The Chennai Mercedes Benz deaths
It is a classic rich vs poor case.
A month ago ( Dec 14) Chennai woke up to the Mecerdes Benz deaths in the metro , when a 16 year old son of a high profile businessman drove his plush car over sleeping pavement dwellers and a priest riding a two wheeler, after catching a late night movie at a multiplex.
UPDATE: The boy who surrendered (after initial attempts to get the family chauffeur to take the blame failed , thanks to a vigilant police officer) has been booked . He is charged under three sections of the IPC ( for causing death by negligence, causing hurt and endangering the life and safety of others, and for rash driving).
The case is currently on, and in keeping with the Juvenile Justice Act, proceedings are in camera.
RING A BELL? In 2006 a 21-year old drove his Toyota Corolla over pavement dwellers in Mumbai, while Delhi was horrified by the BMW case–again, a privileged kid running over pavement dwellers allegedly after a night out partying.
By the time the drama of the boy’s surrender in Chennai took place, other events pushed the follow-up of the case to back pages, Bhutto’s assassination and the New Year party that turned into a nightmare for a couple of NRIs in Mumbai as well as the Savera Hotel case in Chennai.
Cynics have already figured that given the clout the boy’s father reportedly wields, the punishment may not be harsh enough, and many would like a severe message to go through. After all this is the state which boasts of the ancient Chola King, Manu needhi Cholan. His only son and crown prince had driven his chariot rashly in the streets, killing a calf, and the sorrowful cow sought justice by ringing the legendary Bell of Justice hung outside the Palace Hall… Historical lore further states that the king himself saw to it that his son was duly punished.
Moral of the story? Justice should be seen as being served.
Let’s step a little out of the specific case and look at the larger picture.
A hardened crime reporter told me that in most cases of death by accident, the accused walk away after a fine of Rs 7000. “The driving license is also suspended, but that is hardly a constraint for those determined to drive.”
Horrifying, isn’t it? Juvenile drivers apart, fatal accidents are caused by drivers with years of experience as well. What is required is a rethink on the way our licenses are issued and monitored.
Most often, tests merely check if an aspirant can change gears and reverse the car. The intricacies–such as parallel parking , or reversing out of a tight corner–are never put to test. Things such as right of way or road courtesy are hardly maintained by any, rich or poor, the educated or the fish-cart driver. As for monitoring, for safe motoring, driving under the influence of alcohol is something that figures only after an accident takes place. Awareness for road safety s still at a nascent stage .
Clearly, we need checks and balances in place. Especially given the high number of fatal road accidents, each year An ADGP I was talking to felt that until fatal road accidents are treated as homicide, with stringent punishment, accidents will not be viewed as a serious cause for concern.
I do not know how many of you would agree with him, but road safety and awareness should be brought out into the open. And I feel that in cases where privileged teenagers cause accidents, parents too should be made accountable– and not by merely paying a hefty fine.