GUWAHATI: Assam transport minister Parimal Suklabaidya chose to do a bold tightrope while campaigning against drinking and driving.
“I don’t care if I lose ministry, but I will say drinking liquor is harmful,” Suklabaidya, who is also the state’s minister of excise, said during a road campaign.
The sale of liquor, after all, is a major source of revenue for the state.
During the recent three-day Durga Puja celebration, liquor worth Rs 22.05 crore was sold in Guwahati alone. It generated Rs 17 crore for the state coffer during the corresponding period in 2022.
“Milk is beneficial to health, liquor is not. Driving after consuming liquor is worse. It increases the chance of an accident. Therefore, it is not good to drive a car or ride a two-wheeler after drinking liquor,” the minister said.
He set out recently riding a Royal Enfield to create awareness among people on road safety as the incidence of accidents assumes an alarming proportion in the state. During the month-long trip, he will cover all 126 Assembly segments.
Assam recorded 6,001 accidents and 2,606 deaths between January and October this year. Altogether 4,800 others were also injured.
Similarly, the year 2022 recorded 7,023 accidents in which 2,994 people were killed and 5,637 others were injured. Then, 7,404 accidents occurred in 2021. Altogether 3,030 people were killed and 5,759 others injured.
Suklabaidya launched the “Path Suraksha Jan Andolan” on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. He told this newspaper the government wanted to take the campaign to the level of a mass movement.
“The reasons behind road accidents are riding without wearing a helmet, overspeeding, rash driving and drinking and driving. Talking on a mobile phone while driving also leads to accidents. We thought if we can create mass awareness, the accident rate will drop,” he said.
“I am meeting cross-sections of people every day. They can continue the movement in the next phase,” he said.
Lok Sabha elections are just months away but he said there is no politics in the road campaign. “We want to save lives,” he said.