Tanmay Pendse has travelled on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway more than 200 times in the past three years. After the loss of his brother, Akshay and his two-year-old nephew in a tragic accident on the E-way in 2012, he is working to make it safer and less prone to accidents. “Earlier, I would read the papers and think that the government isn’t doing anything. But later I questioned myself and asked what am I doing about it. If I am doing something, then I have the moral and ethical right to criticise and question the governments workings,” says Pendse.
The Mumbai-Pune Expressway is the first six-lane concrete expressway in India. There are six tunnels and 35 overbridges. As per a study done by Pendse, researcher Kaustubh Vartak and actor Sharad Ponkshe, there have been almost 15,000 accidents and 1,400 lives lost on the Expressway since it started functioning in 2002. “I was shocked to find that in the last 14 years, nobody has worked on the safety of the E-way. It is really unfortunate. Everybody knows that accidents happen on the expressway but no one is providing any solutions,” he said.
Pendse and his partners have not established an NGO and choose to work as individuals providing the state government with solutions. In 2013, with permission from the state government, they set up five CCTV cameras on the Expressway to monitor any lane-cutting. “Initially, we had limited knowledge as we aren’t engineers and limited technology so we decided to go with the cameras. Later on, we had a meeting with Eknath Shinde and he realised how serious we were as we made many suggestions like putting Brifen ropes all through the E-way, building trauma care units, installing speed guns and breath analysers.”
Fourteen kilometres of the Expressway have been fitted with Brifen ropes leaving a 25 km stretch pending. The ropes are made of three layers that act as a barrier between the opposite lanes.
Pendse has taken his suggestions forward to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis whom he met last month. “I told the CM that road safety should be made as an integral part of school syllabus because children are the future drivers and they must know how to drive on any road. I have also proposed that we have a radio channel dedicated only to the Expressway where announcements can be made and revenue can be generated through advertisements,” he explained.
What strikes differently about this story is that it is an individual effort. Pendse has not started an NGO or teamed up with one. He truly believes that as an individual, he too can make a difference. “I’m not doing this for any monetary gain. In fact, my partners and I have spent money from our own pockets for this. We have spent around Rs 20 lakh. We have told the government that at the end of the day, it is their responsibility. We also have our own limitations.”
The driving force behind all of this is that Pendse is doing it for his late brother and nephew. He has dedicated himself to the cause of making roads safer in order to minimise accidents and loss. Of this he says, “I will not stop fighting. Nothing can stop me from doing what I want to do, only death can.”
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