Concern over frequent mishaps on NH 6 at Tongseng-Sopur zone

 Special correspondent

SILCHAR, Jan 28: Saurabh Koiri of this town who lost his father and elder brother along with the driver on January 6, 2010, had been on a campaign to move the authorities concerned for adopting safety measures all along the Tongseng-Sopur zone. He had moved the President of India, Prime Minister, Minister of Highways, tiol Highway Authority of India, Congress General Secretary, Rahul Gandhi, Chief Ministers of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur for their immediate intervention and corrective measures. Nothing could move them and the accidents continue to happen.

Sopur on tiol Highway 6 (earlier 44) in Meghalaya, 110 km from here, has again been the spot for yet another fatal bus accident involving a night super which was coming from Guwahati to Hailakandi.

The tragic incident happened in the dark and foggy night of Republic Day when the driver of the ill-fated bus lost control and the vehicle rolled down the steep gorges 300 feet down. 10 lives were lost on the spot while 1 admitted in a local hospital succumbed to his injuries. 22 other passengers were seriously injured who were admitted in different hospitals of Kheliarat, Jowai and Sopur. Condition of 2 of them is described critical. Among the dead, 5 are from this valley.

 Sopur-Tongseng zone on NH 6 in the Khliehriat district in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, 110 km from here, has been hitting the headlines of the media frequently for the tragic accidents involving passenger buses of different travel agencies. The 3 km area has been identified as highly prone to accidents and landslips by the Geological Survey of India and the ONGC landsat images. The Border Road Organization has put up caution board for drivers only to be flouted than complied with.

Sopur-Tengsong zone has been witness to series of fatal mishaps, claiming lives and limbs, maiming many forever. And the travel agency or the persons responsible for crimil negligence have gone scot free. Before the Sherowali night super bus to Agartala from Guwahati met with fatal accident which claimed 31 lives and left 36 other passengers injured, 10 of them critically, on August 8 last, it was yet another Agartala bound night super bus from Guwahati of Puja travels that skidded off the highway and fell into Lubha river, killing 8 passengers and injuring more than 20. It happened on December 18, 2010. On June 17, 2011, a Sumo rolled down the deep gorges. It took the lives of 10 passengers. 7 of the victims belonged to the same family.

Living memory recalls a Mizoram State Transport bus carrying passengers from Shillong to Aizawl got stuck in the mud and slush caused by landslides due to heavy rains. Before the bus sank, passengers along with the driver and his assistants were lucky to get out and move to safer places without their belongings. It was followed by that of a Capital Travel Agency night super bus on way to Guwahati from Silchar when in torrential rains, it was caught in the muddy stretch. Boulders rolling down from the hills along with gushing waters pushed the bus down the flooded Lubha river in which several passengers perished. The body of a business executive was recovered far away in Sumganj of Bangladesh three days of the mishap. All these accidents in the same zone are an eloquent testimony to the frequency with which accidents have been taking place.

 The causes behind all these tragic accidents are overloaded passengers and goods, inebriated drivers, high speed, reckless driving, laxity in vigilance and enforcement of traffic rules, lack of protection measures as well as basic infrastructure for rescue and relief works all along the Sopur-Tengsong zone.

 The investigation report on the August 8, 2012 accident at Tengsong by a team of officials of Tripura Government headed by the district magistrate of Dholai, Abhishek Chandra, attributed the mishap to all these factors.

The police and transport departments of Assam and Meghalaya were blamed for ignoring overloading and allowing drunk drivers at wheels. If the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya are serious to prevent such accidents in future, there should be coordited moves to conduct surprise checks of vehicles to ensure that there was no overloading of passengers and goods. Even if the police conduct checks, it is just for the sake of bribes only, said an official.

 Travelling public demand that iron-railing on the roof of buses should be dismantled to prevent overloading. The U-turns in the accidents zone cause the drivers of overloaded buses to lose control over the steering that leads to accidents. The sharp and blind bends, curves and turns should have steel-fencing and railings. Most important, drivers should be subjected to alcoholic test. Many of the long distant buses plying on the highway with low and high gradients and innumerable blinds, it is alleged, are old and not fit for run. There should be periodic checks of the buses which have lost sustaibility or road-worthiness. The repeated complaints and representations of the Tripura Government to the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya for remedial measure have fallen on deaf years, the official said. This brings to the fore the often repeated charge of nexus with transport lobby.

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