Telangana

For the police, it’s the drivers who are to be blamed

Lurking danger: Autorickshaws continue to ply on the unsafe approach road, caving in from the side, as water continues to flow into the AMRP-SLBC canal, at Padamati Thanda in Pedda Adiserla Pally.

Lurking danger: Autorickshaws continue to ply on the unsafe approach road, caving in from the side, as water continues to flow into the AMRP-SLBC canal, at Padamati Thanda in Pedda Adiserla Pally.  

However, roads don’t lie in undivided Nalgonda district

Two roads diverged in a wood for Robert Frost, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, and he took the one less travelled by, and that made all the difference.

For the 36, including 25 women and a three-year-old, who were killed in ‘canal accidents’ – vehicles plunging into irrigation canals and tanks – here between April 2018 and now, journey was their only choice, the road wasn’t.

Narrow approach roads, further shrunk by pending civil works or ‘avenues’ of Prosopsis juliflora (sarkar thumma), and unsafe roads between their habitations and water bodies – their only motorable road – left many children as orphans.

Accidents, according to the police, were contributed by drivers’ negligence. “The driver was lighting his cigarette, he was on his phone, he did not have a driver’s licence, and the vehicle was also overloaded,” the police said in the various incidents.

But roads don’t lie too. Padamati Tanda of Pedda Adiserala Pally mandal, whose nine women drowned in the Alimineti Madhava Reddy Project (AMRP) canal in April 2018, still has the same road condition, but with a barbed wire fence and closed dug-up road.

“That fence is no protection, you can see that some stones of the fence have fallen into canal. This road is actually caving in, and any time a tractor with cotton or paddy, a school bus or auto-rickshaw could collapse with the road and end up in the canal again,” says Ramavath Dharma, whose mother R. Keli was one among the nine drowned.

About eight kms away in the same mandal, the narrow road to Dugyala near Vadderigudem is no different. On February 27, last week, a car with a family of four went airborne and plunged into the canal after one of the tyres hit a small rock on the curve, drowning three and leaving a nine-year-old as orphan.

“Giving way to the opposite vehicle is very difficult, even the thumma consumes the road. And at nights, since there is only vehicle’s light, the road and the water appear almost the same and there’s no fence between,” Vadderigudem residents say.

Officials in both the cases say residents have been using shorter and unsafe routes to save on distance.

“Padamati thanda’s official road to Waddipatla is not in use for the past 10 years, it became a Donka. Vadderigudem also has a road towards Tirumalagiri, but a kilometre longer.”

Village tanks, on the other hand, without safety fences -- have also been just as dangerous. Fourteen women, all agriculture workers and a child, were killed when their tractor overturned on their way to the fields in Vemulakonda of Yadadri-Bhuvanagiri in June 2018.

The most recent incident was also from its neighbouring Ramannapet mandal, where the bodies of the husband of Sarnenigudem’s village sarpanch along with his son and driver were retrieved on February 22, a day after their SUV lost control on the ‘S curve’ road, and plunged into the Vellanki tank.

And, cautionary road signs such as danger, culvert and ‘S curve’ road ahead, were put up near Nadigudem block only after an SUV with six persons plunged into the Nagarjunasagar Project canal and drowned in October 2019.

The 135-km Nagarjunasagar Left Bank canal, the Sriramsagar Project canal, the Musi, modernised Bunadigani and Pillaipally canals and more than 4,000 village tanks in undivided Nalgonda maximize the districts’ irrigation potential. However, several modernisation works on these canals in the past were limited to lining and did not identify danger spots, address railing and other safety measures.

The AMRP Srisailam Left Bank Canal Project, which is also located in Puttamgandi Tanda of Pedda Adiserla Pally mandal, and runs through the district for almost 136-km. till Udayasamudram reservoir, has damaged lining, leakages, and needs repairs. A ₹ 60 crore proposal for the same, submitted to the government in 2017, remains to be cleared, and officials recently have worked out revised rates and re-submitted it for consideration.

Preventive action and safety measures along the canal have been a mere eyewash.

While the Irrigation department has submitted ₹ 3.4 crore proposal for walls near culverts and road joining, fences at villages and habitations, after the Padamati Tanda tragedy in April 2018 – only ₹9.9 lakh expenditure was allowed to erect 1.6 km-long barbed wire fence. A ₹ 7 crore proposal, for protection walls on the village-side of the AMRP canal, is the latest submission to the government, pending for sanction.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:04:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/for-the-police-its-the-drivers-who-are-to-be-blamed/article31076635.ece

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