India has the world’s deadliest roads, and the Narendra Modi government has now decided to throw money at the problem.
Over the next five years, it plans to spend Rs11,000 crore ($1.65 billion) to fix 726 “black spots”, or particularly accident-prone stretches of road.
“The fund will be used to fix engineering defects across (India). At some of these spots, over 100 people have lost their lives. We need to bring down road deaths by half,” India’s transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Jan. 11. The government will soon launch a website where citizens can inform authorities of the black spots.
Currently, the two states with the highest number of black spots in India are Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, with over 100 in each.
One person is killed on Indian roads every four minutes. In 2014 alone, more than 139,000 people lost their lives in more than 500,000 accidents.
And this a problem that the Modi government knows too well. In May 2014, a senior cabinet minister lost his life, barely nine days after coming to power. Gopinath Munde, India’s minister for rural development, was on his way to the Delhi airport when a speeding cab crashed into his car. The 64-year-old died hours later—the only casualty in the accident—due to an internal injury.
The government, meanwhile, is also working on a stringent policy on issuing driver’s licence.
“Road accidents cause an annual loss of Rs55,000-60,000 crore, or 3% of the GDP, to the country. There are many problems and the main reason is the ease with which one can obtain a driving licence. We are going to form new driving centres where computerised tests would be carried out and driving licences issued on that basis,” Gadkari said on Jan. 11.
But making the roads safer will need much more than that.
For instance, the promised Road Safety and Transport Bill, 2014, which was set to replace the existing Motor Vehicles Act, is still stuck in a regulatory logjam—apparently held up by powerful lobbies. The bill had initially promised stringent punishment for rash driving and imprisonment for faulty manufacturing designs, but has been bogged down and diluted over the past few years. The bill is yet to be passed by the Indian parliament.