Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath on Thursday justified the decision of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to put up 1500 billboards across the country carrying pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The Minister, however, was evasive on painting of pictures of Dr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi and only sought to extol the benefits of erecting such mega boards at a distance of every 25 km of highways and expressways. He dismissed objections to the photos, saying “stop bothering about it.”

The objective of the move was to tell the public the details of the construction of the highway concerned for better and speedy execution of the work. With information about the time frame, cost and the constructing company in pubic domain, contractors will be under pressure to deliver as the general public could take up any matter of irregularity or delay through suggestions and complaints, he said.

Earlier speaking at the valedictory function of the National Road Safety Week 2010, Mr. Nath outlined the measuresto be taken to bring down the number of accidents, and the fatalities that occur every four-and-half minute.

The government intended to set up a Road Safety Board under which safety would be integrated with road construction programmes.

Safety norms would be raised to international regulations and schemes developed for inspection and training for driving heavy commercial vehicles. The department had chalked out plans to train 75000 youth in the unorganised sector for the job.

Mr. Nath said he had taken up with the Ministry of Human Resource Development to popularise safety signs by printing them on the back page of textbooks. He also spoke of introducing a chapter on road safety in the curriculum.

The organisers faced an embarrassing situation when the runner-up of the National Safety Award, Vinay Narayan Revankar, did not accept the citation from the Minister protesting that the current approach lacked a comprehensive approach and that he would accept the award only after such an integrated mechanism was put in place.

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