Sunday, June 15, 2008
Ye Road Tere Baap Ki Hai??
“The rate of accidents and casualties is disturbing. There is an urgent need to curb the menace on our roads and highways. With more people driving or using personal transport, only a stringent law will induce vehicle users to avoid rash driving,” asserted Justice A R Lakshmanan, the Chairman of the Law Commission before recommending that maximum jail term for a casualty caused by drunken or rash driving be escalated from two to ten years.
A sneak-peak into the statistics (bunched up through various official websites of Indian legislative organizations) :
• India is the world’s leading light with 35 – the highest – accidents per 1000 registered vehicles. (Pinch of salt : These figures are official.) It varies from 4 to 10 in America. Bravo! One-love!
• Around one lac people wash their hands with their lives (come on, its my favourite hindi idiom translated. I always wonder how is this done!) in road accidents per year (Official figures again!). We are next only to China. Buck Up, folks. We have in it us to eclipse the dragon. The same number in the U.S. is as low as 17k. Two-love; Game Point!
• In Patna and Mumbai the percentage of pedestrians among the road mishap victims is the highest in the country at 90% and 78% respectively. The highest in America is nowhere around. Three-love, Game!!
No doubt something needs to be done, urgently. But isn’t the proposal, in terms of the TOI, “driving too far”? Is the lack of stern norms the only impediment in the way of a healthy traffic system? Hasn’t it got something to do with the goddamn execution of the present norms?
Aamir hands the Rs. 100 bill to the Inspector Sahib in Rang De Basanti with impunity and exclaims suggestively, “Welcome to India!” All of us have either done or witnessed the same in our lives. It’s such a regular phenomenon in urban India that it has been exploited to full comic relief in other flicks like Gurudev Bhalla’s Shararat where the “cool” male protagonist dupes the corrupt traffic constable in the process of bribing him.
Jaywalking is as common as spitting on the roads. Here in Jamshedpur, the traffic officials have no mechanism to prevent the populace on Shanks’s Pony from walking on their whim with full disregard to the traffic lights close to the Natraj Theatre in Bistupur.
Drunken Driving is a peril yet to be cracked down. Few things can match the thrill of continuous honking and overtaking when blasted. For us, this is our desi version of Psychedelic Rock, Mr. Devil may care! Being mellowed down by a frigging Maruti 800 is an insult to The Hammered. Give the driver a mouthful and there you go. In the Bollywood ishtyle…Ye Road hamare baap ki hai!!!
Lets get down to serious business. Why is the flouting of traffic norms so common? Why isn’t it such a pain in the neck of the developed nations? The answer follows as an example of the American scheme of things.
The process of acquiring a driving licence in the States is a hard nut to crack in itself. One needs to duly attend a traffic school and needs to pass a written test. (This exam made the two - Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron - meet in one of my favourite mushy flicks – Sweet November). Negative points are awarded on every single violation of a law, however inconsequential it may be. Continue being Mr. Mere-Baap-Ki-Road and your licence would be confiscated in no time. Time to grace the traffic school all over again with your presence; in conjunction with a hefty fine and an increase in the insurance premium. Now this is something!! The best part is the implementation. Far less corrupt and far more dynamic traffic officials hold the key.
There is no need of labouring the point of making people aware of the norms from an early age. Poppycock! Who doesn’t know the rules? Even if we are dumb enough to be confused by the self explanatory traffic signs, we can at least read the words in the regulations mentioned along the divider line on the roads. But then, why the heck should we care? A 50-buck is all that’s required in the nearly worst case scenario. Well okay, inflationary times. Lets make it 100. Deal!