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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

'Our protest will continue': Samruddhi Expressway death damages elude families

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh each, but the state government has paid only Rs 5 lakh

Basant Kumar Mohanty Wardha Published 21.04.24, 05:07 AM
Charred remains of the bus after the accident on Samruddhi Expressway on July 1 last year. 

Charred remains of the bus after the accident on Samruddhi Expressway on July 1 last year.  PTI file picture

Days before being killed in a bus accident on Samruddhi Expressway last year, Prathamesh Khode had written: “The distinction between past, present and future is nothing but an illusion”.

For his mother Neelima, the present is a stark reality.

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Prathamesh was among the 25 passengers who were charred to death when their bus caught fire after hitting a divider following a tyre burst on Samruddhi Expressway in Maharashtra’s Buldhana on July 1 last year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the first phase of the expressway from Nagpur to Shiridi on December 11, 2022. The 700km cemented road constructed for Rs 1.6 lakh crore connecting Mumbai and Nagpur has reduced the travel time to about eight hours from around 16 hours.

Neelima said the cemented road was responsible for the accident that killed her only son. “My son was the only hope in my life. He had done BTech. He was going to Pune to do a data analysis course. The accident would not have happened if it was not a cemented road and if there were regular stoppages,” Neelima said.

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh each, but the state government has paid only Rs 5 lakh.

In the last one and half years, nearly 1,500 accidents have taken place on this road killing over 100 people, said Chandrasekhar Madavi, an activist who has started a campaign to demand compensation and action against the owner of the bus. The bus allegedly had a seat in front of the emergency door that blocked the exit.

The bereaved family members sat on a dharna in front of the Wardha collector’s office for 104 days till the imposition of the model code of conduct.

“Till today, the government has taken no action against the owner of the bus. I would like to ask Fadnavis how the people responsible for the deaths of innocent people are freely moving around?” Neelima said.

Madavi said the state highways have stoppages and facilities every 50km. However, the Samruddhi Expressway has stoppages after every 200km. “There are not enough stoppages. So the vehicles keep on running at high speed. This makes the driver tired, leading to accidents,” Madavi said.

He said the cemented road heats up quickly, leading to tyre bursts and accidents.

The state government has set up an SIT to probe the accident. However, the bus owner, a police official from Yavatmal, has not been arrested.

“Our protest will continue after the elections are over,” Madavi said.

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