Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"UNION" or Human Life – What Has More Value In God’s Own Country?

Stage carriers and heavy transport vehicles are having an indefinite strike in Kerala after Supreme Court forced the Government of Kerala to implement Speed Breakers in these vehicles. The common man has to face a lot of hardships as they depend on private buses for their day-to-day commuting. In two days the prices of essential commodities have gone up like anything proving once again how much Kerala is dependent on its neighboring states for existence.

For those who don’t know what this fuss in Kerala about Speed Breaker is – here is the little history behind it.

See these statistics

  • Kerala has the highest accident rate in India.
  • 28,000 people lost lives in Kerala in last 10 years in road accidents.
  • 3060 people killed in road accidents in 2005 (Remember, Tsunami killed only around 180 people).
  • On an average 9 people die of road accidents every day.
  • 5 lakh people get injured every year due to road accidents

The main culprit for the above statistics - private buses and trucks. Those who have lived in Kerala know what I am talking about. The private buses and trucks are known for rash driving in Kerala. Supreme Court want to install Speed Breakers in these buses and trucks to control the speed.

In 1986, (not a typo, yes in 1986) Kerala High Court had given a direction for fixation of Speed Governor in vehicles. It has gone to various courts to and forth and finally Supreme Court passed a verdict that all stage carriers and heavy transport should be fitted with Speed Governor by September 30th of this year.

The “UNIONS” representing private buses and trucks don’t want to implement Speed Governor as it will restrict their speed and hence their profit. So to help them the Government of Kerala is planning to promulgate an ordinance to overcome the Supreme Court order and also planning to appeal against Supreme Court order. This is another proof of Unions being more powerful than the Government of Kerala and no Government in Kerala could ever survive without licking the foot of these various Unions. Does the Government of Kerala think about the thousands who died or their families who become a victim due to the rash driving of these vehicles?

Why this happens in Kerala even after 50th year of existence? Instead of issuing an ordinance against the Supreme Court order, a responsible government must have fought the highhandedness of Unions. If the Government showed the will power then the common people will be supporting them. To reduce the hardships of people, Government should have taken steps to streamline the public transport system (KSRTC) so that people have means to travel. Similarly Kerala has a good Public Distribution System (PDS) and various commodities should have been sold through PDS to control price rise. Taking such stuffs is what is called Governing and it is for that, people elect Governments. We don’t want any Government if its policy is to be with militant union in an anti social issue. God Save Kerala.


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Blogger കേരളഫാർമർ/keralafarmer said...

കൊള്ളം നല്ല ലേഖനം ബ്രിജേഷ്‌. ഈ പ്രൈവറ്റ്‌ ഹെവി വെഹിക്കിള്‍സ്‌ പലതും അമിതവേഗത്തിന് ഇന്ധനത്തില്‍ മായം കലര്‍ത്തുന്നതായും അതുകാരണം റോഡ്‌ അപകടങ്ങളില്‍ പലതിലും തീ പിടുത്തം ഉണ്ടായതായും പല വാര്‍ത്തകളും നാം കേട്ടിരിക്കുന്നു. “സംഘടിച്ച്‌ സംഘടിച്ച്‌ ശക്തരായപ്പോള്‍ അസംഘടിതരായ ജനം വലയുന്നു”.

November 01, 2006 3:43 AM  
Blogger silverine said...

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely, so the saying goes, and the unions are too used to having absolute power. The Supreme Court order, is therefore the only power that may prevail. What next? Army rule? Not a bad idea at all for Kerala! :)

November 01, 2006 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eventhough the comparison of the death toll in the 2004 tsunami with the accident deaths does not make much sense (the lower number in the former case can only be attributed to sheer luck and God's grace - Brijesh, ever bothered to think what would have happened if those giant waves rolled over Singapore that day???) the article does highlight an important issue.

Even now I remember (ofcourse with horror) the race between private buses from REC to Calicut city, a distance of 22 kms in 30-35 mts. Thats nearly 45 kms/hr on an average. Might not sound to be a big deal. But trust me, it is scary when you realize that those were the most windy, narrow, pothole-covered roads and above all the bus, stops at nearly 10/12 authorized bus stops and anywhere else people requested. I have seen many times the bus fallen into some culvert or paddy fields nearby.. Eventhough most of the time there weren't many fatal casualities, I am sure there were many unlucky ones in some of those accidents.

A moment of prayer for all the departed souls!! And I think its high time the government and the "UNIONS" take some good ass-whooping, for their own good!!

Once again good article, Brijesh!!!

November 01, 2006 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooppss!!! I accidently hit the "publish" button instead of the preview!!!

-- Anon1 [:)]

November 01, 2006 6:56 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Kerala Farmer- Thanks Uncle. It is very sad to find that media is keeping a mum in the whole issue. The life of people is at stake but no one is speaking out. They use subsidized kerosene instead of diesel, which by itself is a crime. Common man will be the loser as you mentioned.

Silverine-The unions in Kerala has power because all political parties in Kerala depend on them during elections and for other political activities. So in retrn they get these kind of favors. Even if army rule comes these people will find some ways to be in good book with them.

Anon1- My intention was not to compare Tsunami death to accidents. We speak about Tsunami now also and havoc it caused to the people of that place. But in the same year 3000 people died in Kerala due to accident and we are still not taking that seriously. That was the point I want to make.

Yes, your experience is not unique. If you have lived in Kerala you will surely experience the rash driving of private buses.

November 01, 2006 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your point Brijesh. But I am only saying its a stupid comparison.. Any natural calamity or epidemic is talked about more than road accidents because its socio-economic impact is widespread and longer lasting than the rather isolated accident fatalities.

In my personal opinion, putting speed breakers is only a temporary (or rather ridiculous) solution to the problem. Its like software engineers applying temporary patches rather than doing proper fixes.. We already knew that accidents are happening and the accident deaths were climbing year-after-year. But what did we do.. We just sit there relaxed without focussing on the root cause.

Firstly our infrastructure is not developed to handle the volume of traffic on the roads. Our roads are not wide enough and not always well maintained. Our traffic rule enforcement (and adherence) sucks!! The meagre 25 miles an hour (~40 km/hr) appears to be very high speeds on our roads. The accidents and fatalities can be reduced significantly if people adhere to the traffic rules (where to cross the road, maintaining speed limit, follow the proper rules of passing) etc etc. Even if such an accident does occur, it takes for ever to make medical help available to the accident victims. Our law enforcement goes easy on law-breakers and the legal hassles and harassment any good-samaritan might have to face prevents timely help from reaching the victims. I personally know 2 instances in my colony were the pillion riders [women- riding the motorbikes along with their no-rash-driving husbands] were hurt badly and another instance where the pillion rider was killed after the bikes accidently ran into a pot hole. All these happening in Trivandrum.

Secondly, the concern of the freight companies and distributors is also genuine because they are running a business and time is money. Think for example a truck carrying vegetables, milk or fish (perishable items). Already its taking ages to move these things from the farmer/fishermen to the end customer. Slowing down freight could result in business running into a loss. Also think about it Brijesh, as a end customer you are concerned only about the quality of what you buy and the only way to ensure that is to move these commodities around as soon as possible. You wouldn't say (Or would you?? Definitely I wouldn't), "Ohh.. the fish is rotten, milk is curdled, the vegetables are dry.., but its OK.. Its just because there was a speed governor on those trucks".

Evenif everyone agrees to put the speed breaker on the heavy vehicles there is still more problems. (1) The maximum speed limit permitted by the speed governor. If its too slow, it hurts business and the common man alike. If it is high, it defeats the whole purpose of the speed breaker. (2) How do we ensure that the speed breakers were not tampered with after installation? (3) Incase there is an improvement in infrastructure and the max permitted speed has to be upped, then who would handle this? (4) How expensive and reliable would the speed breakers be?? (5) most frieght trucks service multiple states. And I have seen that the highways in Tamilnadu were much better than in Kerala and therefore the vehicles could go faster in TN. So the speed breaker should be set for the max permitted speed in TN. How do we ensure that the truckers would not exploit this scenario to their advantage?? (5) Moreover, the extra charges due to this additional feature will finally fall on the poor end customer.. I think until all these issues are addressed there is no point installing the speed breakers on heavy vehicles.

The issues with the bully and rogue unions is a different case altogether (it is independent of the cause which the union stands for).

-- A2

November 01, 2006 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

perhaps the rulers are of the opinion that God will save people from
damnation , as it is His own country.Hope ur blog will be a start up for
speed governors of the so called powerful unions. good keep wriitng

November 01, 2006 5:38 PM  
Anonymous rathi said...

perhaps the rulers are of the opinion that God will save people from
damnation , as it is His own country.Hope ur blog will be a start up for
speed governors of the so called powerful unions. good keep wriitng

November 01, 2006 5:40 PM  
Blogger said...

Great blog! I've added a link to your blog on Blog of the Day under the category of Political. To view the feature of your blog, please visit

November 02, 2006 2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s a serious issue should have been discussed much widely.
I find no problem in comparing the road accident with another issue which involve injury and death. The comparison is good to highlight the importance that the government gives to this issue as against other where the rate of accident is many fold less. Whether the accident takes place at a place or spread over the state, the effect is the same to the state in terms of loss and social problems it create. More than 80,000 people die in India every year in road accidents. How many people die due to terrorist attacks in India? You can count it in your finger but you can imagine the money spends to arrest terrorism and importance that media and government give to the problem. If they give a percentage of that to road accidents many problems associated with it will be solved. It is shame on the government for not taking Supreme Court order seriously when they are pretty sure that another 3000 people will die in kerala next year due to road accidents.

Speed is the main cause of all accident. Speed means energy. It’s always difficult to control the energy. More speed means more energy and hence difficult to control. Any measure which helps reduce the speed will reduce the rate of accident and deaths. If reducing the speed could save atleast one human life I would recommend to go for that because that lucky one may be me or you.
We should have different speed limits for different type of roads based on the safety.
Widening of the road will not usually reduce rate of accident. Mumbai – Pune express has brought more accident than the normal old highway there. Roads should be widened for some other reasons but not to reduce the rate of accidents. we can have wider roads with lesser accidents which is ofcourse is another subject.

I agree with the observation of attending to the root problems of accident. Unfortunately we cannot wait until all the root problems are solved. By the time we attempt to solve the root problems millions of people are likely to die. It is very unfortunate that the government is not keeping a proper scientific data base for the road accidents. Most of the time police quote as the reason for accident is the negligence of the driver which is very funny and not always true. The problems start from issuing the licence to the construction of highways. Many peoples and parties are in involved / responsible for an accident. We usually try to simplify the problems by looking at the accidents scenes. But there is long history behind in any accidents that need to be scientifically studied for which the government should keep scientific data base of accidents. This should include history of drivers and vehicles, exact road and environmental conditions at the time of accidents, history of after accident management, location and nature of accidetns etc etc…..

November 02, 2006 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again it is quite obvious why huge amounts of money is spent on the terrorism than on road accidents. Its like managers are paid many times more than compared to regular employees. Looking at it, it would appear that all the "work" is done by the employees in the lower ranks and not managers. But they are paid higher because they are responsible and answerable to issues on a bigger scale. A wrong decision of their can had major, longer lasting impact on the company's performance. Same holds true in this issue as well.. The scenario they are trying to avoid in India is another Sept 11 or similar attacks on our key military/ecomonic/goverment sites.

I do understand and remember from our high school physics classes that speed is energy and that the kinetic energy increases quadratically with speed. Eventhough the earlier comment mentions that wider roads are for "someother reason", I was wondering what that could be?? The two reasons that I can think of having wider roads are:

(1) Ideally, wider roads would mean more on-the-road space for each vehicle. And it would also permit higher maximum speeds with reduced probablitity of accidents. Atleast Brijesh should know better, that highway design/engineering under civil engineering is a full-fledged research area in most US Universities.

I do agree that wider roads DO NOT GUARANTEE lower accidents. It was quite interesting to find this publication in the Physical Review E which analyses some of these cases (Ding-wei Huang and Yu-ping Wu, "Car Accidents on a single-lane highway", Physical Review E, Vol. 63, no 022301, Jan 2001).

(2) Wider roads also allows more traffic on the roads. If the road is good + the max speed is higher, more people can reach their destination faster and safely than the conventional, narrow, windy highways.. This is probably the "other reasons" our friend mentioned earlier..

I have never gone along the Mumbai-Pune highway and so cannot comment on why there are more accidents. It could be (1) drunken or sleep-deprived drivers (2) poor highway design (3) reliability issues associated with the tyres and cars at high speeds.. (4) Overspeeding. Just because the car's speedometer has marking upto 200-210Km/hr the driver need not have to push it that far.. That is irresponsible driving any day.. (5) poor law enforcement (I have already mentioned this). And I do agree with the earlier comment that systematic study combined with scientific techniques are essential.

But my point is this.. Brijesh in his blog mentions the number of deaths for the past decade. It was a problem then as it is a problem now. What has changed since then is only the increased number of vehicles on the road.. Nothing else.. If Brijesh writes the same blog again 10 years from now, people would still have the same arguments. Only the numbers would be different may be 280000 instead of the 28000. He says that installing speed breakers was proposed in 1986. The roads in Kerala are definitely wider now, but they were widened without a long-term vision. Procrastination is the other reason why nothing moves forward in our country. We keep saying lets do this for the time being and we take the easy option and the whole issue is put to sleep.. We don't want to look at the root cause of the problems anyways and we don't want to see results. Afterall each government knows that they are only going to be ruling for 5 yrs in-a-row. so whats the incentive for them.. All we are good at doing is to push the dirt under the carpet..


November 02, 2006 7:15 PM  
Blogger phantom363 said...

oh well, now they are going to have unions in the i.t. industry in bengal. soon kerala will follow suit.

there goes another goose that lays the golden egg. :(

November 02, 2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

@anon2- I was comparing Tsunami with deaths due to road accidents just to give the seriousness of the issue. I know the effect of natural disasters is on the whole area and that is more serious.

Now about infrastructure- Yes speed breakers are temporary solutions only. Roads have to be developed. The previous government wants to build an express way connecting trivandrum and kasergord. But what happened. Unless world class roads are made accident death will increase for sure.

Obeying law is the next important thing. I have seen in NH the speed limit is 60 km/hr. how many obey that? Not many. That is another problem. Then as you said proper maintenance of existing roads. Come the raining season and roads will be like canals. So it is a combination of all those factors, which is causing these accidents.

About the concern of truck companies, we are talking about a truck going in a city road at high speed. With a high speed the maximum time he gains may be 30 minutes or 1 hour. That I don’t think is going to make more business for him. Here it is just disrespect for law that is making him drive faster.

About the speed breaker- I know it costs Rs 15000 for one. I am not sure about the other technicalities of it.

@Rathi- power of unions will remain as long as Kerala exists.

@rob-thanks a lot.

November 03, 2006 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect Brijesh.. That is exactly my point and you just supported my argument.. You are concerned about the trucks going above the speed limit within cities (let say for example the speed limit in cities = 30 km/hr). Outside the city limits, the driver can go at the highest speed permitted on that highway.. And if the driver has all India permit, he will have his speed breaker set for the highest speed permitted on any of the highways in India (let us say for example on the Mumbai-Pune highway = 70 km/hr).. Inside the city the driver goes at 55 km/hr. This just means that the speed-breaker doesnot come into picture in this case because his speed (55km/hr) is lower than 70 km/hr. But he is still going 25km/hr above the speed limit.

This is where the law-enforcement can make a difference. They are the only ones who can control these rash drivers in the cities. If they don't do their job, we will still see the same accident rates even after installing the speed breaker.

In the whole deal here, Who is the one who actually gained/lost?? Let us see..
(a) The lorry owner just spend INR 15000/- for the speed breaker. He doesn't care and passes this additional expenses to the end customer.
(b) The statistician who analyzes the accident data finds out that this whole excercise was a freaking waste of time and passes a judgement that the speed-breaker didn't have the expected result. He is happy because he got paid to analalyze the statistically useless data.
(c) The politicians are happy (they just served the public interest which they can highlight in the nxt election.
(d) The state gets about 10-15% from the sale of these speed-breaker (as tax)..
(e) A company which never had a history of making any useful product suddenly figures out that they could make some quick money if they got into the speed-breaker manufacturing business..
(f) The poor common public finds out that trucks and buses are still going at the same speed they used to (even after installing the "speed-breaker"). Accident rates are still high and the only difference is that the common man pays the extra cost which the truck company passed on to them.

So tell me Brijesh.. Who is the loser finally??

November 03, 2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...


". How many people die due to terrorist attacks in India? You can count it in your finger but you can imagine the money spends to arrest terrorism and importance that media and government give to the problem. "

If we don't give much importance to terrorism then the number of people killed will be much more. I compared Tsunami to road accident to just drive the point that road accidents take more lives than natural disasters.

Coming to you comment about widening the road- Yes you are correct- accidents have increased in Pune-Mumbai highway. The roads are designed for high speed transport but the old vehicles plying in that route doesn't have the ability to go in that speed. In kerala atleast for the time being you cannot think of having roads with design speed of 120 km/hr. so that issue doesn't arise.

The main reason why the accidents are happening – lack of planning. I am working as a Design Engineer and my work is to design water and wastewater treatment plants for various city. The City I am working for now has the capacity to produce 600 million gallons of water per day. They require only 300 million gallons of water a day but they have capacity for 600 million gallons. They know only in 2015, this City requires 600 million gallons a day. That is what is called planning. We need to have a transportation policy which foresees the growth and develop infrastructure accordingly. The projects like express highway has to be welcomed with both hands.

I think about your comments on speed and energy Anon AX have given you a reply.

AX- Thanks a lot for taking lot of pain in doing research in this topic. The solution for this menace is proper planning as I mentioned above. Otherwise as you mentioned in another 10 years if I write this blog again the number of deaths will be 30000 per year.

Phanton363- I also heard about that. The CITU General Secretary or some one came to Kerala and made a statement about the importance of unions in IT field. That is the last thing Kerala needs. By the way things happen in Kerala don't be shocked if IT people in Kerala have unions.

AX- I am not sure about the technicality of speed breaker. The points you are raising are all relevant. As we all know for any law made there will be more than 100o ways to override it. The way I understood is and I may be wrong- based on classification they have set a speed limit. Say for example, the maximum allowed speed for a transport bus is 60 km/he. So speed breaker will see that bus doesn't go above this speed. Yes, then the question comes naturally- inside cities the speed limit has to be 35 km/he. I am not sure how speed breaker address that issues.

In Kerala for almost all the issues the final losers are common man and it doesn't take you long to understand that.

November 04, 2006 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Brijesh for your comments. I think we have done quite a detailed analysis of the various aspects of the use of speed breakers and their potential outcome. I had a great time discussing this topic with you. Thanks again.

-- AX (GS)

November 04, 2006 8:40 AM  
Blogger Roshan said...

Hi Brijesh, today evening is a good example of y a curb on the bus drivers' speed id required. From Thoppumpady to Kacheripady (from my office to my home), the driver nearly caused 4 accidents!! Count that F-0-U-R!! Goddamn, he was so rash, a blind man could have done better. And the bus conductor is justifying it saying that they were late hence the speed. I got off the bus with my heart in my hands! Y shud we tolerate this? Cause we live here and the politicians do nothing properly.

November 08, 2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Roshan- Having studied engineering in Palakkad I can understand what you are talking about.They need to be controlled somehow.

November 09, 2006 5:55 AM  
Blogger Sachin R K said...

Hi Brijesh,
Bit late off the buzzer but here goes anyway:
a) During the recent strike , when you say the unions were against the Supreme Court order, you left out the bit about the employee unions actually opposing the strike

b) The state govt was in favour of bringing in an ordinance because in this case we had this peculiar situation of a Supreme Court order being applicable to only one state ( remember some time back , tobacco companies did not appeal against a Kerala High court order against smoking because an adverse Supreme Court ruling would have affected sales throughout India - no such thing in this case )

c) BTW , Iam no Communist :)


November 10, 2006 5:50 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Sachin R K,
a) they were opposing the strike just because they lose their livelihood. There are also against speed breakers but during strike they won’t get paid.

b) Supreme Court gave the verdict because I believe it is a peculiar situation in Kerala. I have lived in Chennai for 3 years but never seen rash driving like what we see in Kerala.

c) I can understand that u r not a communist by the reply u you wrote. If you were a communist you could have written about some revolution or patriotism or something like that.

November 11, 2006 6:10 AM  

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