The latest meeting organised by the newly-formed District Road Safety Committee saw the absence of most local MLAs, MPs and civic officials with the panel chief saying the representatives were “not serious” about road safety in the city. It was the second meeting organised by the committee, which is headed by Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil.
The body is supposed to hold meetings every three months with the primary agenda of discussing, debating and suggesting steps to implement safety measures on Pune roads where around 400 people are killed and over 1,000 are injured in accidents every year.
The committee has, so far, held two meetings. The first one was held in January and the second was held last week. In both the meetings, all six MLAs from Pune city and three from Pimpri-Chinchwad were conspicuous by their absence.
Of the 21 MLAs, 19 stayed away from both the meetings. Ministers Girish Bapat and Vijay Shivtare were present for one meeting.
Among the MPs, only Pune’s Anil Shirole and Rajya Sabha member Amar Sable attended the last meeting.
Baramati MP Supriya Sule, Rajya Sabha members Vandana Chavan and Sanjay Kakade skipped both meetings, said Adhalrao-Patil. Shiv Sena MP Shrirang Barne had attended the first meeting.
Adhalrao-Patil said both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal commissioners as well as the district collector stayed away. Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said every Wednesday, the PCMC holds standing committee meetings. “One of our officials had made it to the meeting,” he said.
Asked about the committee meet, District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said he attended it on Tuesday and on Wednesday he had gone to Aurangabad for shifting purposes. Pune Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Rao was not available for comment.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Ashok Morale said he had personal work and hence, could not make it. Adhalrao-Patil, however, said the traffic police personnel were represented by an assistant commissioner. “Fair enough, at least a senior person turned up. But in case of civic bodies, it is the commissioners who should make themselves available as they are the decision makers. Even the juniors were missing. In case of the traffic police, the DCP had personally called up and conveyed a message regarding his inability to come,” he said.
Adhalrao-Patil said Pune’s traffic problem has grown manifold and with that, the issue of road safety has become paramount. “We all need to sit together and come up with ideas to ensure safety of Pune residents on the roads. We need to implement measures that will mitigate the increasing loss of lives and injuries to motorists, two-wheeler drivers and pedestrians. For this to happen, each one, including people’s representatives and officials, have to come together,” he said. “Nobody seems to be bothered about the safety of Pune residents,” he added.
Adhalrao-Patil said apart from the district administration, which sends letters apprising the MLAs and officials of the schedule of meetings, he also sends a letter requesting officials to attend the meets. “They don’t even bother to call up and say why they are unable to attend. It shows how concerned they are,” he said. Officials from the Regional Transport Office take initiatives in holding the meetings.
Adhalrao-Patil said the condition of the DISHA, or the District Infrastructure Scheme Advisory, Committees set up by the central government is no different. The committee, he said, is supposed to ensure that government’s programmes are implemented in a time-bound manner and there is transparency and quality implementation. “Be it MLAs or MPs or officials, they all are taking it lightly. In the first meeting, two MLAs from Pune district were present. And in the second, none of the MLAs turned up. Only two MPs, Sable and Shirole, have been present for the both the meetings,” Adhalrao-Patil said.
He added that the DISHA meetings are crucial to find out if the government schemes meant for the poor are actually reaching the beneficiaries.
Manav Kamble of Nagari Haqq Suraksha Samiti said: “Every year at the end of December, the Pune City Police and Pune Rural Police come out with the figure of those who died in accidents on Pune’s roads. Collectively, the figure of road fatalities in both Pune city and Pune rural areas stand at around 1,000 a year, which shows how serious the problem is. To hear that people’s representatives and civic and traffic officials are not concerned about it is a reflection on their attitude towards Pune,” he said. Kamble said MLAs and MPs take extra efforts to be present at song and dance programmes. “If such is their callousness, then they should be removed from the meetings and experts should be brought in,” he said.
Asked about the meeting, BJP MLA Medha Kulkarni said she had not received an invitation for it. “I would have attended the meeting. But I did not receive the invitation,” she said. “If none of the MLAs could make it, it seems there is need to improve the system…,” she said. Adhalrao-Patil, however, said invitation had been sent to all MLAs.