Two fatal accidents within a week at University Road, Karachi should cause significant alarm. It won’t be any surprise if it does not. The death of five students of Fuuast university after the bus they were aboard overturned happened days after a student of Indus University was killed in an accident because a road was dug up due to ongoing construction work for the Green Line.
Such accidents have become complete ordinary events now and students had been protesting about the dangerous state of the University Road long before the incident happened. Yet, for the past several months neither has the road been fixed nor suitable alternative routes developed. This is among the most important arteries of Karachi city, which an estimated 0.2 million students use for commute everyday. This road houses at least six universities, a college and several schools but even for students there are absolutely no measures taken by the city’s authorities to make going to college a safe experience. Now the transport minister has promised that the government will pay compensation of Rs0.5 million to the heirs of each of the deceased students, which is really no compensation for negligence so extreme that it leads to a loss of lives. There must be more accountability than a penalty of a few hundred thousand rupees. Somebody must answer why development work becomes a life threat. And why can everyday traffic violations such as people going wrong-way or travelling without helmets not be prevented? Why is the government so weak that it cannot ensure that people do not break signals and use headlights at night?
According to statistics claimed by DIG traffic last year, on average there are 30,000 road accidents in Karachi city alone every year. And according to police records published in 2015, more than 60,000 people died in road accidents in a period of 11 years, making it the leading cause of fatalities in people between 15 - 29 years of age in Pakistan. These are completely avoidable deaths. The roads are a reflection of the madness that prevails otherwise. We need sanity, we demand accountability.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2017.
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