By Karthik Shankar:
Delhi’s already overcrowded public transportation system took another hit with a strike by the DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) union over the death of Ashok Kumar. While the phrase ‘road rage’ is being thrown around to describe Ashok Kumar’s alleged cold-blooded murder at the hands of Vijay, a 22-year-old motorist, Shankaran, the secretary of the DTC Workers Unity Centre categorises it differently. “This is about the indignities suffered by people working in the transportation industry” he says.
According to journalist Ronald Kessler, the leading cause of extreme road rage incidents is “intermittent explosive disorder”. Attacks resulting from the disorder are disproportionate to the stress factors causing them. Experts also agree that crowding, especially in a densely populated city like Delhi causes aggression.
However, these psychological factors still don’t account for the fact that the mother of the motorist was allegedly inciting him to violence; they also don’t justify the silence of the forty mute passengers. That unfortunately is proof of a home grown malaise in our society; that of the silent bystander. The recent focus on Salman Khan’s case also proved that few people in our society are willing to speak up against violence, especially when committed against society’s most down trodden. When they do they end up with fates like that of Ravindra Patil. The case is also part of an upward trend in road rage cases in Delhi’s. It’s the fourth such instance in the past two months and took place just a month after the death of Shanawaz.
Ashok Kumar described by Shankaran as a very soft and straight laced man, leaves behind an ailing mother and a paralysed wife, who is currently in critical condition in a hospital. Also financially dependent on him is a son who is currently in his second year at Rohtak University and a daughter who recently wrote her board exams.
With all these humanising elements, it’s easy to see why this case has drawn the ire of DTC members. Well over 2000 people were part of a protest in Rohini Depot and several other locations saw a significant number of demonstrations as well. The body of Kumar remains in the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Incredulously, AAP has accused BJP of instigating the protests. Shankaran is clear that this is not driven by any political agenda. Despite DTC demanding Rs 1 crore for the victim’s family, he says “Money is not driving our protests. This is about the harassment faced by drivers on a daily basis. In our country, there is no respect accorded to people working in transportation.”
The brutal incident also highlights how road safety is utterly lacking in India. India has the highest incidence of road related deaths with 1.4 lakh people every year. Road accidents cost India $20 billion annually (Source). That’s not even taking into account transport strikes, which can paralyse large cities like Delhi. Clearly road safety should be a bigger agenda for the government. Even the recently floated Road Transport and Safety Bill emphasises punitive penalties for offences rather than pre-emptive measures that could improve driving conditions on roads.
Vijay and his mother have both been arrested. However, Shankaran says that the strike will continue indefinitely unless a solution is reached with the Delhi government. Till then, beleaguered commuters will have to hop on to the overcrowded metros or shell out extravagant auto fares. For once, Delhi’s arterial routes are not being choked by the VVIPs, but for the common man.