LARKANA: A Sindh High Court (SHC) bench of Larkana circuit on Thursday expressed shock at reports that a total of 282 persons had lost their lives and 2,553 suffered injuries in road accidents for no faults of theirs on the 24-km under-construction strip of the Indus Highway over the past four years.

The division bench, comprising Justices Shamsuddin Abbasi and Amjad Ali Sahito, while hearing 46 petitions about post-rain situation said that the accidents had taken place due to negligence on part of the National Highway Authority (NHA).

The bench, which had sought reports from the NHA and motorway officials on the loss of lives during previous hearing, was informed by Javed Ali Mahar, DIG (Motorways), South Zone Karachi, in his report that over the past four years from January 2019 to Nov 28, 2022, about 125 persons had lost their lives and 334 sustained injuries in accidents.

However, a report of the project director of the Central Asia Regional Economic Corridor (CAREC) NHA, Hyderabad-Sehwan, reflects that from 2018 to Nov 30, 2022, some 282 persons had lost their lives and 2,553 received injuries in road accidents.

The dualisation of Petaro-Sehwan section-I to Khanote-Manjhand of total length of 24 Kilometers was yet to be completed as per the report, the bench observed.

The CAREC PD present in the court stated that due to lack of funds and lethargic attitude of the contractor, they were unable to complete it. It is very much shocking, the bench observed, that 282 persons had lost their lives and 2,553 were injured due to road accidents without their faults.

The court said it was quite strange to note that the commencing date of the construction of the Sehwan-Ratodero section (additional carriageway N-55) was December 2010 while that of completion June 30, 2015.

The total road from Jamshoro to Sehwan, approximately 120 kilometre, and its dual has not been completed yet. Still portion of the project of 24 kilometre is left unconstructed for want of funds and lethargic attitude of the contractor.

The word ‘life’ in the constitution was very significant and fundamental rights to life were guaranteed under article 9 of the constitution and public functionaries — Motorway police, NHA, Ministry of Communication, office of the prime minister and cabinet division -- must act in support of the same facilities and ensure enforcement of the said constitutional provision rather than violating, neglecting, overlooking and disregarding the same, the bench in its order said.

The court ordered sending a copy of the order to the principal secretary to the prime minister with the direction to place the same before him for its perusal and compliance, expecting from him the positive result, ensuring that the citizens of this country travel safely without any further loss in future.

It added that a compliance report be submitted through additional registrar of the court. The court has asked the NHA chairman and federal secretary communication to ensure their attendance together with the compliance report on the next date of hearing on Dec 14, 2022.

Larkana Commissioner Ganhwar Laghari, who appeared along with the deputy commissioners of Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Kahsmor-Kandhkot, in his report said the stagnant rainwater had receded from the fields of rural areas, except for some low-lying and waterlogged areas in 11 talukas -- Bakrani, Dokri, Garhi Khairo, Lakhi, Shikarpur, Qubo Saeed Khan, Warah, Qambar, Shahdadkot, Nasirabad and Sujawal of the division.

However, in certain areas wheat and other crops were under cultivation, he said. “We (the division bench) are not satisfied with the performance of the irrigation department for the reason that the secretary irrigation did not pay any honour to his commitment he made at bar in the court on Nov 26, 2022, regarding removal/disposal of stagnant rain/ floodwater from the affected areas of Larkana division within one month and still water is present in the affected areas.” The irrigation secretary present in the court conceded that they could not succeed to drain stagnant water from the areas.

Terming the irrigation secretary’s report an ‘eyewash’, the counsels for the petitioners said the growers were unable to cultivate wheat. Billions of rupees had been released to the irrigation department, but no tangible progress had been shown on their part, they added.

The bench has directed the chief secretary and finance secretary to file details of the released funds for the emergency work to the irrigation department and funds for the rehabilitation to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) on the next date of hearing. They were also asked to file reports regarding the progress of the projects either ongoing or completed.

The petition will come up for hearing at 11 am on Dec 14.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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