There has been a 5 per cent rise in road accidents and a 4 per cent rise in road accident-related deaths in 2021 as compared to 2019 with 13,346 fatalities and 15, 922 people sustaining serious injuries. The chief of Maharashtra Highway Traffic Police, Additional Director General Kulwant Sarangal, who took charge two months ago, tells Jayprakash S Naidu on the steps being taken to minimise such incidents and fatalities.
Q. What steps are you taking to curb road accidents in Maharashtra?
My top priority is to build the capacity of the force by upgrading resources, manpower and skill level to save lives. My first step has been assessing our capacity to patrol the highways. For that our men are being trained. Our major objectives are to help motorists in whatever way required, enforce discipline and enforcement. Second step is analysing road accidents data to prevent such incidents and deploying our scarce resources based on some evidence. For this we are using Integrated Road Accident Database (i-RAD) application to analyse road accidents and we are trying to feed 100 per cent data of all accidents in the i-RAD. The data will be very useful in the next six months.
Q. How exactly will this i-RAD data help you?
On an experimental basis in a particular city we have picked up all data from i-RAD. Now, we are trying to analyse where our deployment was when the accident took place, whether we were present there or not. We have done GIS mapping of the data and are trying to figure out the actual ground situation of the accident spot like the terrain, people involved and causes and will correlate it with our deployment on that day. Based on that we will recommend to the city traffic police how they should dynamically deploy their men and take other measures to prevent accidents.
Q. Speeding is a major cause of accidents in Maharashtra. Any specific steps taken to get motorists to avoid speeding?
We have 92 interceptor vehicles with speed guns and are in the process of acquiring 194 interceptor vehicles with speed guns and another 500-odd breath analysers this year. Due to this our enforcement against motorists will increase. It is desirable to have adequate mounted CCTV cameras on all highways to ensure overspeeding does not lead to accidents but this process of acquiring cameras is done by other stakeholders like NHAI, PWD and MSRDC. Further changing behaviour of motorists is very important.
Q. How do we plan to change the behaviour of motorists then?
In the short run, we are trying to change this behaviour by enforcement and educating these drivers as part of our Mrityunjay Doot initiative, which is a continuous process. In the long run, we are planning to create a report on the socio-economic cost or impact that accidents have on Maharashtra. An IIT professor from Tamil Nadu will help us make a report based on five-year data of road accidents. This report will tell us the GDP losses due to accidents and the plight of families whose sole breadwinners were killed or badly injured in accidents. A field study will be done and this report will help us educate people and formulate policies.
Q. Recently, the fine amount was increased by the government for traffic violations, which is leading to increased pendency in e-challan payment. What is being done for recovery of dues that are above Rs 1,300 crore?
If we do 100 e-challan cases a day, we are able to issue only 50 e-challans because mobile numbers are not updated in the system. We are updating it so the process is more effective. Recovery is another issue. We have used Lok Adalat’s help on three occasions to recover Rs 150 crore since September last year. Those who have not appeared before Lok Adalat will have to face a case against them in regular court and the process has already begun. Further, when we stop vehicles for a violation, we check our system to find out if their dues are pending and insist they pay the fine then and there.