At least 76 people were killed and 472 injured in more than 350 road accidents in twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar in Chenab Valley since January this year, according to official figures. A traffic police official told Greater Kashmir that 24 persons were killed and 287 injured in 158 road accidents in Doda district since January this year, while 52 persons lost their lives and 185 were wounded in 207 accidents in Kishtwar district during this period.
In the last two months alone, at least 50 persons were killed in road accidents in the Chenab Valley districts, triggering massive public outcry against the state administration and traffic police over its alleged failure to curb rising road accidents in these mountainous areas.
While local residents blamed bad roads and very "negligible" presence of traffic policemen on roads in Kishtwar and Doda districts for the growing accidents, officials say they keep imposing fine on traffic violators.
A senior citizen from Bhadarwah, Choudhary Muhammad Iqbal, said: "Authorities are making mockery of rules. To impose nominal fine on violators is nothing but eyewash. Instead of imposing heavy penalty, offenders get away by giving a couple of hundred rupees for serious violations."
"Drivers are ready to pay occasional fine because they earn heavy sums by resorting to overloading on a daily basis," Iqbal said.
Another resident from SartingalBhadarwahIrshadLawai said: "Our link roads have become death-traps as neither civil administration nor traffic police are there to restrain unruly drivers who have become habitual of resorting to overloading and rash-driving. They consider breaking rules and risking safety of passengers as their basic right."
Beside "unruly" drivers, stunt bikers are also giving headache to people in the twin districts and can be frequently seen near tuition centres performing "very risky stunts."
Deputy superintendent of traffic police (Doda-Kishtwar), ZohaibHussain said: "We are running short of staff and are not in a position to deploy traffic personnel on every route but still we have put special focus on link roads in Doda and Kishtwar. We have seen in the recent past that majority of fatal accidents have occurred on these internal roads only."
"We are trying our best to manage traffic in a better way and implement traffic rules for the safety of passengers. We have fined 1738 vehicles in the month of September, collecting a fine of Rs 6,75,000," he said.
On refrain bikers from performing on-road stunts, "we are trying to motivate youth by organising awareness lectures and workshops in schools and have also involved their parents as well. I hope they will fall in line and won't push us to go harsh on them," Hussain told Greater Kashmir.
According to the union ministry of road, transport and highways, J&K ranks second among Indian states in the number of road accidents per-10000 vehicles with an average of over 900 deaths every year in the last five years.
In 2017, 926 persons died in over 5,000 road accidents across the state. The state recorded 958 deaths in road accidents in 2016, 917 in 2015, 992 in 2014 and 990 in 2013.