Friday, June 29, 2007

The Killer Cabs Strike-- For Their Rights

From July 1, over 10,000 lorry and cab-drivers in Karnataka will be on strike. They are protesting against the government's heartless ordinance to install speed-governors that would limit their speeds to 65Kmph.

In city conditions, even at the best of times we can hardly exceed 40-50kmph. I cannot imagine why anyone might feel "constrained" if asked to drive at a respectable maximum of 65Kmph. The cabbies might argue that, by this logic, all cars must have a speed-governor installed. Why single out those poor, defenseless killer-machines alone? The answer, in my opinionated opinion, is rather simple.

I pause to ponder, in the few moments immediately succeeding a narrow escape on way to work. I do have a few choices, when an arrogant cab squeezes into a narrow space on my left (even as I am on the left edge of the road myself). I could continue in my lane and bang into the squeezy cab. I could swerve to avoid, and bang into the guy on my right. Or I could brake suddenly, thus saving me from the converging flanks. In this case, the guy behind me would be tempted to ram it in!

In all the cases, one would deem both (or all) the drivers culpable for an accident, if any. The difference is that I am merely a driver, struggling with my gears. He, however, is one with his machine. Like a T-Rex, there is a small but nimble brain inside that gigantic body. Like a crazed T-Rex, the cabbie can stomp through the roads at will and not even feel a scratch. The pedestrians and cars trembling under their shadow are but a few twigs being scrunched in the path of the monster.

This is not a comparison between equals; in fact, this is a fight we can never win. We, who use the road only few minutes in the day, essentially to get off the road and to be someplace else. They, whose skill and guile on the wheel is at the very core of their survival, who earn a living from the road, by the road -- who live on the road. We, the average worker tottering between home and office in a 4 year old Santro. They, the lean, mean, sleep-deprived drivers ferrying call-center executives and harried passengers in their mammoth, well-embellished Sumo and Qualis.

They drive rash because they can. Because they have been on the road long enough to own it. Because the SUVs given to them, in addition to seating more people, is also an imposing creature towering over the rush-hour ants.

They need the speed-governors because we understand that they are under pressure. Pressure from the HR executives to ferry the agents on time, traffic jams be damned. Pressure to work at unearthly hours, with little or no sleep between shifts. Pressure to brave the roads of Puttenhalli at 3AM.

They need speed-governors because they might be pressured enough to not see a frail old lady trying to cross the 6 lane main-road. Because, they may be pressured enough to make mistakes even though they are still human at heart.

They need the speed-governors because, to quote another super-bug: with great power, comes great responsibility.


Just like that said...

Am with you on this, totally.

Also, don't think too many cabbies are made to pay for for whatever damage is done to their vehicles. If that came into the picture, automatically, they'd drive with more care.

Faiyaz said...

With all those Social Issues u remind me of Rajni - the TV series of the 80s.

It was interesting (rather tasty reading) & thought provoking as usual.

Btw - U broke all your (previous) records with 7 posts this month.

Keep writing....Mate..

Anil & Anita said...

Good samaritans, sentiments and not logic can prove a point. Sir scientific studies available on internet for readers lik eyou indicate humanly impossible task of breaking in less than 25 meters with fastest reflexaction after seein an object in front of driver at speed of 60 kmpH. Now we drive bumper to bumper and even when not driving at 40 kill 13 times the world average of people on road accidents. U make a valid case of restricting speeds to much lower levels. andhra tops with over 12000 people killed on roads last year against 2500 killed in kargil, Karntaka and Tamil Nadu not far behind. Also note a commecial vehicle be it a cab or a truck travels 7-30 times more than passenger vehicle on road. Many Salmans travelling in trucks at night kill as such 7-30 times more peopel on road. Any arguments?

Vidooshak said...

i didn't understand if you agree or disagree with me, anil&anita. just in case the sarcasm was lost on you, i said that we NEED speed governors and govts are crazy to step back when cabbies strike. Sadly, SC has stayed this effort now and it scares me how even school buses zip-zap without a thought for the toddlers inside...