Sanjay Mitra said the government was creating awareness among people regarding the reasons causing road accidents.
Cricketer Gautam Gambhir also urged people to follow traffic rules to reduce road accidents. The walkathon was organised by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in association with the Delhi Police and the Society for Indian Automobile Manufactures (SIAM) to create awareness about road safety among general public and to solicit their active participation in the road safety movement.
The Ministry along with Public Works Department of Delhi government and International Road Federation (IRF) have chalked out a plan to treat and remove ten major accident black spots identified by Delhi Traffic police on a priority basis in the capital.
Delhi Traffic Police have identified and provided a list of ten "black spots" where a maximum number of accidents occur, based on data collected during 2014. However, the total number of accident spots identified by the Traffic Police are 128 in Delhi.
Black Spots are locations having higher concentration of road accidents. Simple engineering measures such as improving visibility by removing hazards, installation of street lighting, redesigning of junctions and roadway to accommodate the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, provision of appropriate road markings and traffic signs etc are measures which reduce road accidents.