Reporting Assignment – (Road Safety on ECR)

I have always looked forward to the days I have to go out reporting as a part of our assignment. Even if the quality of news report that I have submitted is sub standard, just the thought of going out in the field, asking questions, interviewing people and meeting deadlines, excite me.

As the final trimester began at Asian College of Journalism, Radhakrishnan Rariyam of the Frontline joined as an adjunct faculty in the Print stream. He sends us out for four reporting assignment.

The first day of our reporting was on Tuesday, 23rd February, 2016, and since I had already pitched in my idea to him the day before, I had to leave early for my story, which was on the ‘Road Safety on East Coast Road’.

To cover this story, I had to travel the entire stretch of East Coast Road (ECR) from Thiruvanmiyur, all the way till Mahabalipuram. I had earlier decided to take a scooter from one of my colleagues at ACJ, since I had to stop at short distances and aspect the safety of the roads, and taking the public transport would be meaningless.

As I was leaving to cover my story, I came to know that two of my colleagues from the Television stream had to do a feature story on the ‘Sea Shore Temple’ at Mahabalipuram. I tagged along with them as I thought I would have company on my trip and also because they were driving on their car.

The East Coast Road.

We set out on the ECR at 11 am with the Chennai sun shining bright on us. It was a sultry morning, and I made my first stop at the village of Neelankarai, right on the outskirts of the city.

The East Coast Road is a highway which starts at Chennai and goes all the way till Pondicherry. The State Government plans to make this a four lane highway and work has already begun on the project. At Neelankarai, I saw that the highway didn’t have any centre medians and that there weren’t any lighting on the highway. The condition of the road was also in a dilapidated state, with just one signboard saying where to exit for the village.

As I went on, I saw this was the case everywhere. All the villages along the ECR had the same problem, be it Neelankarai or Pallavakam or Kanathur or Kovalam. The highway road was no doubt, very good, but the lighting on the highway was very little or non-existent, making it almost impossible for drivers to drive at night without the headlights.

Construction work on ECR leaves just a narrow stretch for cars to drive on.
Construction work on ECR leaves just a narrow stretch for cars to drive on.

The centre medians was not there in the long stretches of the highway and a villager told me that it was the prime reason for head-on collisions by cars. The ECR is an accident prone zone and the state government hasn’t done much to prevent accidents from happening.

There aren’t many signboards on the highway which tells the drivers when to turn, and when to slow down. Plus the ECR has some really steep turnings which are the cause of accidents.

I got the chance to speak to the village head at Kovalam, which a tourist location with its pristine beaches and resorts. The village head told me that accidents happen early morning, with the tourist party usually driving under the influence of alcohol.

2. The narrow Mutthukadu Bridge, where the accident took place on Sunday. Two new bridges are being built on each side of the old bridge.
The narrow Mutthukadu Bridge, where the accident took place last Sunday. Two new bridges are being built on each side of the old bridge.

Having spoken to the auto-rickshaw drivers, I came to know that ECR witness accidents almost every day. One side of the road is always getting repaired leaving cars from both sides ply on a narrow road leaving it vulnerable to accidents.

The stretch of road from Kovalam to Mahabalipuram, which has been made into a four lane highway now has become a speed way for youngsters. They travel without helmets, which according to locals of Kovalam put their and others’ lives at risk.

We reached Mahabalipuram around noon, and I helped my colleagues with their shoot. The Sea Shore Temple was a marvellous structure built during the Pallavas reign. It was in 1994 declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sea Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram.

After returning back to college from the reporting assignment, I filed my report and looked forward to more such days where I would have the thrill of reporting mixed with the excitement of visiting a World Heritage Site in one single day.


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