Our countrymen have many virtues. Order is not one of them. The police have been imposing fines, heavier than overloaded trucks to enforce the amended Motor Vehicles Act. The backlash, not just from the people, but state governments, including BJP-ruled states, has turned into speed breakers. This sends an ominous signal to errant motorists: breaking the law will not bring pain to your pocket. Transport ministry data recorded that 1.47 lakh people died in road accidents in 2017 while the penalty for riding without a helmet has been slashed from `1,000 to `500 in some states. Why don’t leaders simply point out that if motorists obeyed the law, they wouldn’t have to pay fines?
An audit report had put the transport sector among the top six corrupt in India. According to a 2013 study, transporters paid `22,200 crore in bribes at toll plazas, checkpoints, state borders. The General Insurance Council of India estimated that around 60 percent of vehicles in India are uninsured. Almost 8,000 buses were found plying illegally in Delhi from January 2012 to the end of February 2018. Road safety studies conclude that alcohol and drugs were behind 76,446 deaths in 211,405 in road accidents across the country. WHO puts India at the top of the world pollution index. In the first three days after the new law came into force, over 1.25 lakh vehicles in Delhi rushed to pollution check centres to avoid being penalised.
The truth is that we revel in pandemonium. The Indian Chaos Theory goes beyond traffic violations. A first-time visitor is bewildered by the noise of India, reverberating on its crowded streets, horn-deafened roads, shrill marketplaces, restaurants packed with shrieking children and passengers pushing each other in aircraft and trains. Cows peacefully chew cud on choked roads. Encroachers protected by corrupt officialdom dominate sidewalks. A string of Delhi governments has been protecting unauthorised colonies as vote banks: now they are being legitimised.
What part of “unauthorised” do politicians not understand?
In the neurotic warren of narrow streets and bylanes that pass for urban India, filth is omnipresent. Of the 1.5 lakh metric tonnes of garbage generated daily, over 80 percent is exposed. Indians wallow in contradiction: we pride in keeping our homes spick and span, and our surroundings filthy. With a backlog of 3.3 crore cases in courts, average pendency of three to six years, and a conviction rate less than 50 percent, justice is as swift as a bullock cart lumbering along the wrong side of the highway.
Nietzsche wrote, “Man believes that the world itself is filled with beauty—he forgets that he created it.” There is no beauty in the chaos of our elephantine population. Life is loud and cheap. The Indian way is not nirvana amidst chaos. Here indifference is mistaken for patience.