Highway Deaths, Accountability

Highway Deaths, Accountability

More often than not, the tragic incidents keep on repeating along the Jammu-Srinagar highway, synonymous to lifeline for the people of the Kashmir Valley for dependency on food and other essentials.
The strategic thoroughfare has tragically, and historically too, consumed numerous lives. The death of any person is colossal and no amount can bring back to families who lose their loved ones, their bread-earners.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to it as the successive governments have not taken enough measures to address the issues.
On Saturday last, landslides near Seri Ramban left two people dead and police have filed an FIR against a construction company for “unplanned excavation” that triggered the mountain mass to slide. Nine vehicles, mostly trucks and excavators engaged in an ongoing four-laning highway project, were damaged and miraculously, most of the drivers and conductors onboard them escaped, although some suffered injuries.
In December last, a huge boulder came rolling down on a vehicle while passing through the particular patch of the road in the sector, killing two persons. In between several persons got killed or maimed due to shooting stones or landslides.
The precious lives were lost and it was not because of any negligence of the drivers but only on account of shooting stone and the landslide which is attributable to the failure of timely completion of the road widening projects.
Whether there is negligence on part of the officials or could these deaths been averted is a matter of inquiry but the government shall not be a silent spectator on the issue of deaths, which are taking place frequently on the highway.
Questions galore as to why should the contractors and their associate sub-contractors undertaking the widening of the road in Ramban, a fragile sector, are not held responsible and FIRs registered against them taken to logical conclusions? For years now, the highway has become a nightmare for commuters due to the pathetic condition of the road. Ramban sector is proving more dangerous and there is a likelihood of it earning the dubious nickname of a death trap road especially due to digging and widening process undertaken in disregard to the peculiar and fragile geology of the area where shooting stones and falling boulders are a routine. J&K High Court has passed a slew of directions while top administrative brass including the lieutenant governor and the chief secretary of J&K from time to time made orders encompassing need to complete the project within a timeframe and adopting safety measures. Strict compliance of the directions and the orders is required so is the need to make those at fault accountable.