RIP Gagneesh Gautam, a simpleton proud of his simplicity
He always had a ready and warm smile. Mostly he kept to himself but when required he was quite boisterous. He never smoked, nor drank…except for water and a sporadic coke. He was not known to be addicted to anything…not food, not cars, not clothes…nothing. His friends say he was genuine…his enemies….well…there were none. In short, he was so simple that you will not even notice him on the street.
Last Friday, Gagneesh Gautam, an ex journalist who, as if on cue, shifted jobs at random over the last four years, met with a tragic accident on the Greater Noida expressway. It was dead in the night (1:30 AM), so you cannot blame the sun. The street lights worked all right, so you cannot blame Akhilesh Yadav. Since he never drank, you cannot blame Vijay Mallya. He was driving a humble Maruti Alto, so you cannot blame Ferrari. The road surface was perfect, so you cannot blame PWD. He died, because a truck was parked on the wrong side and it had no reflectors. He was 30.
The sole purpose of this blog is to celebrate motion and the thrill that comes with it. But it cannot remain oblivious to the perils of this celebrated movement. Death should not be a by product…be it for Anukool Rishi (Lamborghini) or for Gagneesh.
India is at the perch when it comes to the number of deaths on the road. It is a statistic that has been highlighted before…here and elsewhere. Perhaps it is never inappropriate to throw light on this on any given day. But when a young promising life is brutally cut short, it becomes almost mandatory.
I will not go into the nitty gritties of every accident that takes place on the road. Perhaps it could have been avoided if the truck was parked correctly, or if it had parking lights. Or if, like in some developed countries, it could be towed away within half an hour of breaking down. Or if every car in India had airbags.
It cannot hide the fact that we are a nation of careless drivers with limited road sense. We drink and drive and take pride in it, treat the road for a runway and get assaulted if another vehicle so much as overtakes us, and are overjoyed at flouting all possible traffic rules. Somehow, that urgent call on the mobile always comes when we are behind the wheel. And a zebra crossing is a mere design on the road for beautification.
Calling for stricter laws and even stricter implementation would surely take some fun out of driving. But so long as we become a nation of mature evolved drivers, let us have prohibition on the roads. It is great to be mad on the roads but let there be a method to this madness. The loss of even one life on the road is a waste….we lose over a lakh every year. Thats nothing short of a holocaust.
I cant put a finger to where the resurrection should start. But it should start somewhere nonetheless.
Whats the big deal?
* Nearly 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year.
* Up to 50 million people are injured, and many remain disabled for life.
* 90% of casualties from road deaths occur in developing countries.
* Annual road traffic deaths are forecast to rise to 1.9 million people by 2020.
* Road traffic injuries are the number one cause of death for young people worldwide.
* By 2015 road traffic injuries will be the leading health burden for children over the age of five years in developing countries.
* The economic cost to developing countries is at least $100 billion a year.
* Road traffic injuries place an immense burden on hospitals and health systems generally.
* Road crashes are preventable.
Why should we bother?
* India tops the list of road accidents accounting for 10% in the world. 1.25 lakh die every year and 22 lakh are greviously injured.
* Road accidents cause a 3% loss to the Gross Domestic Product every year or roughly Rs 75,000 crore.
* Every hour 15 people in India die on the road, equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every day.