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Disregarding safety is an Indian trait

Who cares for safety in India? No one really, including you and me.

pune Updated: Oct 02, 2017 23:07 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Railway accidents happen in our country with ferocious regularity and railway infrastructure is straining at the seams.
Railway accidents happen in our country with ferocious regularity and railway infrastructure is straining at the seams.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Railway accidents happen in our country with ferocious regularity and railway infrastructure is straining at the seams. Amidst this, the biggest railway project that Prime Minister Modi can think of is the Rs.1 lakh crore Bullet Train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Improving the railway infrastructure, safety and security of passengers is also on his agenda. But since that is not his personal priority - as for example, Swachh Bharat – it is no one’s priority.

That is the reason why the then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, right down to the Station Master of Mumbai’s Elphistone road railway station never paid any attention to repeated warnings from commuters that an accident was imminent at the foot overbridge in question. Finally, that is exactly what happened on September 29, snuffing out 23 innocent lives and causing extraordinary grief and trauma to the families of those killed and injured.

A week will pass by and this tragedy will be forgotten, just as we have forgotten a string of previous tragedies, be it the death of 61 children in a Gorakhpur hospital because of shortage of oxygen supply, or be it the death of another 49 children in UP’s Farurukhabad Hospital, less than a month back. Probably, a dozen people would have died in road accidents on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway during this period in twos and threes, but we’ve got so used to these accidents that we don’t even think about them.

The majority of our politicians and IAS bureaucrats who actually run this country of a billion-plus, are driven, primarily by self-interest rather than public interest. Therefore, their priorities are not the same as the public’s priorities. The bureaucrats are busy pleasing the politicians to pave their way for plum postings and promotions, while the politicians are on their own trip.

Rather than focusing their energies on improving healthcare, education and basic public infrastructure which includes mass transport for our cities and rail commuting, the current lot is more interested in protecting cows, changing textbooks, changing the names of roads and railway stations and concentrating on mega, futuristic projects such as the Bullet Train and Smart Cities. Is BJP 2.0 making the Shining India, Saffron India mistake once again?

Amidst all this, who really cares for safety? No one really, including you and me. We Indians are cursed with the ‘Chalta Hai’ (everything goes; it’s OK; don’t bother really) attitude and therefore, we are almost always on the brink of disaster.

If we and our children don’t follow the rule on wearing safety helmets, “It’s OK” – till someone we know is killed in a two wheeler accident because of head injuries. If a very narrow foot overbridge faces the risk of a stampede and collapse, it doesn’t matter really, because the accident hasn’t happened all these years. So needs to bother. If we drive recklessly on the roads, especially on the expressway, it’s OK because accidents only happen to others, not to us.

If this is the prevailing national attitude, each one of us ought to share our part of the blame for the tragedies happening day in and day out all around us.

abhay.vaidya@hindustantimes.com