Rishi Raj Singh IPS, No More the Commissioner of Transport!
by Elizabeth Menon
Rishi Raj Singh IPS, No More the Commissioner of Transport, but 'The Saviour of our Women and Children' -- wherever Rishi Raj Singh is, that becomes the 'Head of the Table'!
A great loss that an upright IPS Officer like Rishi Raj Singh had to go from his position as the Transport Commissioner, and the way it evolved was even more shameful! He was the one who made people aware for the first time that there was such a department and a Commissioner looking after their road safety! The roads in Kerala were getting safer since Rishi Raj Singh became the Transport Commissioner, as he enforced the laws strictly, and then he had to go! He only implemented the law that existed in India since 2002, that makes wearing seat belts for passengers in the rear seats too, mandatory! He did not need permission from the minister to enforce an existing law – and it doesn't make any difference if that law is not enforced in other parts of India as has been stated! Rishi Raj Singh only did it to save the lives of people on the roads! The anarchy on the roads was curbed by Rishi Raj Singh within months of becoming the Transport Commissioner and our roads were safer, once branded the 'Killing Fields', and the hospitals reported less number of casualties! But then, he is not new to adversities for enforcing the law, as when he clamped down on pirate CDs and DVDs while he was the head of the Anti-Piracy Cell in 2007, and the eviction of people from encroaching of public property in Munnar in 2006!
It is sad that the ignorant and irresponsible behaviour of people in 'High places' has brought the greatest loss for the those who use our roads! The Commissioner was only enforcing the law, a law that is already in force in most countries worldwide for many years, except in the developing and low income countries. It was unethical for the Minister to cancel the Circular issued by the Transport Commissioner, without even discussing with him! The comments made by a Member of the Legislative Assembly were rather crude, insulting to the core, which demands a public apology, especially when it was directed at an upright IPS Officer like Rishi Raj Singh, who has done so much for saving lives on our roads, and especially when he was only enforcing the law of the Central government of India! One would expect certain amount of basic courtesy and a language that is socially acceptable from our elected members in the Assembly, and the said member was not even aware that seat belts were used in most countries worldwide! There was a time when we only had few cars on the road and we did not have safety devices like the seat belts, child restraints/ child seats or the air bags, but technology has moved forward. It is important that we acknowledge the facilities available for our safety and make use of them instead of crucifying the Police Officers who are only trying to save our lives or prevent injuries to those travelling in a car!
People who are unaware of the dangers of not wearing the seat belts make all the objections. If the belt is not worn properly by the driver and the passenger in the front, they will be thrown forward and the head will hit the windscreen which would be fatal – and if the back passengers do not wear the seat belts, they would be thrown over to the front in case of a collision, which would cause multiple injuries or deaths to themselves and the front seat passengers! The seat belt also helps people with back and neck problems even during a short journey. And now, it is for the people to protect themselves by wearing the seat belts in both the front and the rear seats! Also, there is a misconception among the public about the airbags: the airbag only opens up in very severe collisions within certain guidelines, it only opens once when it is really needed and deflates immediately, within 0.1 second -- it works with the seat belts preventing direct injury of head/chest over the dashboard/the steering wheel, but without the seat belts, the injuries or deaths would be higher. It is proven that the death rates are 10 times higher without the use of seat belts even at very low speeds, in case of a collision! Another belief that a child is better protected in an adult's lap or arms is due to lack of awareness -- in a collision at 25 miles/hr, a child weighing 10 kg would weigh around 300kg due to the 'g' Force ('g' Force: a measurement of acceleration felt as weight, not gravitational force), and an adult will not be able to control that and this applies to any movable objects like boxes or bags kept on the floor of the car or on the dashboard! Now that we have the cars fitted with safety facilities, it is only just that we listen to those who know the benefits of these devices!
It is worth looking into the fatalities or multiple injuries that happened on our roads or asking those survived, to see if the driver and passengers, including the children were wearing seat belts or the floor of the cars were loaded with bags or boxes instead of keeping them safely in the boot of the car; what one finds out would be an education in itself – I know quite a few people who are still alive because they were wearing seat belts, both front and rear seat passengers; Dr D Babu Paul, whose name is synonym to IAS, has stated that he always wears the seat belt even while travelling in the back seat and was saved because of the seat belt he was wearing! Wearing helmet also is important in various sports and while riding two-wheelers to prevent deaths, the seven times F1 Champion Michael Schumacher is alive today only because of the helmet he was wearing while skiing when he had the accident on the French Alps in December 2013! It is important that we accept that there is a limitation for the number of people travelling in a car and the children must be protected by a belt/ appropriate restraint – count ourselves lucky if no untoward accidents have happened so far, when more people were piled into our cars. It's human to err mainly due to ignorance, but we should be prepared to accept that these rules are for our safety, rather than waiting till we learn the hard way! Now that we have the facilities and the knowhow, we should act not out of fear of being caught, but for our safety! And without this wisdom, we would be inviting death and multiple injuries of our loved ones and unaffordable cost of rehabilitation. Media also has a big role to play when reporting accidents on the roads, to mention if the occupants were wearing seat belts or if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if the driver had a proper licence suitable for the vehicle.
And now, it has been said that people are scared to use the roads again, as the roads are not safe anymore because people on two-wheelers, in cars and buses have stopped following the rules, more people on the roads without helmets, buses over-speeding with no care for the speed limit, commercial vehicles with over-flowing load at high speed that causes overturning, etc! It's about time that the people realised that Rishi Raj Singh only enforced the laws to save their lives on the roads, and hence the importance of following those rules, in spite of his absence! Now that he is in charge of 'Special Forces and Traffic' and 'Nirbhaya', at least our women and children would be safe, but would they be safe on the roads from the on coming traffic?! I am sure his presence will make any department function well and get to the prime position, bringing on awareness among the people and a feeling of safety, even the most neglected or insignificant department would sparkle with a new vigour -- wherever Rishi Raj Singh is, that becomes the 'Head of the Table'!
I only hope that the new Commissioner of Transport, ASGP R. Sreelekha, will continue to implement all the rules Rishi Raj Singh started, without easing up, as it should make it easy to be strict with enforcing the law now, as there is a precedent! Best wishes to both Commissioners, Rishi Raj Singh and R. Sreelekha, in their new posts, as all we want is safety!