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Tackling terror on the roads

Unlike traffic managers elsewhere, Mr. Kamaraja likes his work to be known less by figures of fines collected than by the reduction of road deaths and actual number of accidents.


V. Kamaraja

Handling terrorist violence to tackling terror on the road. V. Kamaraja has travelled that route in his career in the IPS, just as many of his colleagues have. But that is not what makes his work distinct from that of his peers.

Today, he heads a highly successful unit that is using low cost, high-efficiency methods to make Haryana's highways modern and safe. Kamaraja tells S. Shivakumar that there are enough laws on safety. The problem is that not enough is being done by police forces in the States.

HE Has served in places where terror was a part of life a decade ago. Sirsa in Haryana was one such, at the height of the Punjab problem.

Today, he is working to stop an entirely different kind of carnage — on the roads of Haryana. The tools are not draconian new laws or vast amounts of funds, but a deft application of well-known technologies and practices. The results are encouraging.

Unlike traffic managers elsewhere, Mr. Kamaraja likes his work to be known less by figures of fines collected than by the reduction of road deaths and actual number of accidents.

It may be just small details, but big steps to avoid a mishap. The 1987 batch officer of Haryana cadre has ensured that if a vehicle, including autorickshaws, is seen on a highway without a reflector at the rear, his fully equipped team will fit that device and promptly collect a small fee from the vehicle driver.

So far, 65,000 vehicles have been fitted with these reflectors, or in some cases stickers, with the help of NGOs. Reflector cones are also placed near vehicles that have broken down.

That attention to detail, which many IPS officers usually consider too small for them to handle, got him the attention of the Centre, which nominated him member of the inter-ministerial advisory group on road safety. His road safety project has been adopted as a model by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways which has directed all other States to follow the road safety system.

``The existing laws are more than sufficient to instil discipline among drivers. Making various government departments like the PWD, Highways and even the local police accountable would go a long way to make roads safe,'' he says.

Where the departments think they can still evade accountability, Mr. Kamaraja has a strong response waiting. He served notice on the PWD that recurring accidents at a site were traced to badly-laid road shoulders. If the PWD failed to rectify it, the police would use the IPC provisions against its personnel. ``Such strong methods have yielded results,'' says the 43-year-old officer who hails from Ottupatti in Nilakottai.

As senior superintendent of police, Haryana Highway Patrol and Road Safety (HHPRS) with headquarters at Karnal, he has been particularly aided by the non-interfering policy of the Government. ``The Chief Minister, who is keen to make an impact, has given me complete freedom on this agenda.''

Among the safety measures, the 12 Traffic Aid Centres (TAC) set up at a distance of 30 kms on four important national highways in Haryana play a key role. These TACs are fully equipped including an ambulance with paramedical staff, a crane, a jeep, motorcycle and is manned by 17 personnel including policemen. These TACs, sponsored by public sector and private undertakings, are situated on an area of about two acres and have a traffic park, children's park and sufficient parking area.

``Life is more important than investigation. The moment an accident is reported, TAC personnel rush to the spot, take photographs for investigation and rush accident victims to the nearest hospital without wasting any time,'' says Mr. Kamaraja.

Aggressive enforcement has also ensured discipline among drivers. Haphazard parking of vehicles along the highways was also found to be a major reason for road accidents. These vehicles were targeted and stern action taken.

Another aspect that brought down the accident rate was action against vehicles driving in the wrong direction, lorries transporting fodder and other goods above the permitted load, and those moving with steel rods protruding behind them, says Mr. Kamaraja who had earlier served in the CBI. All these maladies, incidentally, are common in Chennai.

This had the necessary impact and during the last year alone a fine amount of Rs. 4.25 crores was collected.

On the traffic scenario in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Kamaraja says that there can be a visible change if the authorities mean business. He agrees that in Tamil Nadu accountability was not being fixed on the agency concerned for the cause of an accident. ``How is it that traffic personnel here don't regulate traffic in the first place, which will reduce the accident rate,'' he asks.

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