March 18, 2013

The Toll for March

We are about halfway through March. Let's make a tally of the dead from road accidents in India so far.
Of course this list is less than "perfect" as I am making a tally only of accidents that "made it to the news" and  for that to happen,sufficient numbers of people have to die.
dozen school children dying near Jallandar is clearly good enough to even make it to the Sky News website. But wait, that's a UK website. Didn't Indian newspapers/websites find the dozen deaths newsworthy? Well, some like NDTV apparently did though I don't remember it being the top headline on the prime-time 9PM news that day. Why is that? Is it because Jallandar is not Delhi or Mumbair or Bangalore? Remember that school-bus accident more than a decade ago in Delhi which led to the Supreme Court guidelines about yellow school buses and speed governors and what not? I guess accidents are still happening and SC guidelines are still being violated. I see many rickety Maruti Omnis zooming around in the morning and afternoon through the narrow lanes and bylanes of Delhi. The drivers of these dilapidated vehicles can even be found talking on their cellphone while reversing the vehicle. It's a wonder more such accidents are not happening.
I guess it's a regular feature on the roads of India that accidents happen when people are returning after attending a wedding reception. This accident in Navi Mumbai on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is the latest accident with a toll of seven dead. Availability of free liquor and good food at wedding receptions must make for a rather deadly cocktail —> you over-do the alcohol and get intoxicated, eat too much of the tasty food and then try to return home in the middle of the night when the body is more used to being asleep. With a high alcohol content in the blood, obviously the driver becomes rash and has impaired judgment and is sleepy to boot and trying to stay awake. If they have to drive on a highway where there are no dividers in the middle of the road, well, then the slightest error of judgment can lead to fatal results. India has two marriage seasons —> one during the summer months of April, May, and June and another during the winter months of December and January (roughly). And we are not even in the thick of either of the wedding seasons. Arguably, there will be more deaths as we get into the thick of the wedding seasons.
The other seasonal madness that occurs in India has to do with various religious festivals at various places; the Kumb Mela comes to mind. There's the Rath Yatra in Puri, Odisha. There are umpteen such religious occasions in India and I am the last person who would be an expert on them. However, I imagine that devotees going to and returning from these vast crowded affairs must also often meet with road accidents. Here's an accident involving UP visitors visiting Puri in Odisha. And here's an accident involving Oriya visitors visiting the recent Kumbh Mela in Allahbad, UP. Of course, these two accidents did not happen in March but I am including them in this list as examples to emphasize the point that these accidents occur with the regularity of a metronome.
BTW, news organizations should by now get the name of the state right. It's Odisha changed from the earlier Orissa and therefore, the people of that state are to be referred to as Odia rather than Oriya.
To return to the toll of March, here's an accident that killed two teenage cousins one of whom was probably in a hurry to reach his matriculation examination center on time. Two young men riding a bike get hit by a bus and fall off onto the road and a truck comes swiftly along and crushes the teens to death.
Here's a report about two accidents in the North-East that killed eight people. Buses and other vehicles falling off those curving mountain roads in Himachal Pradesh must be a recurring cause of death. Driving on a bike on the road from Chandigarh to Shimla, I was struck by how unsafe those roads were and how close I was to being involved in an accident. All I could do was drive as safely as possible but teenage boys and those in their 20s would be rash drivers because of all the hormones in their blood. Indeed, the HP government bus drivers were quite audacious drivers too. I suppose if you spend all your time driving on those dangerous roads, you would get used to the danger but surely, one day, your luck might run out ... the break might fail when you need it or a tire might go flat.
Ten people died when a bus rolled into a gorge in Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir. A father-son "duo" dies in a road accident. Five dead in three separate accidents in Trichi and Tiruvarur. That's a short history of death on the roads of India focused mainly on half the month of March.

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