THE Maharashtra Home department has ordered the setting up of a multi-sectoral Steering Committee to come up with an action plan to reduce the number of accidents on the Old-Pune Mumbai Highway. The committee has to conduct a scientific analysis of the mishaps that have taken place in the past and take corrective measures.
The stretch of National Highway 48 between Pune and Mumbai is referred to as the Old Pune-Mumbai Highway, to distinguish it from the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, which became operational as late as 2002. Before the Expressway was built, the Old Highway was the only direct road link between the two cities. This stretch of road between the two cities witnesses a significantly higher number of accidents and fatalities than the Expressway.
For comparison, in 2018, while there were 110 deaths in 96 fatal accidents on the Expressway, there were 268 deaths in 235 accidents on the Old Highway.
In February 2019, the state Home department had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the New Delhi-based SaveLife Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working towards road safety in India. As per the terms of the MoU, the department ordered the formation of the committee in a circular issued last week.
The committee will be headed by the additional chief secretary, home, and will comprise representative officials from state government departments like Home, Public Health, Road Transport, Medical Services and officials including additional director general (traffic), managing director and chief engineer of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, a superintendent of State Highway Police, officials from an agency providing ambulance services and expert representatives from the Save Life Foundation.
Vijay Patil, superintendent of police (HQ) with the State Highway Police, who will also be part of the committee, said, “Earlier, in a similar manner, a steering committee was set up to analyse the accidents on Pune-Mumbai Expressway and suggest measures to prevent them. Concerted efforts made after suggestions from the committee led to significant reduction in the number of accidents and fatalities. The number of deaths in Expressway accidents in 2016 was 151, while last year it was 86. These efforts will continue in the future. Along the same lines, a steering committee has been formed to analyse the accidents on the Old Highway and suggest measures.”
“Challenges on the Old Highway are different than those of the Expressway. In the case of the Old Highway, some of the challenges are encroachments on the road, the ghat section, villages on the way, road condition and infrastructure etc. While the committee is mandated to hold review meetings every three months, more frequent meetings will be held to discuss specific issues,” he said.
Piyush Tewari, founder of SaveLife Foundation, said, “Road safety is essentially a multi-sectoral effort… it needs active participation from various government departments and experts from different areas. For example, accidents are reported from a point where there is a break to the road median. If that break has to be closed, it would require the agency which is responsible for construction as well as the enforcement agency to make sure that the median is not broken again.”
He added, “Like in the case of the Expressway, when we had suggested some intervention measures, same will be suggested in the case of the old Pune-Mumbai Highway too. Necessary measures will be suggested to the competent authority and a review will be done of its implementation.”
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