Kochi: This time over, the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) is worried over the effective implementation of its much-acclaimed Safe Zone project aimed at making Sabarimala roads accident-free and also facilitating the pilgrims to avail of help in 10 minutes on their vehicles developing any complaint. The reason: no new vehicles have been allotted to the department since 2013 and only a few “road-worthy” vehicles from the existing lot can be spared for the programme, covering over 300 km on the two main trunk roads leading to Sabarimala from Pathanamthitta and Erumeli from the start of the annual pilgrim season.
Under the programme, information about vehicle breakdown or other distress messages is received from patrolling teams or through helpline numbers. The MVD inspectors from the control room give direction to the patrolling team and also the service teams of major automotive companies. “No new vehicles were allotted after 2013. The vehicle shortage is affecting daily routines, not to mention voluntary initiatives such as Sabarimala safe zone project,” said a senior MVD officer.
A high-level meet held the other day decided to continue the project following its success in the previous pilgrimage seasons. Mr P.D. Sunil Babu, RTO (Enforcement, South Zone), was again appointed as the nodal officer. When contacted, Joint Transport Commissioner Rajeev Puthalath, said, “the department has written a letter to the state government to allot road safety fund to buy 20 vehicles on a war-footing. The vehicles are needed for effective operation in the hilly terrain.”
The Safe Zone covers Pathanamthitta-Pampa, Elavumkal- Erumely, Pullikunnu-Mundakayam and Koratty-Ponkunnam sections among others from November 15 to January 20. The programme was first implemented in 2012-13 and despite the rise in vehicle flow, the number of accidents in the three-month season were reduced by four per cent. The trend continued in the successive years too.