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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Bus accident in Jammu’s Chenab Valley claims 38 lives, leaves 17 injured

Officials said a bus carrying 55 passengers, which was on its way to Jammu from Kishtwar, rolled down a 300ft gorge at Assar near Doda town

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 16.11.23, 04:57 AM
Rescue operation underway after a bus carrying passengers fell into a gorge, in Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir.

Rescue operation underway after a bus carrying passengers fell into a gorge, in Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir. File Photo.

A bus accident on the “killer roads” of Jammu’s Chenab Valley claimed 38 lives and left another 17 injured on Wednesday, bringing into question the purported efforts of the government to reduce road fatalities across the Union Territory.

Officials said a bus carrying 55 passengers, which was on its way to Jammu from Kishtwar, rolled down a 300ft gorge at Assar near Doda town. Many stretches of the roads in the region are in a bad state, besides being too narrow and with sharp bends.

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Jitendra Singh, the local MP and a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, said 36 people died on the spot and 19 were injured, some of them critically. By evening, two of the injured persons succumbed to their wounds.

Kishtwar and Doda districts are part of the Chenab Valley, which along with the adjoining Pir Panchal region is notorious for road accidents.

A report by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) had said 4,287 lives were lost due to road accidents from 2018 to 2022 in Jammu and Kashmir, the majority of them in Chenab and Pir Panchal.

Successive governments, despite tall promises, have failed to curb road accidents.

Kashmiri politicians raised questions over the claims of the local administration that it was taking measures to reduce road fatalities.

“Sadly for all the talk of progress & development we are not able to stop the steady stream of accidents, often with an unacceptably high death toll,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah wrote on X.

CPM veteran Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said Doda district had become a death trap and “such accidents have become a norm”.

“Merely expressing grief and condolences are not enough. What is required is to thoroughly get this area studied by experts for effective measures so that more lives are not put at stake,” he said in a statement.

Last December, Jammu and Kashmir High Court took suo motu notice of recurring accidents in Chenab and asked the government to constitute a committee to look at the causes and make recommendations.

A committee was set up early this year, which in a report said the accidents were not limited “to road alignment only” but also have “broader correlation with drivers’ state of mind, fatigue, condition of vehicle and weather conditions”.

The experts also suggested strict enforcement of the speed limit by installing CCTV cameras and speed trackers.

Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha chaired a meeting in February on road safety in Jammu and Kashmir where officials claimed progress in improving the safety of the roads, plugging unauthorised bends and erecting crash barriers and speed limit signages.

The LG had hailed “all stakeholders for their commendable efforts towards improving road safety in the UT”.

Though officials said they were investigating what caused Wednesday’s accident, experts have in the past blamed the bad condition of roads in the Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal, absence of tunnels at sharp bends, rash and negligent driving, drink driving and use of mobile phones by drivers as key reasons behind accidents.

President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Modi said on Wednesday that they were saddened by the deaths.

“The bus accident in Doda, Jammu and Kashmir, is distressing. My condolences to the families who have lost their near and dear ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest,” Modi said on X.

He announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

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