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LIQUOR VENDS ON NATIONAL HIGHWAYS

BY T.K. Malhotra

RURAL roads constitute about 80 per cent of Indian Road Network of 3.3 million km. While National Highways account for 65,569 km being 2 per cent, State Highways run into a length of 1,28,800 km sharing 4 per cent. Major District Roads constitute about 14 per cent of total Network with 4,70,000 km. The total road network is calculated to be 31,33,769 km.

It is an uphill task to maintain and manage roads and highways with 85 per cent of passenger and 70 per cent of goods traffic. Even being 2 per cent of net roadwork, national highways remain burdened with 40 per cent of traffic and therefore regular upkeep and monitoring is required.

Pre Independence (1947), the total length of National Highways was just 21,440 km, which has since increased around three times during the last 57 years. The total length of 65,569 km of National Highways comprises of 6,514 km (10%) with 4-lane carriage, 36,106 km (55%) with 2-lane carriage and 22,949 km (35%) with single lane/intermediate lane carriage.

Through the Corridor Management, National Highways Authority of India is thriving hard to ensure smooth flow of traffic, optimize the operation cause and enhance the road safety. Engineering improvement and incident management are the two important elements to take care of route patrolling, tow-away cranes, ambulance service, information boards and control stations.

NHAI is now engaged in Road Safety Audit of a stretch of 2,757 km on the following sections: . Delhi-Jaipur-Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ratanpur (798Km) . Ratanpur-Ahmedabad-Surat-Kajali-Deesa (825Km). Kajali-Manor-Sarole-Satara-Belgaum-Hubli-Haveri (547Km). Haveri-Harihar-Sira-Neelman gla - Krishnagiri - Ranipet -Poonam - alee (587Km).


NHAI needs to be complemented for devising the most scientific method to implement recommendations of Road Safety Audit at site. This exercise will certainly produce rich dividends to promote Road Safety on Highways. When it comes to making endeavors to take further initiative, NHAI has plans to associate all concerned including NGOs to develop effective monitoring and evaluation tools in this regard.

In the Meeting held on April 17, 2006, your President representing the interest of Federation of Indian Automobile Associations and its National and International Members, brought to the notice of the Advisory Group of NHAI the 'Drink - Drive' culture being promoted by liquor vends on Highways. It is a growing nightmare generating high degree of risk both to traffic and road infrastructure. Liquor related toll on Highways is inclining every passing month. Against the directions of the Apex Court and provisions under the excise policy the vends are flourishing just 10 to 25 meters from highways against the minimum permitted distance of 75 meters from the road.

It is indeed surprising that in complete disregard to the apprehensive risks, these vends are permitted to use an open area to allow the drivers and passengers to consume liquor on National Highway No.1 at Buttana, consumption of liquor is almost free for all irrespective of the age group. Dhabas are often used as free booze and meals zones. Drivers and many of the passengers traveling long distance on state owned buses frequently indulge in drinking. It is even said that the buses are made to halt purposely at these soft points to force passengers to take food etc. etc.!!! Surbhi Dhaba Complex is the place in point.

Painted prominently on liquor vends on National Highway No. 1 in Ambala, Kurukshetra and Karnal District are the catchy messages inducing drivers and the passengers for a deadly cocktail:-

''PEO TE JEO DARU DI BAND BOTLE TENU PEEN GE NASEEBA WALE''

There are many liquor shops on Chandigarh Shimla Highway and the one on the road leading to Mohali. Such like trouble spots need immediate attention by the Authorities. As we are aware, road traffic accidents account for 33.2 percent of total accidental deaths. It is the need of the day to evolve ways and means with social awareness to ensure that National Highways are free of road accidents. Highways cannot be safe if earning revenue from excise continues to be the priority with the Government.