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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: Jul 7, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jul 7, 2018, 12:12 AM (IST)

‘Road mishaps will be checked at any cost’

Transport Minister Govind Thakur: We need to work on strict checking and enforcement of rules in a coordinated manner

Fatal road accidents in the state claim more than 1,000 lives every year besides leaving many others seriously crippled or permanently disabled. Despite government claims of taking every possible measure to put a brake on these fatal accidents, the data for the past decade indicates that the killer stretches, especially in districts like Chamba, Sirmour and Shimla, continue to claim precious lives.

Transport and Forest Minister Govind Thakur discusses the issue of fatal accidents and steps being taken to ensure passenger safety with Special Correspondent Pratibha Chauhan. Excerpts from the interview: 

Road transport remains the main form of transportation in the state. Fatal road accidents claim several lives every year. What steps are you taking to avoid the mishaps?

Yes, unfortunately fatal accidents claim hundreds of lives every year. We are working on all aspects like better training of drivers, good condition of vehicles and improvement of roads. As a step forward in this direction, we have included representatives of bus and truck drivers and conductors in the Road Safety Council, so that their point of view can also be taken into consideration. One area on which we really need to work in the coming months is strict checking and enforcement of rules, which is not being done in a well-coordinated manner. Various law-enforcing agencies, including the police, the flying squad of the Transport Department and the Public Works Department (PWD) staff need to work in close coordination to avert such fatal mishaps.

What is the strength of the bus fleet with the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC)? Is there any particular age or mileage for the buses to be excluded from the fleet?

The HRTC at present has a fleet of 3,200 buses, which includes mostly 37 and 42-seaters. Another 325 bigger- capacity low-floor buses received under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) will be used in cluster towns, which will further facilitate commuters. Even though the Planning and Finance departments have said the ideal fleet strength of the HRTC must be 2,800, but we are committed to providing the passengers the best facility and in the remotest parts of the state.

There is no specific age or mileage for the vehicles to be discarded because the condition of the vehicle is the most important criterion. The buses used in the rugged hilly terrain have a shorter life span due to greater wear and tear while those plying in the plains have a longer life span.

However, we ensure that no bus, which is in a bad condition or in need of repair is in operation. 

What steps are being taken to ensure passenger safety who are travelling in the HRTC buses?

The rate of accidents in the case of HRTC buses is less as compared to the private bus operators. Still, ensuring passenger safety of any vehicle is the responsibility of the state government.

We have decided to have the GPS fitted in all old buses also, though the new vehicles inducted in the fleet recently come fitted with the contraption.  The GPS not only helps in tracking the vehicle but will help ensure safety of passengers and timely plying of the vehicles.

The Road Safety Week will not just be a token exercise and not for that period alone, but will be a continuous exercise with community participation.

We have also urged the Union Ministry of Surface Transport to provide funds to put up crash barriers while the budget for the road construction is sanctioned. This helps reduce mortality rate in accidents in a hilly terrain. There will be stringent checking to ensure that nobody has a fake driving licence, as is seen in many cases. 

Has the HRTC paid attention towards creating awareness and sensitising people about road safety?

We have taken a major decision to include road safety and traffic rules in the school and college curriculum. 

Officials are in the process of preparing the curriculum so that students respect the rules and grow up as responsible citizens. Once this becomes part of school syllabus, hopefully people will respect and abide by the traffic rules.

Though it is already being done but we would like to further address issues like putting up of signage at every point, indicating a landslide-prone area, narrow or sharp curve or just poor-road condition, which will alert the driver about the road condition.

What steps are being taken to improve the working and the living condition of drivers and conductors and their better training?

Undoubtedly, the drivers and conductors are the backbone and biggest strength of the transport sector and catering to their needs and providing them with ideal working conditions is our responsibility and priority.

 Though regular medical check-ups for the drivers and conductors are done, but we are now planning to make it mandatory every three months. The check-up will not just be confined to the eye, the orthopaedic and the heart check-up, but will include a very essential element of mental health. Considering the high-stress level a person faces in this kind of a committed job, mental health and psychiatric examination will be included in the routine health check-ups.

The resting rooms for the staff will have air-conditioning and better facilities so that they are rested and fresh to undertake an arduous journey.


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