Ram Nath was watching his favourite TV programme,` Laughter Show`, when he recd a call, on his mobile. Since that call, Ramnath is not the same person- happy-go-lucky?! His world has somersaulted towards HELL!? The caller informed that his only son, RAVI- seventeen years old, had been involved in a serious road-accident & was removed by the police to a hospital. He stayed in injured condition on the road for more than an hour, as no on-lookers, who were in plenty, did any thing to give him succour/ help?!
Incidents, like the one above have become very common & normal features in our mega-cities. Accidents & deaths are on the increase. Two accidents, involving cars, are very recent cases of deaths/serious injuries on roads.
As it causes massive miseries to, the affected parties, it is time, to do some thing concrete, by all the stake-holders.
Who are the stake holders?
You, me, the community & various wings of the Govt-local, state, central, its various organizations, civil society groups, educational/training institutions, media, international organisations too.
Why do accidents occur? It does not need much explaining. But, the main reason is the negligence of human beings, itself. In the case of Ram Nath, he did not bother, to ensure that his under-age son did not take, his newly acquired car for a drive, to show off to his friends. He, even did not bother that, his son did not possess the valid driving license. Fake driving license, he himself, had helped his son, to obtain, using money-power & contacts`! Result of the same was there to see.
What were the authorities doing, when license was issued to untrained & under-age persons?
Collusion is the name of the game. Today, it is Ram Nath, tomorrow, it could be you, me or son of a license issuing official, a powerful politician or a senior bureaucrat? Accidents do not recognize the protocol or influence?!
Compromising on principles, non-enforcement of laid down traffic rules, casualness, speed, are some of the main reasons, for increase of accidents. It is therefore very imperative, that persons of impeccable integrity are put on the sensitive jobs. Some may say, most of the govt jobs are sensitive. Yes, these are, but some are certainly, more than the others. Traffic policing & issuing of driving licenses, fall in that category.
Let us also face it squarely. There is corruption . This is one of the main cause of accidents. I personally consider, corruption as the HIV/AIDS of our administrative system.
Compromising on the state of fitness of vehicles, issuing of licences, booking of traffic offenders, apathy in construction & maintenance of roads & attendant infrastructure-proper geometry, signage, signals, lighting, by some of the concerned local authorities- officials/engineers are other reasons for accidents. One can understand, if India was short of working hands.
Then there was no alternative but, to continue with the corrupt, careless, un-trained people in various organizations of the govt is understandable. But, we in India, do not have problem of shortage of human resources.
When will `sarkari`, means real no-nonsense business/profession? At the moment, it only means-one can even get away with murder, if one has contacts/money!? How sad for the country of more than one billion & the aam admi?
The bureaucracy & the judiciary need to play very very vigilant & strict role, in the area of dealing with offenders-merchants of death. Decisions have to be quick & un-biased.
Besides, community , media, & civil society groups, will have to play pro-active positive role.
Thought provoking films need to be made & screened on TV to sensitise the citizens/community. In schools & in colleges, curricular should have space for imparting education, on need for values & ethics. Acquisition of money, by any means, need to be denigrated.
There need to be control on expanding numbers of vehicles on roads. Not, that no to Nano, but control? Public transport need to be made efficient. In this connection, one really wonders, why it took so long to enforce fitting of governors in buses. Even now reports are there that the same are being manipulated/fiddled with, and the authorities looking the other way?!
Take it for granted, there are no miracles going to happen, to minimize accidents. In India about 1.25 lakhs die every year in road accidents & ten times of this number get injuries-some of serious nature! The System, need/have to be [made] accountable, sensitive, responsible and responsive, on a sustainable basis.,if we want to make a difference.
There is no other way.
In my article, I have not quoted findings of national/international studies, on causes of accidents & remedial measures. Because, I personally feel, solution lies with all of us We all know it. The need is to implement the solutions rigorously. This is true, for other areas of administration/ governance, too.
Many organizations/groups in India & abroad, are working in the area of road safety. It will be discussed in the next article.
Writer is a Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi
& Convener `Social Outreach Programme` Committee IIT Delhi Alumni Association