Two back-to-back accidents involving ‘passenger’-carrying trucks in Meghalaya have brought to limelight the poor transport facilities in the developing world. Be it Africa or any developing Asian nations, trucks carrying people in the open is a common sight. In India, trucks are the only mode of transport for crores of poor villagers. Either there is no facility of bus, let alone car, or they cannot afford the fare. Trucks, which are meant for carrying goods only, ferry people in the rural areas at very cheap cost. Although it is not illegal – at least police don’t prevent trucks carrying people in rural areas – there is no insurance cover for such ‘passengers’.

Nearly 20 people were killed and dozens injured in the two accidents at Nongspung in West Khasi Hills and Raja Ronggat in South Garo Hills of Meghalaya. In the truck at Nongspung, there were nearly 80 ‘passengers’ going to attend a church service. Even if the truck owner takes half the fare from each passenger, he is likely to make more money than a bus which cannot carry so many people as there are seats occupying space as well! Even picnickers from rural areas sometimes board the truck instead of a bus. While most of these places do not have the bus service, truck is preferred due to the low fare.

The casualty, 17, in the mishap at Nongspung would not have been so high had it been a bus. The over-speeding truck hit the concrete road barrier, but stayed on the road upright, while all the passengers tossed off the truck into the gorge. The government is taking care of treatment of the injured people and in the process of providing ex gratia to the families of the deceased. But there is no word on checking the trend of trucks carrying passengers. It is a very difficult task, but a beginning has to be made somewhere to prevent such casualties. More government bus services in these areas can be a solution. There also must be police vigilance on such passenger-carrying trucks.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 4, 2017)

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