Recently in a tragic road accident, an elderly person in his 70s was instantly killed by a high-speeding motorcycle, witnessed helplessly by his own son at about 11.30 am, near the Jorhat Deputy Commissioner’s office. One middle-aged person coming out of home with his spouse for an evening stroll was hit so hard by a speeding dumper near the Jorhat Christian Medical Hospital that the person was flung into air and drifted 20 feet away. A few years back in an almost identical accident, this writer lost his brother, an engineer, at a busy intersection in Guwahati. Hundreds of such unfortunate incidents keep happening day in and day out across Assam, which are more than enough for the multitude of our authorities that administer the governance at different layers in the State to stand up, take notice and initiate drastic measures.
Our so-called welfare state is virtually in a deep stupor, totally unmindful of the disastrous consequences that our naive and unsuspecting common people have to endure in their day-to-day life while going out for their livelihood and sundry works.
Surprisingly, the construction of our highways has so far been on-again and off-again basis for the last several years. The highways have thus turned themselves into dreaded killing fields with numerous accidents occurring everyday across Assam and no one knows when it is going to be a thing of the past.
But the moot question is, does anyone ever get concerned over these gruelling episodes and their consequential social, economic and emotional quotient that bear upon the victim’s relatives who have to silently tolerate the pain and miseries of a perennial kind due to the loss of the sole breadwinner and the loved ones, while the surviving ones left incapacitated for life with no social and government support mechanism to enable them to continue the daily drudgery called ‘life’.
One is constrained to strike a sour note that people who have been experiencing such intolerable pangs of suffering have to face a harrowing time of running from pillar to post to obtain reports, settlement of issues at police stations, hospitals, courts, insurance companies, banks and a host of other authorities to get justice and fair play, which is another episodic narrative that is no less painful than the death of the dear ones.
The quality of governance is sliding at such a fast rate that the local public utilities of our towns and cities or the regulatory bodies of the government fall much short of their mandated role of enforcement of rules and regulations. The people manning these institutions fail to take the leadership role in ensuring compliance of even the most fundamental duties and responsibilities of a civilized life.
Year after year the same kind of work ethics persists that have unabashedly failed to galvanize the mode or pace of doing work in public utilities or the government departments. Thus, all the tall talk of bringing them to a desired standard expected of a civilized human being is still a distant dream.
The only sphere where the standard of governance has changed is the computerization, i.e., use of computers in typing, keeping records, scanning documents and sending reports to the higher-up through email. What is critically lacking is an urge to render service selflessly with a sense of duty and purpose. Very few government officials are forthcoming who can well relate themselves with the needs of the people around in a harmonious way.
A cursory look around the towns/cities is suffice to figure out the indices of developmental works coming out in terms of utility services like public toilet, street light, parking space, children park, footways, etc. Whatever development has taken place is patchy and half-hearted, giving least thought and concern to the necessity of different age groups of people. It is hazardous for the children and old people to venture out for a morning or evening stroll or go on cycling as practically no free space is available for them. In the evening, reckless or drunk driving (commonplace in Assam) is a menace more dangerous than a pandemic. Some people, mostly young ones, leave their good senses at home not caring a hoot to traffic rules that make life hellish on the road, so it is better to stay put at home rather than to be hit hard and land in a hospital death bed or to be left disabled for life. It is ironic that last year, Assam witnessed more people dying in fatal road accidents than in the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, the situation calls for a simple but determined and ruthless action by the district police and transport departments to minimize the road accidents and create civic sense among the masses for the well-being of all the citizens. We have a surfeit of laws and regulation to handle all kinds of rash, drunk and negligent driving and thereby to devise harsh measures against the violators, irrespective of all levels.
A lax nation not knowing how to respect the laws of the land in the strictest sense of the term is not a disciplined lot. The life of the commoner is getting cheaper and cheaper as the government machinery is feeble and unwieldy. The better days will not be in sight soon unless of course the people mend themselves and learn to live in a civilized manner respecting the laws of the land. Until then no government on earth can make things better.