Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Value of a Human Life

I was deeply distressed by the accident on the Hyderabad Bangalore highway that claimed 45 lives. The bus, the processes involved regarding passenger safety both from the operators point of view and the concerned department's point of view, the design of the road - everything needs to be questioned. The helplessness of the passengers who died needlessly must be taken up and all the concerned parties questioned thoroughly and issues raised. The passengers trusted all the above parties to take them home safely - the bus operator, the government, the highway design - and pretty much everything let them down.

Because a few days after, life goes on as usual in our country. After the initial blame, throwing up hands at fate or human error things go back to normal. No officials are pulled up, no bus operators punished, no contractor questioned.

Is the driver the only one to blame? Not really. He is only the smallest pawn in the story.

The next one to be questioned would be the bus operator. How was the driver allowed to control everything on the bus? How was he driving without a second driver? Who checks whether he is in a condition to drive or not? How come he has extra passengers on the bus? Whether safety norms inside the bus have been followed or not? Would you be allowed to operate buses after such an accident? What about emergency exits? What about emergency procedures as in air planes? Where are the hammers?

The next in line would be the concerned government department. Why are the motor vehicles staff who are so efficient at pulling up all and sundry during the day so blind at night? How come they have no idea of buses travelling at demonic speeds on that highway at night? I once made it in a Volvo in six hours or under between Hyderabad and Bangalore. This was waiting to happen. Is the bus design fine? Is the process involved fine? Who checks on drivers? What are the penalties? Who takes the hit now since this has happened? How come the department is so quiet?

Somewhere at the top one must question the very design of the road. Why is there no bigger set off near the culvert? How come there is no extra precaution just in case?

Every single one of the above and perhaps more have let down the passengers.

No point in throwing up their hands and blaming fate. If it is fate we are trusting, we don't need you. We need you to take responsibility for every single life. Everyday we see accidents on the ORR and I am sure much shrugging must be going on.

Dive around the city and look at the number of potential death traps that are out there on the road. The roads in the city, the dividers, the blind turns, the potholes, the open drains, the dark and unilluminated barricades at RTC bus stops, the Metro works, vehicles with protruding steel rods, autos that carry 8 people and drive recklessly around, and the many other horrifying death traps set up by half-baked jobs, zero-thought procedures and monitoring that the people who put them up do makes one wonder when they will wake up. How come they think so lightly of human life? How come every single injury, every fall does not hurt them? How can they not feel that their inefficiency, negligence and gross dereliction of duty sometimes can kill so many innocents who trust them to do their job?

How come we chug on oblivious to the truth. How come there is so little value for human life. It should be one of the highest priorities of the government - to value a human life and create conditions that add more value. If there was value for human life, the government would be on its knees begging forgiveness, amending things, making the roads safer. But no, its relegated to another statistic. Another accident. Another injury. Another death.

Too bad boss some would say. How can we use this situation to our advantage? Who is the one who needs a favour now? How can we twist the rule to make it all worthwhile?

By not asking or raising a voice against this slow death, this apathy, we encourage such responses from people responsible. Responsibilities come with a price - if you cannot handle it, you pay the price. It is time everyone in the chain was help to their responsibility, the blame fixed and the guilty punished. It is time we start valuing every single fall, every single injury, every discomfort and death that happens in public domain. It is after all the very purpose that we have a government.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

I feel low-tech works better on our roads than hi-tech, in terms of automatic door closers, and so on. In a manual bus, it would have been possible to operate the door manually.