Accidents Galore: 63 lives lost in two days, where is the accountability for road safety?



By Gaurav Sharma

Every year scores of people succumb to various kinds of accidental deaths. India, however, takes the scope and magnitude of such ‘accidental deaths’ to a whole new level.

In this regard, data accessed from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a government body responsible for collecting crime data, reveals a particularly concerning trend.

Between 2003-2013, while the population grew at a rate of 15 per cent, the increase in rate of accidental deaths during the same period was an exorbitant 25 per cent.

On the surface level, the massive gap in population growth and accidental death rate might not showcase any pertinent reason behind it, a deeper scrutiny divulges a very obvious yet overlooked explanation: state apathy.

Magnitude of Tragedy

In a short span of two days, an eye popping 50 people have lost their lives, and more than 120 people have been injured in such callous accidents. Women and children are amongst the casualties of the horrific string of disasters that have struck northern India.

In Ludhiana, an ammonia gas leak took the lives of more than 6 people and injured 100 people. The leak occurred when a tanker got stuck under a flyover on the Doraha-Bypass road near a canal, about 25 kms from Ludhiana. As usual, in the aftermath of the mishap, police and civil servants rushed to the spot to take ‘stock of the situation’.

Following the catastrophes on close heels, at least 19 people, including 8 children, were killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district, when a speeding truck collided with two tractor trollies. After the occurrence of the ghastly incident, villagers blocked the highway and pelted stones at police vehicles, unable to control their ire.

The public outrage forced Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to condole the loss of lives and announce an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs. 50,000 each for those injured.

On the same day, another disturbing accident happened in an East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, when a Multi Utility Vehicle (MUV) fell off the Dowlesawaram bridge into the Godavari river. At least 22 people, including nine women and six children, were killed in the ‘drowning’ accident.

A day before, in an equally gruesome incident, sixteen people, half of them children, were electrocuted and 26 injured when the bus they were travelling in came in contact with a live wire jutting out of a power transformer in Rajasthan’s Tonk district.

The shocking incident resulted in announcement of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs. 2 lakh to those who had been critically injured.

Political Insensitivity  

In the aftermath of totally avoidable accidents, it is but usual for the politicians to announce a paltry sum as compensation, a measure to appease the bereaved families and stifle resentful voices. This is inevitably preceded by an outpouring of grief from the politicians over the social media, to showcase their condolences.

What they fail to take stock of, however, is that loss of life in India is taken very lightly. Quite often grieving families are left with an indelible void, which cannot be filled by mere monetary compensation.

Road rules and, more importantly, the enforcement of traffic laws is a serious issue which no politician is willing to fix. Bypassing infrastructure strictures is also common practice, indulged in by both private developers as well as government bodies.

The death toll, if not wholly eliminated, can be reduced to great extent if such such issues are prioritized by the government.

In any other country, such as the United States and most European nations, such abhorrent bypassing of civil rules and regulations would have resulted in heavy indictment of those involved.

In India, on the other hand, a meager apology by the politicos, followed by a puny ex-gratia compensation, relieves them of any accountable responsibility. Should something as precious as life be squandered like a piece of cake, without any afterthought of remedying the chronic ailment that has spread like wildfire?