I drive a lot. In the city (when my driver is absconding), and down the countryside (which is a passion, the driver gets paid leave). I have done many long journeys, the most memorable one being Delhi to Bangalore… totally awesome, Outlook featured that yatra, here’s the link: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?226162
And I have come to a clear conclusion, having encountered lakhs of vehicles on Indian roads: Drivers in India, a good number of them, do not know how to drive. Not only is there no respect for the laws, I am quite sure in many cases people don’t even know the laws! Not even basic rules.
There is a general belief that the main reason for road accidents is driving under influence. Quite certainly alcohol plays a role. (It’s a different matter though that I drive better after a couple of pegs… it de-stresses me… and I must have been a lorry driver in my previous birth, but this is not something I recommend to others.) So there is a massive campaign on against drunk driving in the cities, and that’s a good thing. It’s another story, of course, that the rich get away easy, and that there are no checks on the highways, but that’s not my topic today.
The issue is this: Yet, accidents continue to occur, even when people aren’t sloshed. So why must this be the case? The answer is quite simple: we people DON”T KNOW how to drive safely. And as in all other evils in the nation, the root cause is corruption. Our RTOs (with the help of their pimps), literally give away licenses to kill. These guys distribute licenses like channa watana.
Before I go any further, here’s a confession. Years ago, I too obtained my driving license through devious means. I had gone for a test to the Tardeo RTO in Bombay. I flunked the test, khilaoed 200 rupees, and was cheerfully granted a license. And then what did I do? The very next evening I ran my car into a labourer, but thankfully she got away with very minor injuries. (And yes, I did take her to the hospital, and no, I wasn’t drunk or drugged, just in case you’re wondering.) As usual, I pretended ‘losing control’ of my vehicle. And was back in action soon thereafter! So yes, I am guilty as well of this dirty business.
Net: Our RTOs are essentially doling out death. In no other nation (except Pak and Bangladesh… surely we aren’t in the same league!) can one get a driving license this easily. So what’s the way out of this mess? Only one: the media needs to run a sustained, lasting campaign against the nation’s RTOs. Not the sort they do with the usual stories… milk the masala, suck it dry and then chuck it. It has to be dealt with in the way a Jessica Lal murder case got dealt with. Continuous pressure and hammering till the RTOs get cleaned out. The tests become very strict and the process becomes ghoos-free. And only the truly deserving people get licensed to drive.
Frankly, I can’t think of another way out of this mess. Hope the mass media journos are reading in. With some effort, we can save many lives.