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Fleeting moments

October 3, 2020

Turning accident-prone

Opinion

October 3, 2020

Some tragic incidents resulting in loss of precious human lives have become so common that they appear to be part of our everyday life and don’t raise many eyebrows. By one estimate, there is a loss of about 40,000 lives annually because of road accidents. Add to this the collapse of multi-storey buildings and explosion of gas cylinders that kill people for life but fail to draw due attention from the concerned authorities. With conscious efforts, these events could be reduced if not completely prevented.

What matters is which type of news captures the limelight. The news of deaths by Covid-19 during the last few months occupied more prominent space in newspapers than the deaths of more than 3,000 on the average every day on the roads because of accidents. It is no news that roads have turned into death traps. Neither the procedure of granting driving licences to car and motorcycle drivers is effective nor the supervision by the traffic police on the roads. Citizens who abide by traffic rules are the ones to suffer because of reckless drivers on the roads.

Regardless of which political party is in power, one of the benchmarks to assess its administrative efficiency is the way traffic on the roads is controlled. If you’re a stickler for traffic rules, drive in your own lane and indicate when turning, and see motorcyclists buzzing like drones between lanes, and motorists shooting past without indicating, you’re most likely to ask: who is in charge here?

During the recent flash rains in Karachi, quite a few multi-storey buildings collapsed one after the other. Who is to blame for it if not their architects and structure engineers and, of course, the owners if they didn’t use the right materials? Why do buildings cave in or tilt to their sides? The most likely oversight is incorrect calculation of load-bearing capacity of the soil on which the foundations are laid and buildings erected. After all, there must be reasons why buildings collapse. The designers and owners of the buildings must be held responsible for the loss of lives and damage caused to the property. Properly designed multi-storey buildings are always protected against tremors caused by earthquakes, not to mention the seasonal downpours and flooding.

The explosion of gas cylinders in passenger vans and in gas-refilling shops in congested areas are no less tragic. A few months ago, a cylinder exploded in a passenger van near Hyderabad, resulting in the most gruesome death of three men, two women and a three-year-old girl. All six were burnt alive in the van when they could not manage to get out because of the jammed doors. There couldn’t be a more painful death than being burnt alive in an inferno. Substandard cylinders and leaking gas pipes are usually the cause of such a tragedy. Is there a licence to operate LPG cylinders’ filling shop or anyone can set it up anywhere they like?

Why don’t the concerned officials or politicians in power take serious notice of the loss of citizens’ lives caused purely by negligence. The most likely reason for their apathetic attitude is that the suffering majority usually belongs to the lower rung of society. Accidental deaths are considered preordained and, in most cases, not even recorded.

All one reads in newspapers is the blame-game between politicians of various parties or between one department against the other. For instance, no police department initially wanted to own up in whose jurisdiction the motorway gang-rape recently took place. Abid, the alleged culprit, is still at large even though his whole family has been rounded up (which too seems unjust).

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]