KOCHI: Most Kochi residents would dread leaving their homes on a day when there is VVIP movement in the city. Barricaded roads and the resulting traffic blocks are something almost every Kochiite would like to avoid.
However, for hundreds of families residing in Mulavukad and Vallarpadam, through where the Container Road highway passes, VVIP movements are a cause for celebration. The reason for their joy is not that they would be able to spot a VVIP. Rather, it is the temporary measures that the authorities concerned put in place to light up the otherwise-dark Container Road that bring them happiness.
The absence of street lights along Container Road has made the stretch a death trap for motorists. Though residents submitted several requests before the district administration and the NHAI, which owns the road, for installing street lights, nothing has happened.
“We had decided to call off our months-long protests demanding installation of street lights after the authorities concerned, in a joint meeting of the district collector and people’s representatives with the NHAI officials, agreed to install the same on the 16-km-long stretch. However, none of the assurances they gave us have been met. The road is lit up only when there is VVIP movement,” rued John P R, chairperson of Mulavukad panchayat’s development standing committee.
He said on Tuesday too, the road was bathed in light in view of the visit of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who would stay in a hotel near Mulavukad. “NHAI is cheating people. The panchayat will submit a memorandum to the defence minister seeking adequate facilities on the road and, thereby reduce accidents. The number of people dying in accidents on the stretch is increasing with each passing year due to the absence of street lights,” John said.
As per the data from the Traffic police, 15 motorists were killed in accidents on the stretch between 2016 and 2020, while 150 suffered serious injuries that left them struggling to lead a normal life. In 2019 alone, six people died, while 19 were grievously injured. Meanwhile, the residents are planning to protest at Ponnarimangalam toll plaza if NHAI fails to meet their various demands.
“The road has become a den of drug mafia and has turned into a dumping ground. All this because there are no street lights. People who survived the accidents are struggling to lead a normal life. If NHAI is not ready to install street lights, we will disrupt the collection of toll,” John said. TNIE tried to contact NHAI officials, but they were unavailable for comments.