ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dead Man Walking

Pedestrians have ceased to have a place in urban transport plans in India.

The national crime records bureau’s latest compilation of figures shows that close to 1.15 lakh people were killed in 4.18 lakh road accidents in India in 2007, the latest year for which data is available. This was the second highest number of road casualties in the world, just a little less than in China. Estimates for 2008 suggest that with close to 1.3 lakh deaths, India has now topped this unfortunate global list in road accidents, which account for about 10% of the world’s total. Two out of three road fatalities, especially in the urban areas, are of pedestrians.

This is surely an unacceptable situation, not only because of the senseless loss of human life, but more so because these deaths are almost all easily avoidable. For starters, due to poor schooling and monitoring, there is callousness in the way vehicles are driven on the roads. But more significantly, these fatalities are a result of a deep flaw in the way our cities and roads are planned, built and operated. Urban areas in India have grown haphazardly, without proper municipal or government oversight which has led to unmanageable demands on civic services and urban infrastructure. This almost always leads to denial of services and resources to the poor and the cornering of resources by the rich, whether these are water, electricity or roads. On the roads, the portrait of our class-divided city is most starkly visible.

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