Odisha Transport Dept Blames NHAI’s ‘Lapses’ For 8 Deaths In Keonjhar On Day 1 Of ‘Zero Fatality Week’

OB Bureau

Bhubaneswar: With the ‘zero fatality week’ beginning on a gloomy note with 20 deaths, the Odisha government has blamed “lapses” on the part of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for the tragic loss of eight lives in Keonjhar district.

The stretch had seen three more accident earlier this year resulting in as many casualties.

In a letter to NHAI chief general manager (Odisha) Virendra Singh, Transport Secretary Usha Padhee blamed its patrol (parties) of being insensitive and not performing their duty sincerely, leading to fatal accidents. “Criminal cases should be lodged against them,” she wrote.

She mentioned that the project director concerned was asked to take “traffic calming measures” in the stretch, a black spot notified by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, just two days ago.

Padhee also raised the issue of roadside parking, which had become a cause of concern in Keonjhar and in other parts of the state.

Stating that NHAI had signed agreement with private parties for patrolling and removing breakdown vehicles and dead animals on the road, she mentioned that the ill-fated van crashed into a cement-laden truck which was standing there after a breakdown

The Transport Secretary also pointed out that NHAI patrol team and ambulance refused to respond to the early morning mishap citing their strike. “If the staff of highway patrol and ambulances are on strike, alternative arrangements must be made immediately,” she wrote.

Singh, however, said that the mishap site has no fault and road condition is good. “We are looking into the matter. Stern action will be taken if any fault or negligence is found,” he was quoted as saying by TOI.

The van with 19 people on board, including several children, was heading towards Maa Tarini Temple at Ghatagaon when tragedy struck, barely 3 km away from the shrine. While seven persons died on the spot, another succummed in a hospital. The deceased – most of them are believed to be distant relatives – were from two different villages in Odisha’s Ganjam district.

Sources said the commercial van had the capacity to carry 16 passengers.

In a recent meeting, Keonjhar collector had also requested Chief Secretary PK Jena to ask the NHAI to install lights on the stretch as it poses a huge risk to commuters, especially during nights and winters.

Notably, 13 road accidents took place in various parts of the state on Friday and 22 people sustained injuries.

OB Bureau

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