Calcutta 07 April 2004

One needs to take care of his own while on the road, irrespective of whether he is a pedestrian or a driver. This was the main idea that emerged at the panel discussion titled “Road Safety is No Accident” organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a consumer interest body, on April 7, 2004 at Calcutta Management Association Auditorium.

The theme of this year’s World Health Day is Road Traffic Injury and measures to prevent them. CUTS took this opportunity to celebrate the day to address the above issues by raising a healthy debate on the issue of road safety. A panel discussion brought together representatives of consumer organisations, experts on road safety issues, common people, schools and media to discuss in detail about the road safety scenario in the country.

Dr. Jayanta Basu, Journalist, opined that road accident is a sheer wastage of resources He quoted a study on slums in Calcutta and expressed his surprise that even in slums, road accident is the primary cause of lost lives. He suggested that CUTS should look at the fatal accidents and find out reasons why accidents are happening, who is responsible for the accident. He stressed that CUTS could provide a platform to formulate the strategy to prevent road accidents in future by analysing the data of road accidents.

Mr. Ashok Bhattacharya, Director, Legal Metrology, who was earlier with Regional Transport Authority for eight years, shared his experiences with the audience. He opined that Road Safety initiative is a movement, which should involve all relevant stakeholders. He pointed out the dismal condition of road and traffic management in the districts of West Bengal. Giving some examples he showed how one gets a driving license even without passing the test. He also gave a comparative picture of the road safety scenario in countries like Australia, Germany and England to show how effectively these countries manage the traffic system and have concern for pedestrians.

Mr. Prabir Basu, Lawyer, talked about consumers’ role and responsibilities. He pointed out that road safety depends on pedestrians, drivers and the traffic department. He mentioned that the primary causes of road accidents are high speed and poor condition of roads. He stressed on the fact that one has to take care of his own while one is on the road.

Prof. Nabinananda Sen, Dept. of Business Management, Calcutta University, who moderated the discussion, said that lack of awareness is the main problem in countries like India. Awareness generation is necessary to ensure road safety, and that should be done by the civil society.

On the occasion, Mr. Prabhat Rohatgi, a noted Consumer Activist, released a book “Is it Really Safe?” which compiles 21 articles on different consumer safety issues. Mr. Rohatgi appreciated CUTS’ efforts to publish such a book and expressed his hope that this would be beneficial for the consumers and the consumer organisations.

Another eminent personality, Mr. Sanjay Budhia, Chairman, Eastern Region, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), launched a newsletter “Beware,” a CUTS initiative to disseminate information and empower people on different consumer safety issues.