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While Minister of State for Home and Urban Development Ranjit Patil has acted promptly on a Pune Newsline report highlighting the death of a two-wheeler rider due to a faulty speed-breaker, Pune’s District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat and MP Anil Shirole don’t seem to have any concrete ideas on the issue. When queried, Bapat said three days ago, he had held meetings with traffic police and told them to take action regarding violations of norms by two-wheeler riders and other motorists. However, when asked whether he had any concrete plans to save the lives of two-wheeler riders, Bapat said, “If you have any plans and suggestions, we will place them during our next meeting.” Similarly, Shirole did not sound convincing when asked if he had any plans to stop the frequent loss of lives on Pune’s roads. “Baghu, kay karta yeil (Let’s see what we can do)”, he said.
Last year, when he was contacted about the large number of deaths of two-wheeler riders on Pune roads, he had made the same comment. Though 175 “helmet-less” riders have died on Pune’s roads, Shirole said, “Helmets should be voluntary.” D G Baliga, civic activist, said Shirole should think twice before making such comments. “Of the 175 helmet-less bikers who died, at least 100 lives could have been saved if the riders had worn helmets,” he said.
On Friday, Patil had sent a clipping of a Pune Newsline report — on police filing a case against the dead rider, not negligent officials — with notings, directing Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla to act immediately. The minister’s office said Pune residents should alert him whenever such incidents take place. Civic activists have demanded that a case of culpable homicide should be filed against negligent civic officials, to ensure that in the future, the Pune Municipal Corporation comes up with proper speed-breakers or rumbler strips. They also demanded that each and every accident should be investigated and action should be taken, against drivers for rash driving or civic officials for infrastructural deficiencies.
While Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla had said that she will act on the issue, PMC commissioner Kunal Kumar had said guilty officials would have to face action. However, civic activists and Pune residents said this kind of “action” was taking place because a minister, who is not from Pune, has decided to look into the problems of the city. “But what is our own minister, Girish Bapat, doing ? Isn’t it his job, as the district guardian minister, to guard the lives of Pune residents,” asked Vivek Velenkar of the Sajag Nagrik Manch.
Velenkar pointed out that as Bapat was the district guardian minister, departments like civic, police and collectorate came under him. “He should hold meetings regularly and seek plans, and ensure their implementation, to protect the lives of citizens on Pune roads… he has to monitor the work of civic and police officials to get the plans implemented,” said Velenkar. Human rights activist Aseem Sarode, an advocate, said, “… Our minister and MP do not seem to be showing any seriousness or sense of urgency to help save the lives of Pune residents.” “Where are the funds going ? Pune residents have the right to know whether they are spending their funds in ensuring proper and safe roads,” he added. Sarode said the minister and the MP should work as a team, and work hard, to resolve Pune’s problems.
Qaneez Sukhrani, of the Viman Nagar Citizen’s Forum, said, “We elect them for five years but they don’t value our vote. Do the minister and MP not travel on the roads used by citizens and observe the bad condition they are in ? Do they shut their eyes when they travel ? Are they not aware of the daily loss of innocent lives on Pune’s dangerous roads”?