Opinion

Why millions of Indians will be grateful to Nitin Gadkari

Allan Lasrado | Updated on November 20, 2019 Published on November 20, 2019

The latest Road Accidents report shows that 1,51,417 people died on Indian roads in 2018. If the new Motor Vehicles Act is implemented strictly, that number will plummet

It is unlikely but not inconceivable that some day, Indians will watch a late evening television address by their Dear Leader telling them that at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, they will have to start driving on the right side of the road.

Perhaps, this shift will come about because the Communists would have been toppled from power in Kerala, and the road will be perceived to be the last bastion of the Left.

Or it could be because our automakers, in the face of dwindling sales, focus on exports. And with most countries in the world (excepting some former British colonies, Thailand and that tough export market, Japan) driving on the right, production may focus solely on churning out left-hand drives. That may leave the government of the day no choice but to decree that the country as a whole shift to driving on the right.

Jokes apart, whether they drive on the left or the right side of the road, Indians are likely to be equally indisciplined. Look no further than the 2018 Road Accidents in India report for proof. The report makes for some very sober reading, right from the introductory note penned by Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari.

“The total number of accident related deaths in 2018 stood at 1,51,417... About 85 per cent of the accident related deaths happen in the most productive age group of 18-60. Road accident deaths not only cause severe trauma to the family of the victim but they also result in a huge economic loss to the Nation,” the Minister writes.

The report notes that India has the dubious distinction of holding the top rank among 199 countries for the number of road accident deaths, accounting for 11 per cent of all deaths worldwide.

Among the most avoidable deaths in those statistics are the 8,782 caused by people driving on the wrong side of the road. That is 24 people dying every day because some damn fool couldn’t be troubled to take the correct, if longer, route.

To be sure, these statistics have not come as a bolt out of the blue — the 2018 numbers are simply a 2.3 per cent increase over the figures for 2017. But they should remove all doubt about the criticality of the tough new Motor Vehicles Act championed by Minister Gadkari and shepherded through Parliament by him.

Yes, the penalties are high — apparently one motorist in Gurugram preferred having his vehicle seized to paying the fine, as the vehicle was worth less — but the benefits far outweigh the sufferings of the lawbreakers.

As the Minister underlined, the economic loss caused by accidents is huge, for the individual, for the household, for corporates and for the state.

From the corporate point of view, if not the healthcare sector, the insurance industry, at least, will be happy if there are fewer accidents, as it will save a considerable amount of the crores it pays out in motor insurance claims each year (₹41,015 crore in 2017-18, though this also includes claims for thefts etc), not to mention the health insurance claims of the victims.

If the new law, with its harsh provisions for violations, is implemented to the letter, life on India’s roads will be easier. And for most people, it will be longer. It will save the lives of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands, over the years. And for that, all Indians, be they from the Left, Right or Centre, should be grateful to Nitin Gadkari.

Published on November 20, 2019
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