Union Budget 2017: Allocation For Road Safety Stepped Up To 5,217 Crores
- The Budget 2017's break up allocates 5,217 crores for road safety
- This is double the allocation in FY2015-16 and 39.3% more than FY2016-17
- Experts hope that this will provide a stimulus to road safety activities
Road accidents kill fifteen times more Indians than all of the country’s five wars have, each and every single year. With statistics like this, it comes as no surprise that road safety is one of the most demanding contemporary crises India currently faces. From bad road behavior, unsafe vehicles and poorly designed and constructed roads to inadequate emergency response infrastructure, the issues which persist on our roads are multi-fold. The good news is that, in the February 1 Budget announcement, road safety found a mention and the Finance Ministry’s document outlining the monetary breakup earmarks 5,217 crores for ‘Road Safety Works’. This represents a whopping 100.4 per cent jump in two years.
“This is a step in the right direction. It is nice to see a specific mention of this in the Budget’s breakup, being something that has not really been done before. Road safety has usually been embedded in some other allocation,” says Harman Singh Sidhu of ArriveSAFE, an NGO which works for road safety through policy advocacy.
However, Mohammad Imran, founder of the Safe Road Foundation, believes that this allocation could have been more.
“This is an investment in India’s future. A horrifyingly large number of people die in road accidents, particularly young people aged between 18 and 35. Making an investment in road safety now is critical,” he says.
For FY2016-17 the amount to be spent on road safety was initially estimated to be 2998 crores. In the revised estimate this amount rose to 3745 crores.
In totality, the transport sector which covers roads, shipping and railways has been allocated 2,41,387 crores. This includes 64,900 crores for highways and 19,000 crores for rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna.
Road Safety Wishlist
Experts believe that the allocated funds, if used well, could help create some kind of impact in the sphere of road safety.
“Now it is important to see how this money will be utilised. The sensitisation of people who are decision makers—engineers and other people involved in construction, lengthening and widening of highways, etc.—needs to be prioritised. The way (road) construction activity is currently being undertaken around the country is extremely unsafe,” says Sidhu.
Considering the repeated commitments made by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, fixing black spots (areas which report a high number of accidents) on roads is one of the things which, presumably, should be prioritised.
In 2016, the ministry had identified some 800 black spots on National and State highways and earmarked 11,000 crores to fix black spots over these over the next few years.
“Fixing black spots on the roadways is imperative. For this, first, quality data needs to be collected. The data that we currently have is inadequate and is based on assumptions, so this is something that we really need and the collection of quality data is something which requires a lot of money,” explains Sidhu, adding that this was something that that budget should be used for.
Mohammad Imran reiterates a similar view. “Road safety audits for new roads and fixing black spots on old ones must be given priority,” he says, “With engineering faults on existing roads, the process of identification and correction takes time. There needs to be a focus on finding quick solutions.”
If used efficiently and intelligently, this allocation hopefully should be able to galvanise the work being done to make Indian roads safer and help ensure that the government’s road construction targets do not forget this incredibly crucial aspect in the planning and implementation stages.