“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Basharat highlights the meaningful work being done by the Sajid Iqbal Foundation (SIF)

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 30, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

PIL on Fatal Road Accidents

(104 die in Valley this year; 1165 accidents in 2010 )

Srinagar: Over a hundred people have died and a thousand injured in various road accidents during the first five months of this year. Concerned over this alarming rate of fatal road accidents, Sajid Iqbal Foundation (SIF) has approached the High Court with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking formulation of a comprehensive traffic management policy in the state.

Quoting media reports, petitioner Sehar Iqbal who is also the executive director of SIF, has said that 104 persons died while 1053 sustained injuries in traffic accidents across the valley in the first five months of this year.

According to the SIF petition, most of the deaths had occurred along Qazigund-Baramulla highway with rarely any day without any accident being reported on the road. Last year, the petitioner has quoted that in rural areas 1165 accidents were witnessed. A total of 182 people died while 1517 sustained injuries, the petitioner reads, adding that in the same year in Srinagar 379 accidents were recorded with 55 deaths and 393 injured.

“As per the information provided on the website of the traffic department of the State of J&K, at least 5000 accidents have taken place resulting in deaths of 800 persons till date. This year also the toll has been alarming and in last few months as many as 100 minimum deaths have taken place due to road accidents,” the petitioner has said in his petition.

As per the data available with the petitioner the total number of vehicles in the State is more than seven lakhs leading to regular traffic jams and congestions on all the busy points in Srinagar and Jammu. Mentioning some of the important places the petitioner has said that Lal Chowk, Jehangir Chowk, Dalgate, Natipora Crossing, Pantha Chowk, Batamaloo witnesses traffic jams on daily basis making it imperative in the present scenario that the State should take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people in general.

Finally the petitioner has sought directions from the court to the state government to demarcate roads properly, removal of hazardous trees and other structures and impediments from the highway, installation of proper lighting on the highway, installation of glow signs and sign boards, establishing toll free emergency contact numbers, proper highway patrolling for 24 hours at regular intervals without any break, providing critical care specialised ambulances at the gap of 40 Kilometers each on the National Highway, establishing an exclusive specialized accident care hos¬pital, installation and maintenance of proper traffic lights in the city and establishing bus stops in the City and regulating the operators.

Besides other reliefs, the petitioner has sought court directions to the state government to formulate a comprehensive traffic management policy, including different traffic surveys, studies and inventories required for better traffic management.

The Petitioner has said that the national highway connecting Srinagar to Jammu has become a death trap for all the drivers and commuters. The executive director of SIF has also referred to the recent Pahalgam accidents that took lives of three youngsters after there vehicles fell in the adjoining lidder river. “It is also an indication that no such preventive measures or minimum standards of safety are provided by the State to its citizens. All the accidents as mentioned occurred due to non availability of sign boards, signals and barricades on the road leading to Pahalgam. There is every possibility that in case the road leading to one of the prime tourist destination of the world would have been properly / adequately barricaded on the edges then all these and past accidents could have been avoided and many human lives saved. The non existence of such safety measures on roads of prime importance is a matter of concern as the same exposes the lives of innocent citizens at risk,” the PIL reads.

According to the petitioner, being the summer capital of the State and keeping in view the increase in the flow of traffic, the mismanagement of the traffic department in Srinagar city has come to force. “In the entire city with such a huge rush of traffic both from and outside the State not even a single place is provided with the traffic lights system which otherwise has become necessary and imperative owing to the growing number of vehicles,” the SIF’s petition has added.

The SIF had further maintained that the system for grant of driving licenses is also not being implemented in a proper and efficacious manner leading to putting the lives of the common man at stake. “The Respondents while issuances of such licenses are not conducting the proper driving tests before any such license could be granted to the drivers. In most cases the drivers get their licenses without even taking any such driving test,” the petitioner has submitted.

It may be recalled that SIF was formed after a noted lawyer and human rights activist Sajid Iqbal Khanday met tragic accident. As per the version of the eyewitnesses and other media persons the death of Sajid had occurred because of a collision with a hazardous tree existing in the close proximity of the main road.

Since then SIF is involved in activities relating to uplift¬ment of general public particularly the poor and downtrodden members of the society. The Petitioner has worked extensively for rehabilitation of earthquake victims during the times when it was needed most. The Petitioner being member of “Agha Khan Foundation” (a renowned NGO) has been actively involved in various activities which would in one manner or the other would have been beneficial to the general masses. After starting the present organization the Petitioner has organized several legal aid camps at far off places of the valley in order to provide free legal aid / counseling to poor and needy litigants.

The Petitioner has been actively organizing blood donation camps particularly with an intention to provide the blood to accident victims. One such grant camp was organized at SKIMS where more than 500 donors participated and donated blood for benefit of the critical accident victims. It is apt to mention here that soon after the said camp was organized an accident in Pahalgam took place and the collected blood came to be utilized for many injured and critical survivors. Apart from all the above stated facts the Petitioner organization is planning to put in place a free ambulance service having all the specialized equipments installed to provide medical assistance to accident victims.