The status of pothole deaths in India
Written by: Mansi Choudhary, Student, ICFAI University Jaipur
For all the people who lives in India, absolutely pothole needs no introduction. If we talk about rural areas to urban areas or big city to small city potholes can be seen everywhere. Water and excessive use or by extreme of weather are the main causes of potholes, they are simply areas of road surface that have cracked, worn away and eventually formed a hole in it. They start out as tiny crack. If they are not fixed at a right time then the size will increase. Continued traffic movement ejects both asphalt and the underlying soil material to create a hole in the pavement. Lack of maintenance funds, movement of overloaded vehicles and heavy rains, leading to road damages which ultimately cause traffic jams and road accidents. Mending work for potholed roads, which is undertaken by the government each year, cost to the tune of crores. But after every monsoon season the condition of roads still remain the same as before the restoration of road.
The number of deaths in India due to road accidents are increasing day by day is a serious sign of worry. The Supreme Court addressed “unacceptable” the death of approximately 15,000 people in road accidents caused by potholes in the last five years and said the number was probably more than those killed on the border or by terrorists attacks.
According to a report prepared by the Transport Research Wing (TRW), the total number of road accidents has increased approximately from 4.86 lakh in 2013 to 4.89 lakh in 2014. The number of fatalities has also risen by about 1.5% and account for about 83.2% of the deaths.
According to the guidelines, the height of the speed breaker should not exceed 10 cm; however, in majority of countries particularly in smaller cities and residential pockets, the speed breakers are up to 6-8 inches high. In India roads are still being constructed as per decades old guidelines. Also most of the arterial roads and elevated roads do not have cautionary signs for speed breakers that lead to frequent road accidents.
The bench stated that many jurisdiction like the municipal corporations, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), concessionaires working with them or the state road departments would be responsible for these deaths as they are not maintaining the roads.
There was a incident on february 10, 2014, Manoj Wadhwa a resident of Faridabad was riding his bike and his wife was sitting at the back and three-year-old son was sitting between them. Manoj spotted a pool of water and applied hard brakes. The road was slippery due to this his bike skid and his son got hit by stone and a vehicle run over his wife legs. He rushed to the hospital but before arrival his son was declared dead. The report was filed by a police, claiming that this was a hit-and-run case. Manoj was following up with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the Haryana Government and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as well as the police but none of them answered his calls. In 2016 after all this struggles he finally decided to move to the Punjab and Haryana High Courts to seek justice. The Faridabad police had found the directors and project managers of Larsen & Toubro and Delhi-Agra Toll Road Private Ltd responsible for the poor condition of the road. According to the report, the six accused have been charged with “causing grievous hurt by endangering life or personal safety and causing death due to negligence” under section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr PC) and sections 279, 337 and 304-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
There’s a another case of a 23-year-old man was run over by lorry after he fell off the motorcycle when his bike's handle hit an iron board placed over a pothole. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. The government has also decided to give Rs 10 lakh to the deceased family. "It's painful," observed by the court and added that how the responsibilities of the system caused the death of a young man. When fines for traffic violations has been increased and many people question who would be responsible for bad roads in the country, a man in Rajkot added that the after so many requests for the repairing of the road still no answer from the authorities he decided to protest in a unique way so he lie down on the potholes and his fellow protestor Laxmanbhai Bhatwar tried to draw attention of civic authorities to the condition of roads. The question arises is the mere compensation will be sufficient for someone’s life? How many times government will pay the compensation? Shouldn’t the government and authorities be held liable for the negligence and be punished. We citizens pay taxes to them which is only used in the maintenance of the public property. Still they are not following the court orders. 
There’s a leading case law “State Of Karnataka And Others vs B. Krishna Bhat And Others” B. Krishna Bhat, According to the case two vehicles are maintained in good condition; but roads are not in good condition to drive, he contends that the State's obligation to maintain roads in a proper manner. He also contends that large amounts are being collected as tax on motor vehicles, but they are not used for improving the roads; and such tax should exclusively be used for improving and maintaining the roads in the State. He, therefore, filed these petitions seeking a direction to the Commissioner for Transport in Karnataka and the Director General of Police and the Officers working under them not to intercept his two vehicles.
An another judgment, a division bench of the Bombay high court, comprising of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice c.v. Bhadang has passed an interim order on 20 may,2015, held that driving in a pothole free roads in sensible condition is a fundamental right of citizens, under the Article 21 of the constitution. The order was passed in a suo moto public interest litigation (PIL) initiated in 2013 by chief justice Mohit Shah of Bombay high court.
Government has also taken some steps for example in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has pledged to make state roads pothole-free by June 15, 2017.
However, it is not only UP where roads need mending; roads across the whole country are in a poor condition and need serious repair works. The government has focused on developing smart roads that will involve the use of technology and superior quality construction materials under its Small Cities Mission. On January 11, Union home minister Rajnath Singh launched the annual road safety week. There are some steps which are taken regarding to reduce road accidents in India:
Nitin Gadkari has announced Rs 11,000 crore over the next five years to fix the engineering defects on roads across India.
726 “black spots” in the country where accidents are most common will be fixed.
Work on 10 black spots in Delhi to be taken up as the first priority task.
NGOs and citizens are being urged to conduct road safety awareness drives.
A sum of Rs. 3 lakh will be used to support the NGOs.
Well planned methods should be adopted for the construction of smart roads. The method will include re-engineered steel material for structures on the roads like walkways, overhead bridges, pillars and poles, etc. Improved and good quality cement products and by-products will be used for the pavements. Vehicle possession is increasing day by day at an alarming rate in India and streamlining the traffic, calls for construction of additional expressways of about 15,000 kilometres in the next ten years.
One practical solution experts and road engineers suggested that is to construct roads in a way that they slope towards the edges, to prevent water-stagnation. Service ducts with vents must be provided at regular intervals, so that roads need not be dug up again and again for various purposes.'
India is said to be fastest developing country after China. The nation is performing extremely well in fields such as education, industrialization and fashion. However the condition of the roads, act as a major pothole in India’s complete progress. So instead of spending money here and there, it should be used to fill up pothole, that is not much costly to save a life, which is the prima facie motive of any country which our preamble also says.
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