A "close encounter with death" in a road accident nearly two decades ago is what drives Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari to keep telling people to have a safe journey on the roads.
The memories from September 2001 when his vehicle was involved in a head-on collision with a truck that left him bed-ridden for nearly a year and grievously injured his family members are still "dreadful" for the minister.
Gadkari, who keeps flagging concerns about rising road accidents which claim many lives, has recalled his experience in a foreword to a collection of short stories on road safety.
'Have A Safe Journey', released today, features short stories selected through a 'Safe Journey Contest' that was incidentally inspired by Gadkari.
"The accident, that moment is still etched fresh in my memory... It sends shudders down my spine and at the same time inspires to work relentlessly towards road safety, a grossly neglected subject that pains me," Gadkari told PTI after releasing the book here.
In his foreword to the more than 240-page book, the minister has written that in 2001, he had a "close encounter with death" when the vehicle he was travelling in rammed head-on into another vehicle.
"So devastating was the impact that I remained bed-ridden for nearly a year and my recovery from that state can only be described as a miracle," he said.
Terming the mishap to a big turning point in his life, Gadkari said the accident, apart from changing his perspective towards life, acquainted him with the sheer magnitude of road accidents in a developing nation like India.
India accounts for the 5 lakh road accidents annually, the highest globally, in which 1.5 lakh people die and another 3 lakh get crippled.
"I want you to just realise that you are not immune to the risk of a road accident, nobody is. As such, a significant onus for preventing road accidents lies upon us, the citizens and makes it clear too that this does not absolve the government of its responsibilities, which stands committed to the cause," Gadkari said in the foreword.
Listing the initiatives being taken by his ministry, he said it is pushing for intelligent traffic systems which will enable authorities to immediately track, real-time, when there is a traffic violation.
The book has 18 short stories selected through a competition and 7 contributed by guest authors like Tuhin Sinha and Ashwin Sanghi. It also has a special message from Mahindra Group Executive Chairman Anand Mahindra.
"Fiction often holds up a mirror that shows real life more clearly. I am optimistic that this joint effort by Mahindra Truck and Bus, Natural Habitat Preservation Centre and the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways will do just that, and the result will be a better, safer India," Mahindra said.