I was watching a movie in the first floor of our house that fateful afternoon of '94 when that call came and changed our lives forever. It was my mother who had called from the ground floor of our house to inform me through her uncontrollable tears that she had just then received a call that my younger brother had died in a road accident. I rushed down hoping against hope that it was someone else. My dad was sure it wouldn't be someone else – as I drove our car frantically towards Gurgaon where the accident had happened – and advised me to drive slowly. He had done his maximum possible to see to it that we never developed a fascination for motorbikes. An avid reader of about a dozen papers everyday, my father was definite that a motorbike was a sure-shot route to disaster on Indian roads. So the soonest he could, he bought a car for us. I still remember that day in 1993, after he had bought a fifth-hand 1977 model Toyota, he entered the house, lay down on the bed in a relaxed manner and told my grandmother, “I have put a "kavach" (a shield) around my children today.” Unfortunately, that was not to be.

So, that afternoon, did my brother really let my father down by taking a ride on a two-wheeler from our institute’s campus to the highway to have lunch? No. I believe every 20-year-old at times takes his own decision and thinks that this much seems quite fine a risk. We all have the right to go out on the road and come back alive. It’s India’s pathetic road safety that let him down. We are a country of road killers. The highest number of road deaths in the world happens in India. If it were America, chances are fifty times more that my brother would have been alive.

While with only a mere 12 million vehicles, we have about 114,000 deaths on Indian roads, with about 250 million plus cars in the USA, they have only 41,000 road accident fatalities per year. That is, in India for every 100 cars we have one road death; in USA, there’s one road death for every 5,000 cars! And how does this difference take place? Is it because there people don't drink? Well, the daily normal alcohol consumption per capita is far higher in the West, especially among the youth – which is involved in the maximum number of road accidents. Is it because people in the West don't drive fast? Well, the average speed limits in developed nations are far higher than those in India. And it is in developed nations that more youths have access to vehicles on the road and ergo tend to be more reckless; then how is it that the West manages to systematically bring their accident numbers down to such abysmal lows, while we aren't even bothered? Or is it that only the 26/11 deaths should be considered as deaths but thousands of more preventable deaths happening in every other family around us are not deaths but God’s sweet will? Can you fathom this, that as a nation, we lose $20 billion annually to road accidents, enough money to do away with 50% of our country's malnutrition problem?   Read More....

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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