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Bhubaneswar, Nov. 14

THE Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Mr T.R. Baalu, has said that it is imperative to maintain the highways at an acceptable level of service to minimise the vehicle operating and maintenance costs.

Inaugurating the 66th annual session of the Indian Roads Congress here, Mr Baalu said rehabilitation and maintenance of highways has assumed urgency in the interest of the overall economy.

But appropriate maintenance strategies are to be worked out as the funds available for the maintenance are quite less as compared to the demand, he added.

Safety first: Expressing concern over the large number of road accident deaths, Mr Baalu underlined the need for addressing the problems of road safety.

With the use of modern safety devices and traffic management techniques, it is possible to reduce fatalities on the roads, he said while calling upon the engineers attending the event to come out with recommendations for increasing safety on the roads.

More than three lakh road accidents with 70,000 fatalities occur in the country every year.

Referring to the plying of overloaded trucks that are also safety hazards, Mr Baalu said that the overloaded axles of the trucks caused heavy damages to the roads.

"For short-term gains, overloaded vehicles are being allowed on roads. We have to take concerted efforts and action with the help of the State Governments to overcome the menace."

New technology: The Minister said that the construction industry should augment its capacity by adoption of latest technology and acquisition of modern equipment for faster time-bound execution of projects.

With so much of development and massive investment taking place in the road sector, the Indian Roads Congress has a very important role to play, he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 15, 2005)
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