Once again, a major accident occurred on the Batote-Doda stretch, resulting in around 39 deaths and many other battling for their lives when a passenger-laden bus careened off the road, hurtling down a precipitous 300-foot fall. The unfortunate incident transpired near Trungal-Assar, culminating in a catastrophic descent down the steep terrain. Following reports, the locus of this tragedy bears unsettling proximity to the site where an executive engineer, along with companions, met their demise in a vehicular mishap characterised by a fatal roll-down. This incident unfolded on the same stretch that previously endured a blockade owing to landslides, holding the roadway in thrall for several days. A makeshift alternative route was expediently established and persists in service. Immediate scrutiny in the form of a safety audit for this thoroughfare is imperatively warranted. The conspicuous causative factor appears to be excessive speed, leading to the loss of vehicular control, colliding with the side barrier, and precipitating a descent onto the antiquated roadway. Instances of fake driving licences are allegedly prevalent in the region, necessitating an expeditious and meticulous cross-verification of driving credentials. Once more, the conspicuous absence of a trauma centre assumes pivotal significance. Pragmatically, the entire stretch from Batote to Doda finds itself bereft of any trauma centre or medical facility. The locale where these recurrent tragedies unfold spans over considerable distances from the nearest medical response team. This spatial discrepancy results in the irrevocable loss of critical time, culminating in a lamentable escalation of casualties.
Despite the transfer of custodianship for the upkeep of the Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway from the BRO to PWD R&B in 2015, subsequently transitioning to NHIDCL, the state of the highway has remained unaltered. Alas, vehicular mishaps persist on this thoroughfare, bereft of palpable accountability or repercussions. In obedience to the High Court’s directives, a committee, helmed by the Engineer-in-Chief (Secretary Technical) of the PWD (R&B) Department, undertook an inquiry into the escalating road accidents on the Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway. The committee asseverated that heedless driving, encompassing overzealous speed, audacious overtaking, and inebriated driving, emerged as pivotal catalysts for accidents in the vicinity. The report underscored the deployment of decrepit vehicles on the highway as an exacerbating factor. To forestall further loss of lives, the Committee of Experts proffered stringent measures, including the implementation of speed constraints via the deployment of cameras, speed trackers, and radars, coupled with the institution of breath alcohol tests at designated junctures by enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, on-ground accomplishments have regrettably failed to materialise, despite the verbal assurances. Major accidents continue to occur unabated and authorities seem to be clueless as in the past.
The exigency of the hour mandates a thorough investigation to ascertain the root cause of the accident and subsequently rectify the enduring vulnerabilities within the existing system. Authorities must ensure that Regional Transport Offices conduct meticulous inspections of vehicles as well as licenses and unwaveringly enforce the mandate of speed governors in commercial vehicles. Systematic evaluations of road infrastructure, the identification of accident-prone zones, and the requisite enhancements such as the installation of safety barriers, signage, and speed impediments should evolve into regular exercises. A proactive and comprehensive approach, prioritising commuter safety in the region, stands as the most judicious recourse. Additionally, it is incumbent upon the government to make a decisive intervention and promptly establish a medical facility tailored to address the exigencies of such vehicular calamities. The litany of pressing issues beseeches the immediate attention of the administrative apparatus. Lives of utmost value have been forfeited, and this stretch has become a recurring locus for accidents of catastrophic proportions. The chronicle of monetary compensations, while commendable, ought to be supplemented by a rigorous inquiry followed by tangible and efficacious measures. The clarion call resounds for the administration to undertake corrective actions forthwith.