Thursday 14 March 2013

The killing fields of Bangalore

This is one distinction that India can do without. It is not only shameful but it also shows the country and its people in bad light. India is now the world capital in the field of road accidents and it also has dubious distinction of having the worst record of accident safety in the world.
One Indian dies every six minutes in road accidents in the country and that makes it 1.2 lakhs deaths and 12.70 lakhs injuries every year. The figure for the world is 120 lakh people killed every year and more than 50 Crore people injured every year.
More shockingly, every day 6600 people doe in accidents and 3300 suffer serious injuries and all of them are due to accidents. Unfortunately India has the dubious distinction of having the worst record of road safety in the world.
The statistics for India are all more alarming. Today, there is one death on Indian road every six minutes and this is expected to go up to one death every three minutes by 2020. Please remember that this is only the tip of the iceberg as in our country, accidents till go unreported in a majority of cases.
Studies by the Institute of Road Traffic Education, New Delhi, NIMHANS of Bangalore, National Transport Planning and Research Centre and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) among others have painted a grim picture of Indian roads and Indian drivers. These studies have revealed that India accounts for about 10 per cent of accident fatalities worldwide.
Even World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics paint an unhealthy picture of the accident scenario in India. Its first report of 2009 stated that more people in India die of road accidents than anywhere else in the world. 
This figure is astounding and alarming as India accounts for only one per cent of the registered motor vehicles. Moreover, the number of accidents per 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figures in other countries range from 4 to 10.
The NCRB says the average cost of road accidents in India is approximately Rs.7 lakh crores. This massive figure does not include the economic burden of permanent disability of the more than 10 lakhs people who survive major accidents every year.
Another shocking statistics is that 85 per cent of the victims of road accidents in India are in the age group of 20 to 50 years. A sad fact is that a majority of these men are the bread-winners for their families.
Even minor injuries in road accidents are costly to treat and they need long recuperating periods. Injuries to the brain, spinal cord, limbs and head and neck are difficult to treat and the resultant trauma is difficult to overcome.    
Though there are no exact figures of expenses of spinal cord injuries, it is enormous and Bangalore is fortunate in having world class institutions such as NIMHANS and Sanjay Gandhi Accident Hospital which have really done yeomen service in the field of accident care and rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, there is no safety net in India for patients who have become victims of  accidents. Expenses have to be borne by victims and their families and while the West have taken several strides to cushion victims of accidents and their families, no such facility is available in India.
Drugs to treat victims of accidents in India are costly and the treatment prohibitive. Spinal care, except in cities, is unheard of and accident rehabilitation is still to take off.      
The 2009 Global report on Road Safety published by WHO has  given us valuable data from 178 countries. It shows how developed countries have been able to reduce the rate of accidents. It shows that stricter regulatory measures does play a part in not only reducing accidents but also in minimizing injuries or lessening the intensity of accidents.
It says wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among front-seat passengers by forty to sixty five per cent. Moreover, wearing seat belts can also reduce deaths among rear-seat occupants by twenty five to seventy five per cent.
 The use of child restraints (infant seats, child seats and booster seats) can reduce deaths of children from 54 per cent  and 80 per cent. The WHO report says India lags badly in implementing the seat belt rule.  
Other rules such as compulsory wearing of helmets, following lane discipline, signaling, proper knowledge of rules, not drinking, smoking and talking on the mobile while driving ought to be strictly implemented.   
Though India has a bouquet of laws relating to motor vehicle regulation, it is rarely implemented. No wonder, the number of  road accident fatalities have been growing by eight per cent every year.
A sad pointer of the callous manner in which India takes its health index is that it occupies 86th position in the world in the field of healthcare. It spends just 6.1 per cent of its GDP on healthcare. Even a one per cent increase is likely to give a fillip to healthcare facilities which are woefully inadequate.
The WHO reports says road fatalities have become an epidemic and that it will become the world's fifth biggest killer by 2030 overtaking diabetes and HIV/AIDS.
It said 90 per cent of deaths on the world's roads occur in low and middle-income countries (21.5 and 19.5 per lakh of population, respectively) though they have just 48 per cent of all registered vehicles
The statistics for India are more chilling. At least 13 people die every hour in road accidents in the country, and this is as per the  report of the National Crime Records Bureau.
The Ministry of Surface Transport, Government of India, says in 2001 there were 405637 road accidents leading to 80,888 deaths and 405216 injuries. The figures for subsequent years were 407497 accidents in 2002 with 84,674 fatalities and 408711 injuries, 406,726 accidents and 85,998 deaths and 435122 injuries in 2003.
This number has been going up year by year and in 2010 it stood at   
499,628 accidents with 134,513 deaths and 527,512 injuries.
National Highways accounted for 30 per cent in total road accidents and 36 per cent in total number of persons killed in 2010. State Highways accounted for 24.5 per cent of total accidents and a share of 27.3 per cent in the total number of persons killed in road accidents in 2010.
In Bangalore, the number of accidents and fatalities have been coming down but what about the accidents that leave a victim paralysed or seriously injured. Many such cases go unreported and there needs to be greater emphasis on enforcement and punishment.
Motorists in Bangalore have no fear of the law. Bring back the fear and save the lives of people. Give first of way for a pedestrian or a walker. A motor car should always come after a human being and not before. When will our drivers learn this. If they can’t or won’t learn, pull the out of the roads and never let them drive again.
Today, Bangalore and its suburbs have become killing fields. Rash and negligent driving, drinking and driving, talking on the mobile and reckless drivers have all become part of our City. Do we need such people on the roads. It is neither safe for them nor us. It is the duty of the law to take care of such people as they are a menace to society.
You don’t agree. Then come down to NIMHANS or Sanjay Gandhi and check pout the mental torture, agony and pain that accident victims and their kin endure.      

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