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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 13:58 GMT
Delhi police target drink-drivers
Delhi traffic
Delhi streets can be hazardous at the best of times
By the BBC's Alastair Lawson in Delhi

It is an often-ignored fact that more people die in accidents on India's roads than in the Kashmir conflict.

Delhi police say that a key reason for the high number of casualties at this time of the year is because in winter many young middle class men drive their cars under the influence of alcohol.

Man breathalysed
Police threaten strict action
In the last three weeks there have been at least three highly publicised accidents in the capital in which several people have died at the hands of suspected drink-drivers.

And now the police have launched a crackdown.

Since the end of November more than 600 people have been prosecuted for suspected drink driving offences.

While most culprits face a fine, repeat-offenders will lose their licences.

Delhi police chief Maxwell Pereira, said: "We want to give drivers a very firm warning that no drunkenness will be tolerated and we will come down with a hammer on anyone found breaking the rules".

Challenging task

But the police concede that if their efforts will not succeed unless they can deter young professionals such as Ranil, a 27-year-old regular of Delhi's bars and clubs.

Man pouring drinks
Late-night bars are very popular

He said: "Its a really bad problem, but if I'm drunk, I know I'll be able to get back home safely.

"Luckily I know when I've had too much to drink."

But the sad fact is that people like Ranil are not capable of telling when they've had too much to drink.

22-year-old Varun Kushwaha is a testament to that.

Scepticism rife

He suffered serious injuries and his two friends were killed when they were hit on a Saturday night by a speeding car driven by a drunk driver.

He said the problem of drink driving is not going to go away because the police do not enforce existing rules properly.

"All the rich people have money and they can bribe policemen not to pursue them with their money.

"It's difficult for young people to resist the temptation not to drive home, especially after they have had a few drinks."

The police have been accused by some drivers in Delhi of launching their campaign against drink driving, which involves random breath tests, without giving enough warning.

Delhi policeman
Traffic control can be a nightmare
"I feel that they are going about it in the wrong way," said one woman whose son faces prosecution.

"They have not advertised their campaign at all.

"The whole thing is so hypocritical, most people in the city drink and drive including some policemen and women and up until now the problem has been totally ignored."

The police insist that their campaign will continue in spite of the criticism.

They say their next campaign will be to enforce a recent rule passed by Delhi's courts requiring all people in the front seats of vehicles to wear seat belts.

See also:

03 Apr 01 | South Asia
Transport mayhem in Delhi
27 Mar 01 | South Asia
Delhi commuters face chaos
04 Apr 01 | South Asia
Delhi commuter chaos eases
05 Jun 01 | South Asia
India launches its first electric car
24 Jun 98 | World
The cost of the city
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