In a recent session at an institute, the faculty phonated that the Supreme Court of our country, India, transcends all bodies and checks. She even opined that the SC, be given the status of God. She proposed such thoughts citing the caveat that we, the students in her class, are not the government. Nor do we have any authority to question those in power. Such preachings by the “educators” make it all the more necessary for a democracy to enlighten itself.
Recently, the Supreme Court, in all its vainglory, barred all restaurants and hotels existing in a 500-meter radius from state and national highways from serving liquor. The latest diktat came in clarification of an earlier order which had ordered liquor vends (theke) to shut up shop. The step was being taken to control deaths due to road accidents. India coughs up 400 people every day due to the menace on its roads. This step, though in good faith, attacks the persons and not the problem.
By a fair measure, in almost all of the country, ( barring the dry states of Gujarat and Bihar) one can get a sip at one’s choice. Going by the Supreme Court’s logic, every road is unsafe. Prolonging their sentence, all liquor-serving outlets must stop doing so, if they are in any near capacity to urban lands. Those without the privilege of roads may continue their services unabated. The explanation for only the National and State Highways coming under the ambit of the order is their perceived easy availability to those traveling (on roads). The restaurant selling a pint at a distance of 501 meters is not a threat to the safety of the citizens.
The apex court has not addressed the root cause of accidents. Mishaps on roads are caused due to a number of factors. One among these is drunken driving. The others are little respect for rules or pedestrians, faulty designs of roads, little vigilance towards safety standards of vehicles, pathetic road education among drivers, corrupt society and rule-enforcers.
One, there is scant regard for the rules and regulations of the road. Traffic lights are seen as unrequired stoppages, lane driven is a concept alien to most, speed-breakers are to damage the precious vehicles. The fact that there is no policy for rickshaws and bicycles brings to fore the brazen disregard of the governing bodies. To address these issues, the role of police becomes immense. Formulation of policies which have been left untouched till now is another step to be taken.
Two, corruption is rooted deep into our country’s ethics. It is overtly visible on the roads. Paying off a challan costs you a day at the court, in addition to the monetary fine. Paying off the person on duty is hassle free in comparison. This attitude needs to change. For it to happen, the person on duty needs to become accountable. For him to become accountable, CCTV cameras will go a long way. A different kind of prohibition.
Three, education of drivers before permitting them to drive is an essential but primary step. They need to made aware of the rules before they step on that accelerator. Not many, who have been driving for years, know the difference between high beam and low beam lighting. Nonetheless, vehicles carry on their journey at night, even if the person opposite them is blinded to death.
Four, the very design of many roads, arterial and highways is faulty. The potholes caused due to undesired material used during construction only compound problems for the commuters. These are the problems that can be solved easily at the ground level. Streetlights on unlit roads, speed breakers before intersections, properly functioning traffic lights, rapid repair of damaged roads, and a vigilant traffic police force, alongwith an educated driver can lead to severe drought in the torrential rain of death. It is a pity that one of the conspirators (drunken driving) has been singled out for the crime that many forces combine to commit.