Who among us motorists haven't felt the occasional spine-crushing jolt from potholes that the Kerala roads are so generously endowed with? We joke about it, curse the contractors and go on with our lives—at least until your bones jostle again, courtesy the next mini-crater. Breaking this cycle of public inaction in the face of snowballing casualties from road accidents, Kanjiramattom-based social entrepreneur Lakshmi Menon has decided to take the fight to the streets—literally.
Along with a group of like-minded activists, she plans to paint orange triangles some 50 feet away from the potholes to warn oncoming motorists of the possible deathtraps. “We have formed a group called the 'Orange Alert', where anybody can volunteer and join. We have already performed some trial runs in Ernakulam district. One group diverted the traffic away from the pothole, while the rest of us painted the triangles. At most, it takes two to three minutes to complete an alert signal. The paint is temporary and will fade off in a week's time. We will to conduct a state-wide campaign on Sunday (October 2), in which volunteers from across the state will come together for the common cause. We wanted to commemorate Gandhi Jayanti by enforcing his principle of being the change that you want to see in the world,” says Lakshmi.
It was the repeated inaction of authorities in her home town of Kanjiramattom that spurred her on to form 'Orange Alert'. “The area was highly prone to accidents. Despite our repeated pleas, the PWD officials refused to take action. We are not pointing fingers or pinning the blame on anybody with this project. We are merely implementing a measure that could save lives,” she says. The statistics, collated by the group, are alarming. Kerala stands third in road accidents, with 4,000 deaths and 40,000 permanent disabilities every year. Despite accounting for just three per cent of India's population, we witness 10 per cent of the country's road accidents,” she said.
In the future, the group plans to geo-tag the potholes, in a tie-up with a Bombay-based app company. Such a measure will allow the motorists to get a preview of the roads that they choose, with an orange flag to mark every pothole. If the repair works were completed, the flags could be untagged. “Several trusts have expressed interest in being a part of our venture. On our part, we are looking to utilise the assistance of road safety groups that are in place in almost every educational institution,” she says.