India, a country of almost two billion people, uses buses as one of its primary mode of transportation. Currently, 1.6 million buses are registered in the country which transport approximately 500,000 people to and from work every single day.
In light of this mammoth task at the hands of India’s transportation departments and the fact that India is known to have some of the world’s deadliest roads, with over 150,000 people killed in accidents in 2019, the safety and security of these buses and the qualifications of their drivers come in to question time and time again, as they did on the Feb. 16’ 2021.
On Feb. 16, a bus carrying more than 60 people in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh plunged off a bridge and fell into a canal. Several eyewitnesses to the crash have come forward to tell the police that it seemed as though the driver lost control of the vehicle and in an attempt to regain control, hit the boundary of the bridge before falling into Sharda canal.
Officials have reported that seven passengers and the driver managed to swim to the shore where rescue teams have successfully treated them. On the other hand, a vast majority of the passengers remained missing in the water body for long after the crash as rescue teams ramped up efforts to bring them out.
By the end of the day, 46 dead bodies were recovered from within the canal.
As the news of the accident spread across the country, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh, took to his social media account to offer his condolences to the families affected by the crash and announce that two other minsters had left for the crash site to oversee rescue efforts.
By evening that day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi the announced that would be made available to the families affected- rupees two lakhs (approximately $2,500) from the Prime Minister Relief Fund for families who lost a member to the crash and rupees 50,000 (approximately $700) for those who were severely injured.
India’s yearly death rate by accident is the highest anywhere in the world and proportionate to population, it stands above the global average with men and women between 18-40 years of age making up 70% of the accidents. In these accidents, more than 300,000 people are permanently disabled every year.
Many believe that the high rate of accidents in India are owing to the lax implementation of driving laws and underage driving while others believe the rate isn’t incredibly high to begin with. Considering India’s population, the second highest in the world, many claim India’s accident rate which is only slightly higher than the global average is no anomaly.
“For the government, each life is precious, whether poor or rich, urban or rural, male or female. The situation is alarming. There are more deaths by road accidents than by COVID-19,” said India’s Minister for Road Transport and Highways Mr. Nitin Jairam Gadkari.
He went on to say that the government was carrying out a “safety audit” of 40,000km (24,854 miles) of highways to find out whether there were any design deficiencies which were contributing to the accidents in light of the fact that in India, as high as 44% of households in rural areas reported at least one death after a road crash compared with 11.6% of households in urban areas. The report, done in collaboration with SaveLIFE Foundation, a non-profit group working on road safety, said more than 75% of poor households in India reported a decline in their income as a result of a road traffic crash.