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Eternal Paradox

By Rajiv Budhraja

Rajiv Budhraja

It amazes me no end how paradoxical can we be. In our thought, action, outlook paradoxes abound. No wonder it has become a cliché to term India as a land of paradoxes. And why not?. It is commonly said that whatever you say about India, chances are that the opposite will also be true.

Today we have the best of Information Technology companies. Most of the startups in Silicon Valley are believed to be led by Indians and yet it is true that a significant percentage of Indians are still illiterate. While India’s Mars Mission has made history and its satellite launch prowess is well acclaimed yet, it is also true that Bullock Cart is still a mode of transport on Indian roads. In fact nowhere is this paradox more defined than in a closer look at Indian roads where some of the fastest and hi-tech cars run cheek by jowl with much slower modes of transport.

The same paradox is evident when it comes to our attitude towards road safety and especially road safety devices in our vehicles. Today we have and we continue to aspire for the best of safety gadgets in our vehicles. There are a host of technological features available in the cars that increase driver’s safety and limit the potential damage caused by road accidents.

More and more cars are now coming with air bags. Earlier cars used to have only front two air bags but now with more technological advancements and consumer demand, cars with even six air bags are being launched providing protection from every angle. Even seat belts are now technically more advanced as they allow passengers to remain still in their cars despite high impact.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is another safety feature much in demand and flaunted by vehicle manufacturers. ABS allows the driver to have better control over the vehicle and hence improve safety. Then we have Adaptive Cruise Control an upgraded version of cruise control which helps to manoeuvre the car in accordance with the flow of the traffic. Another technology that is becoming a must-have is the Reverse Parking Sensor.

Amidst all this talk of hi-tech safety devices, how we conveniently forget about the role of tyres as a safety device is an interesting phenomenon and that is what has prompted this column.

Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA) along with its technical wing Indian Tyre Technical Advisory Committee has been highlighting the importance of tyre as a safety critical component through periodic awareness drives. Over the last one years, engineers from ATMA member companies have had the opportunity of inspecting tyres in parked vehicles across a cross section of occasions and venues. These include parking lot of a public extravaganza such as Surajkund International Crafts Fair in North India to several campuses of IT major Infosys across the country to the recently concluded Indian Rubber Expo’’17 at Chennai.

During the course of this exercise in the last one year around 24000 tyres have been inspected belonging to around 6000 cars at different venues. What is interesting is that whatever be the venue – from a hi-tech IT consulting firm to a random selection of vehicles at a public event- the results of inspection are markedly similar. Around 40% of the cars have tyres which are not well maintained. Either inflation pressure is too high or too low, tread depth is below legal limits or side wall has cracks. And that underlines the paradox that in our aspiration for having latest safety gadgets, how tyres are being ignored.

While attempting this column, another piece of news that made a quiet entry, puts this paradox in sharper relief. Fresh data shows that only 40% of the vehicles in India are insured, while 60% are plying on roads without any insurance at all. And these are not the results of a random survey but the data has been complied by General Insurance Council (GIC), which represents the country’s general insurers.

According to the data, in 2015-16, India had around 19 crore registered vehicles; of which, only 8.26 crore were insured. These figures are alarming since India has the notorious distinction of having the highest accident and casualty rates. In 2015 itself more than five lakh accidents were reported. Uninsured vehicles are causing huge liability to mishap victims while India is fast emerging as a top ranked vehicle manufacturing nation and Indians are opting for hi-tech vehicles with each passing day.

Aspiring for safety devices is admirable but fundamental safety aspects cannot be ignored. May the year 2017 be the year of awakening to the importance of black round objects as top most safety feature. ATMA and ITTAC are committed to bring this fundamental shift.


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