EDITORIAL: More Than A Case Of Road Rage

It was much, much more than a case of road rage and instead says a lot about the high-handedness, the arrogance and haughtiness of the VIPs who come in the shape and garb of Ministers, MLAs, officials entitled to drive around with the beacon light atop, officers in the uniformed services like police, Army, Assam Rifles and other para-military forces etc.  What happened to a young man of 28, when he was unable to give the right of way to an MLA on March 9, due to the heavy traffic congestion, could have been the story of anyone, that is the lesser mortals? It was an instance of demonstrating how the representatives of the people can throw their weight around and project themselves in such a manner that all others are lesser mortals, nay mere insects that need to be shooed away from one’s path, never mind the traffic congestion.

The young man in question here was hit on the face with the butt of a rifle by the escort commander of the said MLA and he needed stitches to close the wounds, but what will take a much longer time to heal was the sense of humiliation, the blow on his dignity as a man and the sense of insult which will gnaw at his heart. The question here is, whether the VIPs, we mean those in the politicians clothing, those in khakis and those suited, booted and those in camouflage have a different set of traffic rules or not.

Going by the reality we see on a daily basis and are sometimes subjected to, everything indicate that these so called VIPs have come under the impression that there is a different set of traffic rules for them and it is for the lesser mortals to know how to respond and act accordingly whenever they zoom around with their sirens blazing away in all its glory. The decorative piece that comes in the form of the uniformed man standing up with his head jutting out and seen only waist up, armed with a stick and barking orders to everyone to give way, completes the picture that is a regular feature on any main road. This may sound like a joke taken from a circus, but no there is nothing amusing about it. On the contrary there is nothing more irritating than to be barked upon by some semi-literate guys, as if the road was a family heirloom and meant solely for the use of their political master.

The circumstances of March 9 incident have been detailed in all the major dailies of Imphal and we do not need to go into the details again, but we must not make the mistake of taking it as just another case of road rage or a VIP throwing his weight around. It is more than this and apart from the insulting experience which the young man had to undergo, what was clearly demonstrated in full public view, was the arrogance of some of these VIPs, who care two hoots about the rule of law. For instance we would like to question how many police officers or kith and kin of Ministers have been pulled up and penalized for violating traffic norms?

With India opening up her economy after 1991, the range of choice before the consumers/public has multiplied manifold and from just the Hindustan Motors, which makes the Ambassador and Premier Motors, which came out with the its Fiat version in collaboration with its parent unit at Italy, people in India did not have any other choice. The same is the case with the two wheeler segment, where there were only the Bajaj Company, Enfield and the auto makers that came out with the hugely successful Yezdi 250 and Roadking. Fast forward to the 21st century and everything has undergone a dramatic change. The choice of cars is limitless and so is the case with two wheelers. The road which looked broad and big enough to accommodate the vehicles even three or four years back are today too small to allow free flow of traffic and traffic jam and snarls which had not entered the lexicon of the common people here is now a familiar term with even school going kids, some as young as those studying in Class 4.

We have concentrated only on the automobile section while discussing the rapid changes for covering the progress in other spheres is out of the ambit of this commentary. Indians, by and large, are not exactly admired for their public behavior and civic sense and hence it does not come as a surprise when we hear and see people hurling the choicest of abuses at each other whenever there is a traffic jam or when a bigger vehicle, say a Tata Sumo grazed the side of another car, say a Maruti 800 or a Hyundai Santro. On January 11 this year, a case of road rage took an ugly turn at Delhi, wherein after a run in, one of the parties deliberately over ran the other in a fit of rage.  Gun fires have been exchanged just on account of a tractor grazing the side of a car and this happened on April 18 last year in which 5 persons were injured.

In other words, road rage and acts of violence connected to road incidents are not unique to Manipur, but is an all India phenomena. However there is a difference in what is happening in the other cities like Delhi and what has been happening here. It was in the early part of the 90s, that a teacher from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics filed a PIL in a Delhi Court challenging the right of way demanded by a Minister. This made news all over and it was an encouraging step for all those who believe in the philosophy of everyone being equal before the law of the land.

Only recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to apologies to a family as the road blocks put up for his cavalcade to go through, had slowed down the taxi which was hurrying to the hospital carrying a child in immediate need of medical help. The child died and we may ask, whether there is ground to file a case of culpable homicide against the Delhi administration.  Yes lack of discipline on the roads is rampant here but the question of bigger importance is who are the real culprits? Police commandos flouting the one way norms and zooming around in their fancy bikes, with the pillion rider pulling his gun out of the holster, heavy vehicles of the Army or the Assam Rifles parked plumb in the middle of the road in the busy Thangal Bazar or Paona Bazar etc are all nuisances which we have been coping with. Now is the time to say enough is enough. There cannot be two sets of traffic rules for the VIPs and the Aam Admi.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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