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Increasing cases of road rage: Why is India so angry?

By Harshmeet Singh

A resident of Delhi’s IP Extension area, the 38-year-old Shahnawaz, was on his way to his home on April 5 when he was beaten to death by five men after he had an argument with them at the Turkman gate.  A profusely bleeding Shahnawaz was watched on by his two children as he succumbed to his injuries. What was the reason behind the argument? An altercation over not providing enough space to overtake while struck in a traffic jam. Have we reached a stage where we are ready to kill someone because he dared to have an argument with us? Why is India so angry?

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first case of road rage in the country and neither would it be the last. While some people attribute it to the high levels of stress, others simply see low tolerance level as the major reason behind this menace. With an ever increasing number of motorists hurrying to reach their destinations, incidents of road rage aren’t expected to come down in the near future.

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Image Source: indiatimes.com

In 2013, a Pakistani diplomat was thrashed in Delhi after his official car collided with a motor cycle. The biker was riding on the wrong side of the road. The diplomat, true to his job description, tried to have a rational conversation with the rider only to realize that rationality has no place on roads in India. Unlike Pakistan’s large claims of a ‘conspiracy against their country’, it turned out to be just another case of road rage. But when such incidents are reported against a diplomat from another country, the problem can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked so easily. The motorcyclist, in this case, would have been one of the many million Indians on the road, fighting to make their way through the congested jams, without giving a thought about others present around them.

Interestingly, there is no specific section of the society that can be pointed out for creating a ruckus on the roads. Right from the rich brats driving Audis and Mercs to auto rickshaws and truck drivers, no one seems to like anyone else on ‘their road’.

What leads to road rage?

An ever increasing population has ensured that our roads mirror a chaotic playground most of the times. Hundreds of horn honking vehicles try to create their own lane as soon as they see an empty space on the road.

In most altercations, aggression is met by even more aggression. ‘Swear words’ are just the beginning to the mighty explosion that follows afterwards. Diplomacy (which can very well get you out of there unhurt) is nowhere near to be seen.

The worst part about these incidents is that no one seems to care. In the recent Delhi road rage incident, it has been reported that Shahnawaz’s children ran to the nearby police station (just 50 meters from the place of incident) to bring him some help. But the men on duty asked them to go away. In 2012 Delhi rape case, the girl and the boy were said to be lying on the road naked, bleeding profusely only to see the passersby glancing at them and going away as if nothing has happened. And this isn’t without any reason. The good Samaritans who help road accident victims and take them to the hospital have reported harassment at the hands of the police enough times to scare anyone of giving a helping hand to the needy. Absence of a Good Samaritan law in India is a major deterrent to those who wish to help the road accident victims.

Lessons from foreigners

In France, a person is obligated to help any injured party, provided that he / she can do it with no harm to anyone else. In Finland, professionals are required to provide immediate help to the person in need, failing which; they would be punishable under the Finnish penal Code. German laws are much more holistic in this regard. According to their law, a person in need must be provided with first aid. Also, the provider of the first aid will not be prosecuted even if it results in worsening of the condition of the injured or if the first aid didn’t meet the required criteria.

Israel goes a step further and makes the good Samaritan eligible for compensation, in case any damage is caused to him during the rescue act. In countries such as China and England, a Good Samaritan is provided with ‘civil and criminal liability protection’ if some predetermined conditions are met. But despite several demands, a Good Samaritan law remains a distant possibility in India.

Not just limited to the roads

Men on the streets have taken shape of active bombs, ready to explode with all their rage on the slightest of provocation. The short tempers are on display even when the people aren’t on the roads. Sharp reactions and frequent demands for bans and censorship highlight our low lying tolerance levels in today’s times. Peaceful protests turning violent are a common occurrence these days. ‘If we don’t like it, we will destroy it’ seems to be the guiding principle for many in the country.

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