Less than 100 kilometres from Hyderabad is a tribal hamlet called Peddakunta Thanda. Home to about 25 huts, the village appears like any other in the country. But one thing about it stands out – there is only one male adult left in the village.

Labelled the “village of widows”, Peddakunta Thanda has lost more than 40 men on a highway bypass that runs through it. To get to the other side, the villagers must cross the stretch on foot – there is no subway or footbridge.

The young widows and children left behind curse the government’s push for development, which they say has proved fatal for Peddakunta and its neighbouring villages.

Last week, the Union government took its first steps towards making this and other deadly highway stretches in the country safer. It set aside Rs 11,000 crore for improving road infrastructure to reduce fatalities, with the money to be spent over five years.

The Centre is already in the process of fixing 10 out of 13 identified “black spots” on the national capital’s highways and is now focusing its attention on the rest of the country.

According to government guidelines, a black spot is classified as a location on a national highway that witnesses more than 10 accidents a year. According to the World Health Organisation, India has some of the world’s deadliest roads. Government data backs up this claim.

“Five lakh accidents take place in a year in the country, in which 1.5 lakh people die and another 3 lakh are crippled for life,” said Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari while announcing the plan. “So many people don’t die even in wars or extremism-related killings or due to diseases. This is a serious concern.”

In December last year, the government had identified 22 of the deadliest spots around the country which had resulted in the death of more than 95 people each between 2011-2013 and put them on a maximum priority list.

NH-4 in Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, for instance, claimed 237 lives alone over this three-year period.

On Monday, the Union government also released a comprehensive list of 726 black spots on national highways around the country and their current status. The southern states fared the worst. Just three states – Tamil Nadu (100), Karnataka (86) and Telangana (71) – contributed more than one-third of the total black spots in the country.

While Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had the most number of black spots, seven states and six union territories did not report any black spots whatsoever. Thirteen such spots were identified in Delhi, including the infamous Mukarba Chowk and Punjabi Bagh Chowk, which claimed 43 lives each between 2011 and 2013.

While the government has allocated funds and is now in the process of locating, investigating and fixing many of these spots, the available data does not inspire much confidence. Across the country, two out of every three black spots on the national highways are awaiting investigation or long-term solutions.

Equally disturbing is that no action has been taken so far on all the black spots identified in states such as Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir.

To tackle the problem, Gadkari said that the government will also consider diverting some funds from road excise collections to states, so that black spots can be fixed on priority.

While acknowledging that most mishaps on the accident-prone stretches occur because of negligent driving, he also requested state bodies to act quickly on the danger spots to reduce fatalities.

“While we are fixing the black spots on national highways, I request the state governments and municipal bodies to identify such fatal stretches and fix them,” said Gadkari.