My colleague, Shri Jitin Prasada ji and Hon’ble Transport Ministers from the States,
Shri A.K. UPADHYAY Secretary Road Transport & Highways, Senior officials from the States/Union Territories and other distinguished invitees,
I am extremely happy to be present here and extend a warm and hearty welcome to you all. I thank you all for sparing your valuable time to attend this important meeting on Road Safety.
I have called this meeting with a heavy heart as it pains to know that in our country, during the year 2011, there were around 5 lakh road accidents resulting in the deaths of over 1.42 lakh people. Each day, nearly 390 people die on our roads. In India more than half of road accident victims are in the age group 20-65 years, the key wage earning and child raising age group. The loss of the main bread earner and head of household due to death or disability can be catastrophic, leading to lower living standards and poverty, in addition to the human cost of bereavement. This is an unacceptable price to pay for mobility.
I’m taken aback by our collective failure to face up to one of the gravest, but preventable risks facing people across the country — the risk of death and disability on the roads. Yet we are not sensitive to this issue of national concern and not giving it due priority. Thousands of people die each year because major roads are routed on existing alignments passing through their homes, farm land and schools. The causes and the simple preventive cures of accidents are well known. China has been more successful than most of our neighboring countries, in tackling the road traffic crisis through stricter enforcement of vehicle standards and speed limits and separate lanes for different categories of road users.
We cannot afford to remain a silent observer any longer and need to pool all our resources & energies, manpower etc., to tackle this menace without any further loss of time. Preservation of life is of paramount importance considering that Article 21 of the constitution guarantees the right to life and liberty. Governments have a primary role to play in creating safe road traffic conditions through safe infrastructure, legislation, enforcement and education. Visible political commitment will certainly mobilize public support.
It is time to shift from ad hoc road safety activities to developing and implementing sustainable programmes. This requires certain conditions to be met such as having a critical mass of competent personnel, prioritizing road safety at the political level and as a development issue, securing sustainable funding mechanisms and establishing institutional structures responsible for planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating road safety programmes. Political priority is clearly the primary requirement.
It is imperative that the Government reaches out to the people to spread the message of road safety. Education and awareness will go a long way to bring about a change in the attitude and behavior of our people. As a step in this direction, I appeal to all the State Governments to hold regional workshops in their States regularly. All the States may also take urgent steps to identify a lead agency in government to guide the road traffic safety efforts in their states.
During the current financial year we plan to start programmes through Schools and Universities for spreading awareness among youth and initiate mass mobilization for road safety. We are also considering identifying States, Districts, Universities, Schools & Colleges, Newspapers, TV channels, Radio stations etc. who have done commendable work in the preceding year to give them national awards on road safety.
There is an item today regarding constitution of State level road safety councils on the pattern of NSRC and constituting district level road safety committees in each district of the country under the chairmanship of the State Transport Minister and Collector in each district respectively. Once these are constituted, the meetings are held regularly and road safety issues identified and addressed, there is no reason as to why the present road accident scenario cannot be changed. This meeting is an opportunity to tackle head-on, a humanitarian crisis that is destroying lives on a vast scale, undermining progress in poverty reduction, crippling health systems and holding back economic growth.
I am confident that in today’s meeting many fruitful and far reaching conclusions will be arrived at which will form the basis for the future work plan as far as Road Safety is concerned. I would like to mention that in future such meetings will be held more frequently and that will enable us to get your views on various aspects of Road Safety from time to time which would help us in making correction in our policy.