The lack of mobile police patrolling has been highlighted as one of the reasons why no one in uniform spotted veterinary doctor Disha stranded near the Thondapally toll plaza in Shamshabad, close to the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway, on Wednesday night. Senior police officials say this has always been a grey area with little support mechanism for the state police to man the highways and usually the patrol vehicles only park themselves at crucial intersections.
Which is why two months ago, DGP and Chairman of the Road Safety Authority in Telangana, T Krishna Prasad wrote to the Bureau of Police Research suggesting the setting up of a National Highway Road Safety Police Force. The reasoning was that though National Highways constitute only 2 per cent of the total road length in India, they carry 40 per cent traffic. The unfortunate fallout is that they account for 31 per cent of the total accidents and 36 per cent of total accident fatalities. Prasad suggested that this force report to the NHAI and by extension, the Centre and remain distinct from the state police force.
“Close to 75000 deaths in a year take place on National and State highways. No one largely polices them,” says Krishna Prasad.
The state police does not wield power to tackle cases of overloading as those powers are vested in the Road Transport Authority. Their ability to check overspeeding depends on how many laser guns they own, with each gun costing up to Rs 12 lakh. They occasionally undertake a drive against drunken driving but there are logistical issues in transporting offenders to the police station which is located at a distance from the highway. That explains why there is little motivation to patrol the highways or road length close to it.
Prasad does not think the creation of a force not reporting to the state government will be an issue.
“In the USA, when a crime occurs, there is no territorial war breaking out there. Everyone jumps in to nab the offender. A state highway police force can be similarly created reporting to the local SHO and that can make the drive to make highways safer a complimentary effort,” Krishna Prasad told Filter Kaapi.