If There Was No Pothole on NH2, My 3-Year-Old Would Still Be Alive
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
It was 2014. Around 10:20 pm on 10 February, we were coming back to Faridabad from Ballabgarh on my two-wheeler. Suddenly, my bike hit a pothole on National Highway 2. I lost control and we fell.
I lost my three-year-old son Pavitra. My wife, who was riding pillion, had to go through 23 painful surgeries since a vehicle coming from behind ran over her legs. Our life changed forever. Some who were passing through took us to the nearby hospital. My son had passed away due to multiple fractures and a hemorrhage, and my wife battled for her life for more than a month.
Initially, the police registered the accident as a hit-and-run case. Even after multiple rounds of investigations, no action was taken.
The police formed an SIT soon after. They said that the directors of the two companies which were contracted to lay the road and their project managers were responsible for the unfortunate accident under Section 304 (A) of the IPC.
Till date, we are fighting to book a government official and a contractor who were responsible for the road audit. In addition to this, I sent a proposal to formulate a new law against potholes to 17 state CMs, Road and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All this so we can save innocent lives in addition to getting justice for my only son.
Fault Lines in the System
The fight to have safe roads for all is a personal one to me. There are several fault lines in the law and state machinery that make it tough to get timely justice for victims of road accidents.
First, limitations of data. Road accident numbers are only those which are recorded in police reports. Secondly, the category of the accident is also ascertained from the same reports, which do not always reflect the reality. In my case, for example, the case was initially closed, mentioning that the accident was a hit-and-run case and the unknown vehicle wasn’t traceable. When, in actuality, the accident happened due to potholes.
Even after the accident is transferred to the police, the family is at the beck and call of the officer in charge and the case proceeds based on his availability. That's why most of the cases are closed as hit-and-run or over-speeding.
Shouldn't we demand more competence from the police? Rather than to actually investigate the case, cases are closed in a hurry, often in favor of those guilty: who didn’t fill potholes, made faulty road designs, used poor quality material and so on and so forth. In how many cases does the police check road material in labs?
Then comes the question of compensation. How can life be compensated with money? And how much? Who gets to decide? Who pays? Is remuneration paid by the engineer or the director responsible for the faulty road? Why there is a huge difference between the compensation amount in India and ‘developed’ countries?
How Can Pothole Deaths Be Avoided?
People should be empowered enough to report any pothole they spot with a date, time and location to the police and the concerned authorities. If the road isn't repaired, a case can be registered under Section 304 (II) of the IPC against the contractors. A centralised app can help the concerned authorities in detecting the location of the pothole. If this is implemented, potholes will be fixed timely.
At the end of the day, we all need to be more serious and assertive about demanding changes for our own life. Citizens need to demand accountability across all departments: police, policy makers, law. Courts should resolve matters speedily, too. Matters of life and death are to be the highest priority! Safer roads mean safer people.
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