This article is dedicated to those two Goa Traffic Cops who became casualties of a road culture of rash and boorish driving while controlling the traffic in and around Mapusa town. Though the Goan may unceasingly boast about Goykarponn, in reality the selfishness and sheer rowdiness prevalent on roads in many other metros of India is rapidly taking over the culture of Goa. Goa’s poor road safety standards is one denominator to demonstrate the social degeneration of the Goan society, while making no distinction between the locals and settlers. From the public transport operators to the private vehicle owners, it is fast becoming rare to find Goykarponn on the roads. The manner in which drivers behave in traffic jams is simply disgusting. The more posh the vehicle and economically affluent the driver, the more is the abuse of laws by talking on mobile phones, parking in unauthorised locations, aggression against smaller vehicles, noisy silencers, use of air horns and so on. The resistance to introduction of speed governors, fare meters and wearing of helmets are all part of that individualistic and abusive culture which prevents the traffic laws and just trade practices from being enforced. By just observing how a vehicle is being driven, one can more or less correctly guess the mentality of the driver behind the wheel.
One death per day in Goa or 17 deaths per hour across the country due to road accidents is by no means a negligible statistical figure. Young and skilled human resource has perished on our roads and huge social and medical costs are incurred by the family and tax paying public on medical attention given to those who suffer from physical injuries. Families are traumatised by their loved ones becoming handicapped or paralysed, sometimes for no fault of theirs, except that the victim was at the wrong place and time when a criminal was out. The use of the term ‘criminal’ is deliberate because what gets registered as road accidents are more than often nothing short of homicide not amounting to murder or mere suicide. Many of the road accidents are natural and logical consequences of violating the laws and prescribed rules for safe driving. Speeding on roads may definitely be a problem but so is the nuisance of driving under influence of alcohol, drugs and ghutka, not showing the signal while turning or changing lanes, not using side mirrors and lack of knowledge about other basic driving rules. So also, the full insurance cover given for the vehicles often becomes an incentive for rash and careless driving. The attitude of the police in encouraging amicable settlement of accident cases without registering official complaints in order to keep the statistics low has only helped compound the problem.
However, besides the violation of traffic laws being the cause for road accidents, there is also the poor operational road conditions which are equally contributing to the problem. Unfortunately, to win government recognition and popularity, NGOs and celebrities have shrugged their moral responsibility to highlight the prevailing road surface conditions while promoting the wearing of helmets and seat belts. There is no road safety audit undertaken at regular intervals and village roads are left in bad shape by the government for years at a stretch only to be repaired when elections are due. While the government claims that roads are being widened to facilitate smooth flow of traffic and reduce accidents, one actually sees speed breakers erected at frequent intervals and furrows in the road surfaces caused from laying of cables and pipes coupled with various other encroachments which are highly hazardous for two-wheeler riders. So also, despite poor road conditions and traffic congestions the government permits high powered vehicles to come onto the roads. Instead of providing under passes along highways and district roads, the government illegally provides pedestrian crossings which expose the pedestrians to rowdy drivers. Road safety standards are often compromised by governments in order to facilitate their political interests or certain business considerations of shopping malls, movie houses, bars and restaurants thereby creating death traps on the roads.
Unfortunately, the pedestrians, commuters and two- wheeler riders in Goa who are at high risk of losing their life and limbs due to rash and unruly driving culture on roads and compromised road safety standards have not felt the need to organise themselves for demanding their legitimate rights and safety on the roads. The citizens of Goa have been too patient with their governments and allowed themselves to be abused and taken for granted by politicians. Broad roads and faster road tracks in the name of development without strict enforcement of laws can only act as a bomb which takes more innocent lives. Road safety needs to become as much an issue for elections as corruption. Isn’t it time for zero tolerance to road accidents in Goa?