The lack of road discipline is a problem with many dimensions in our cities, and the incident of a marketing professional killed by an underage driver of a Mercedes in Delhi is just one aspect of it. People in Delhi have never been known for being disciplined or law-abiding, and nothing exemplifies this better than the manner in which the rules of the road are flouted every day. This malaise pervades all levels of society. However, the Mercedes incident is something very specific to persons of privilege and the sense of class consciousness that seems to come easily to them. The underage boy had supposedly been on a joy ride with his friends, and by allowing him to do so, his father, the owner of the car, not only positioned him on a path of illegal action but also sent him an implied message that such a piece of illegality was par for the course. In such a situation a person of an impressionable age is very likely to get the idea that being in a certain station in society, he is likely to get away with a measure of wrong-doing. Driving a costly vehicle such as a Mercedes can only reinforce such an idea. If the police cannot move against the offender for legal reasons, they should move at least against the father, who has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. No leniency should be shown towards him. The legal basis for acting against him can be how he allowed someone who is not legally entitled to a licence drive his vehicle.
With growth in affluence, underage driving is becoming very common. Some years ago the incident of a nine-year-old child driving a Ferrari in Kerala created a commotion. But the police are often not able to catch the offender in some cases because there is little to distinguish a person of 18 years and someone who is a few days short of that. This precisely is what happened in the Mercedes case. Also it has been reported that the juvenile had erred several times earlier and yet got away with very little punishment. If the father had been punished then, the tragedy last week could have been avoided. Also the police complain they are not able to act against the juvenile offenders who flaunt their connection with people in powerful positions.
Parents must be made to understand that letting underage children poses a grave risk to both the child in question and others. The certainty and severity of punishment for giving killing machines to children can be the only deterrent to this trend. A beginning could be made with the death of Siddharth Sharma.