Every life lost to a road accident is most avoidable. But when public representatives who have been chosen to govern the nation are killed in road accidents, it shows that the road safety standards in the country are up for urgent review.
Union Rural Development Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday morning in New Delhi after his government vehicle met with an accident with another car, depriving Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a key ally just eight days after coming to office. Incidentally this is not the first time that a government car has been involved in an accident leading to death of a senior politician.
Munde, 64, was on his way to the airport for a victory rally in Beed (Maharashtra), when his Maruti SX4 was hit by a Tata Indica.
Senior politicians and government officials normally have a security cavalcade which is meant to protect them from such calamities. The absence here begs an answer.
Tamil Nadu, a state which is regarded highly for its good government practices, has seen 137 deaths involving government vehicles in 2012 alone, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2012 report.
After the accident Munde was taken to the nation’s best trauma center in AIIMS, but he could not be saved. He is said to have got up once post the accident but his sudden death point to lack of effective trauma care capability.
India records one of the highest numbers of road accidents in the world. The NCRB says there were 4.40 lakh road accident cases in 2012 that caused 1.4 lakh deaths. 4.6 lakh people got injured.
The government has maintained based on evidence that drivers are primarily responsible for majority of accidents in the country. On preliminary examination, in Munde’s case too, the negligence of either of the driver’s killed him.
Munde’s is not a rare case where political leaders while in power have lost their lives in road accidents. In the last five years around seven leading politicians had met a similar fate like him.
In April this year, Shobha Nagi Reddy, senior YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) leader died after the car in which she was returning after campaigning in Kurnool district swerved and overturned. Other prominent leaders who were killed in similar road accidents include TDP leader Yerran Naidu, former Delhi Chief Minister and BJP vice-president Sahib Singh Verma, senior Congress politician Rajesh Pilot and seventh President of India Giani Zail Singh.
In Zail Singh’s case, a truck driver was involved. The driver was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment by a court in Chandigarh.
Munde’s demise comes at a time when the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance tasted spectacular success in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra. The former deputy chief minister led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to unexpected success in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls.
Munde’s death has left a huge vacuum in Maharashtra BJP which may be filled by either Nitin Gadkari, Devendra Fadnavis (current president of BJP Maharashtra unit), Vinod Tawde (Leader of opposition in Maharashtra Legislative council) or Poonam Mahajan (Daughter of Ex- BJP leader Pramod Mahajan and current MP from Mumbai).