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Crash Tests and Dummies

Airbags don’t even address the least of India’s road safety issues


There have been extensive media reports, recently, about cars, like the Datsun GO and Maruti Swift sold in India and other models like the VW Polo, in the past. Almost all of these were certified unsafe because they did not have airbags and, therefore, failed the crash tests conducted. Whether these reports have impacted sales or improved safety is another issue.


What this has resulted in for sure, though, is a diktat that, from October 2015 all cars will be fitted with at least two airbags. Seen in isolation, this is a commendable step, long overdue and cannot be faulted. It is also probably the easiest way out, by saddling the consumer with added costs, which may not work anyway, unless the basic habit of wearing seatbelts is inculcated.


An airbag that activates itself, if the driver or passenger in the seat is not wearing a seatbelt, is more dangerous than a gun fired at close range. An airbag that activates itself due to an inherent fault is even more dangerous. An airbag that does not activate itself when required lulls people into a false sense of security. And an airbag, activated or not, is an additional expense which needs to be factored in with the realisation that disconnecting an airbag is as simple as removing a fuse, in many cases.


However, to avoid missing the woods for the trees, the fact remains that many other safety-related issues on Indian roads remain unresolved. Here is a list of a few of them and notes on why they are not going to be addressed in a cogent manner in the near future:


1) The biggest danger to all stakeholders on Indian roads has to be the vast variety of ‘authorities’, from the ministry downwards, who are involved in the truckloads of documentation that only increases their income, both dry and wet, and ability to breed corruption, while totally destroying whatever little headway road safety legislation tries to make. I have been visiting regional transport offices (RTOs) all over the country from 1974 onwards, when I first turned 18, and can confidently say that corruption has outgrown the cost of living in the intervening years. This, to be truthful, is the biggest reason for lack of safety on our roads.


2) The second biggest danger to road-users has to be the flawed system of road design, engineering, construction and implementation all over India. Barring exceptions like the roads built by the Border Roads Organisation and some specific new roads, pretty much every other kilometre of roads, highways, bridges and tarmacs in India adds to worsening road safety to a point where it is increasingly safer to use trains or airplanes.


3) The third element in the issue of lack of road safety has to be the people out on the roads, who are supposed to be keeping an eye on issues impacting road safety. Instead of ensuring that roads are safer, they are increasingly busy in checking whether motor vehicles are carrying valid PUC (pollution under control) certificates or insurance certificates—issues that can easily be checked using modern technology. In 40 years of driving, for example, I have yet to be checked even once for whether or not the brakes in my motor vehicle are working.


4) The fourth important factor is the lack of equity on our roads. Some road-users, especially people from those segments of society who are supposed to govern the country and keep it safe for citizens, are of the opinion that they are above the laws pertaining to road safety and are, therefore, exempted from any form of adherence to laws on the road.


This is also the segment which is growing the fastest and also driving the biggest cars on our roads, as well as getting away with murder.


I do not expect any of these real reasons for lack of road safety to be addressed in the near future. What I do foresee, however, is that the ‘system’, as we know it, will come down even harder on the middle-class; a whole new bunch of documents will need to be carried and displayed at every small barrier in town.


Roads in India will only be safer when they become an electoral issue impacting the swing. We are some distance away from that, for now.


(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)




2 years ago

We need someone big to lose his son or wife or someone close to him due to road accidents - only then will the willpower be found. When was the willpower found to build the Mumbai-Pune expressway. After the most important person in Maharashtra at that time lost his son in an accident - whose life could not be saved, as he could not be rushed to any hospital during the golden hour, thanks to the traffic jam on old Mumbai-Pune road.

Sorry to wish something horrible for the powers to be, but if this how things work, what choice do we have ?


2 years ago

I would like to add one more point: the cows, dogs and buffaloes on the road... You try to save them, you lose your bones...

vikram golcha

2 years ago

Most important, in my opinion, is the fact that there is 0 awareness in the drivers and law enforcers about road rules and conventions. e.g nobody follows the simple rule that one has to stop the car before pedestrian crossings to allow the pedestrian to cross. On 6 lane highways, people continue to drive in the lane next to the median even after overtaking.

ACB files FIR against principal secretaries, HDIL group chairman, directors

The accused were booked following an order from the Sessions Court order which directed the ACB to probe the alleged irregularities in Slum Rehabilitation Authority -SRA project in suburban Bandra


Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed a first information report (FIR) against principle secretaries of the state's housing and woman and child development departments, HDIL Group chairman and the company's ten directors in connection with alleged irregularities in Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) project in suburban Bandra.


The accused were booked following a Sessions Court order, which directed the ACB to probe the matter brought before it by a complainant.


The FIR was filed on Tuesday against Principle Secretary (Housing) Debashish Chakrabarty, Principal Secretary (Woman and Child Development) Ujjwal Uke, HDIL Group Chairman and the company's 10 directors.


They have been charged under relevant IPC sections including 166 (public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person), 167 (public servant framing incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and sections pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act.


According to ACB's Assistant Police Commissioner Rajesh Bagalkote, the complainant owned a commercial space at the Motilal Nehru Nagar in suburban Bandra.


The complainant alleged that the area had been redeveloped under SRA scheme by real estate and construction company HDIL in 2005-2006, but he was not allotted a shop after he was deliberately declared ineligible, police said.


"However, those who are ineligible were provided shops in the redeveloped area. It was also discovered that more than allotted area had been used for the redevelopment project. All these illegal activities were carried out allegedly in connivance with government officials, including Chakrabarty and Uke, who were executive officers in SRA. Various documents were allegedly forged for the purpose," Bagalkote said.


The victim approached the court following which Special Sessions Judge SV Ranpise ordered ACB to probe the complaint and take appropriate action against the persons concerned.


Following the court order, the FIR was registered against Chakrabarty, Uke, HDIL's Wadhwan, the then additional collector in suburbs, office-bearers of Motilal Nehru Nagar Cooperative Housing Society and 10 directors of the HDIL for their alleged role in the irregularities in allotment of the space.


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