The New Year began on the sombre note of road accidents and deaths. The newspapers of January 2, 2024 splashed the news of four accidental deaths in Goa, one of which was especially heartbreaking and surely avoidable.
In the midst of the celebrations and fireworks that rang in the New Year, there were families that went into mourning over the loss of a beloved member.
The death of the youth, who fell into a pit dug by the smart city works, was the most horrific and avoidable death of January 1, 2024.
Avoidable, because those involved with the work should have been a lot more careful to ensure that whatever digging was undertaken was properly cordoned off, that signs were posted of the hole in the ground.
At the time of writing, none of this could be ascertained, except that there were wooden planks around the pit, and an inquiry has been ordered.
Further, the CCP has asked the Smart City vehicle not to pay the contractors until responsibility is affixed and the Goa Human Rights Commission has sought replies on the incident.
But, will an inquiry bring back the life? Is it only the contractor, who was undertaking the work, to be held responsible? Aren’t those who have ordered the indiscriminate digging of roads also to share the responsibility?
It is not as if the accidents came as a surprise. A day before New Year, the police were trolled on social media for an advisory asking people not to go for early morning walks on the footpaths as there could be drunk and sleepy drivers on the roads.
While such an advisory would and did draw derision, shouldn’t the police have also advised people on driving on Panjim’s roads, that have been dug into at intervals of a few metres, posing a bigger hazard than drunk drivers?
If the safety of the early morning walkers on New Year’s day is a concern for the police, isn’t the safety of riders and drivers negotiating roads that can best be described as battle-damaged, also an equal concern?
The streets of Panjim have been showing such signs for well over a year, which should have led to some precautionary advice from the authorities.
What is becoming apparent is that the New Year accidents are almost unavoidable. Goa has seen such accidents in the past and it is still seeing them.
Four deaths on a single day in road accidents is a large number for a small state like Goa. Which leads to the question of what is to be done about this?
If it is drunken driving that is one of the causes, then the law enforcement agencies have time and again been having drives against drunken driving, usually after an accident. This has not helped reduce the number of drunken drivers.
But, it is not just drunken driving that is plaguing the streets of Goa. Indiscipline on the roads, coupled with rash driving, is also very common and it is not just the locals, but also tourists who speed on the roads in cars they have rented.
Just last week, a video of a stunt involving two children sleeping on the roof of a car, went viral. Across India the headlines were ‘Goa horror’ when in actuality though it occurred in Goa, the persons involved were allegedly tourists.
This is the most dangerous of stunts and it is beyond belief that the parents of the children could even conceive such an idea. For acts like these, it is the drivers who are solely to be blamed and responsible.
But then, the question, since they were tourists who did the stunt, is whether they would undertake such a drive on the roads in their home state.
If they wouldn’t do it there, why here in Goa? Is it because the police are seen as being lax in Goa?
That is something for the police to ponder about. Just because Goa is a tourist destination, the visitors to the state cannot abuse the welcome and attempt stunts that endanger lives and give Goa a bad name.
The state has to take some very stringent action against those involved in such dangerous acts to set an example and deter others from trying out similar stunts.
The time for temporary drives against drunken driving has long ended.
Goa needs to instill discipline on the roads and this requires some tough action from the authorities, perhaps beginning with a complete overhaul of the driving licensing system, and then going further with being tough on the roads.