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Good roads cause accidents: BJP ministers

Deputy CM blames speeding, union minister points finger at youngsters
Govind Karjol

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 12.09.19, 08:48 PM

Good roads cause motor accidents, two BJP ministers have claimed, turning conventional wisdom on its head.

The bizarre theory, expressed by Karnataka deputy chief minister Govind Karjol and endorsed by Union minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, comes at a time the country is still scratching its head over the finance minister’s explanation of another feature of Indian roads.

Nirmala Sitharaman had days ago blamed the slump in auto sales on the millennials’ presumed preference for Ola and Uber.

While Karjol set the ball rolling by saying good roads encouraged speeding and increased the likelihood of crashes, Gowda took a leaf out of Sitharaman’s book and blamed “youngsters” at the wheel.

Reporters had asked Karjol, who holds the state public works portfolio, about the poor quality of roads in many parts of Karnataka, including Bangalore.

The context was the rising protests across the country against the steep traffic fines introduced in the amended central Motor Vehicles Act, which came into force on September 1, and the demand that governments first improve the roads before imposing these penalties.

“Around 1,000 road accidents are reported in the state every year. The media have been citing bad roads as the reason. But I say the actual reason is the good roads,” Karjol said, speaking in Chitradurga on Wednesday.

“You can see our highways, where vehicles move at 100kmph to 120kmph.”

Gowda, the Union chemicals and fertilisers minister, was addressing a news conference in Delhi on Thursday when reporters asked him to comment on Karjol’s remarks.

The former Karnataka chief minister appeared hesitant at first. But when the reporters insisted, he said: “See, youngsters… their hands and legs will be on the accelerator more on the good roads.”

On December 6 last year, the Supreme Court had clearly linked street accidents to poor roads, describing as “unacceptable” the death of nearly 15,000 people in pothole-related accidents in the preceding five years.

“It is unacceptable that such a large number of deaths takes place on roads due to potholes,” the bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta had said.

Their comment was based on a report filed by the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety, headed by the former apex court judge, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan.

Karjol’s comments have come at a time Karnataka has joined other BJP-ruled states like Maharashtra and Goa in deciding to reduce the steep new traffic fines.

“The state cabinet will take a decision on reducing the fines,” he said.

Opposition-ruled Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were among the first states to criticise the increased fines.

Kerala’s Left government had enforced the new fines but had to back down under public pressure and freeze them till the end of Onam. The general feeling in the state is that the new penalties are unlikely to be re-imposed even after the festive holidays end this weekend.

While driving without a licence earlier brought one a fine of Rs 500, this has been revised to Rs 5,000. The fines for driving without seatbelts or helmets have also been raised tenfold.


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