Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?

Bob Rupani Updated: June 23, 2023, 12:21 PM IST

On 2nd June 2023, three trains collided in Odisha and approximately 300 people died and about 1200 were injured, some grievously. The Prime Minister rushed to the accident site as did several other officials, and a CBI inquiry was ordered to find out the causes of the accident. Whatever be the findings, the fact is this is not India's first big rail accident, and neither will it be the last. The reason I say this is because by and large we Indians don't value life, and are quite casual about safety issues.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?This is a common sight in our country.

The Cambridge Dictionary description for an accident is, "something bad that happens that is not expected or intended and that often damages something or injures someone". I request you to kindly note the words, "not expected". In my view this definition of accident does not apply to India because accidents are expected in India. Yes, they are expected, and even accepted!

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Most accidents are due to incompetence. Image courtesy ANI.

I am saying this because whenever any accident, be it road, rail or any other kind takes place, the first thing our government does is offer compensation along with condolences. And then we go back to living our regular lives, until the next big accident, which we know will happen sooner than later. So the Cambridge Dictionary definition of accident certainly does not apply to us. Particularly in case of road accidents and fatalities, which are everyday occurrences in our country.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Five on a bike and only one with a helmet! A happy family, but one taking unacceptable risks.

Now let's look at the Cambridge Dictionary definition for incompetence, "lack of ability to do something successfully or as it should be done". Please note the words "lack of ability" and "as it should be done". In my opinion this is the problem.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Driving on the wrong side of the road. If it causes a crash, one cannot say it was an accident.

Most of us just don't believe in doing things the way they should be done, whether it is not jumping queues or driving on the wrong side of the road! It's all the same. And the lack of ability, this is far spread too, right from the tailor who gets your measurements wrong, to the bus driver who fails to turn in time and makes his vehicle fall into a gorge!

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Many drivers blatantly drive on the wrong side. Are they doing things as they should be done?

I think there is also this attitude of invincibility and nothing can happen to me. The figures speak for themselves. Everyday 4 to 5 people die in our county while trying to cross railway tracks! Walking or crossing on our roads also results in 50 daily deaths. This means about 19,000 pedestrians die in India annually. And the total number who are killed in road accidents every year is well over 1, 50,000!

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Lots of accidents occur due to the lack of ability or skill and training of the driver. Image courtesy PTI.

No other country in the world loses so many people in such accidents. Simply because they don't cross railway tracks. Or walk and run across the road as and when they please, without even looking. And let's not forget the speeding or rash motorists, who crash into pedestrians.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Life is not valued in our country. And the nothing can happen to me attitude prevails too. Image courtesy ANI.

Let me quote the headings of a few stories that I have come across in just the last one month or so. Iron rod at metro construction site falls on car. Toddler among four injured after crane collapses in Chembur, Mumbai. Excavator hits tree, branch falls on car and kills driver. SUV crashes into tractor on UP expressway, 5 of a family killed. 10 Vaishno Devi pilgrims die, 57 injured as bus falls into gorge. Tractor with 35 pilgrims falls into Rajasthan gorge, 8 dead.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?It's a free for all and few care to follow traffic rules. Isn't this negligence.

If, like me, you read the newspapers, then you too must be seeing such reports on a daily basis. And of course we also have regular reports of bridges, buildings, walls, etc, breaking or collapsing. People also fall into open manholes and drains, and earlier I have even written about people driving off incomplete bridges and roads that had no signs or barricades to warn motorists the road was ending.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?This vehicle is doing so many wrongs that an accident is inevitable.

Can all these be termed accidents? In my view surely not. Iron rods falling from construction sites because they were not secured properly, cranes collapsing because they were lifting excess load, excavator hitting a tree, tractors that are not meant to be used to transport people falling into gorges and causing numerous deaths, all these are perfect examples of negligence, which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as "not giving enough care or attention to someone or something".

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?It just never stops. After all rules are made to be broken.

The fact that we are careless or negligent people is visible all around us. Look at how people cross roads and run in front of vehicles without a care in the world. Though we have a law, millions of people commuting on two-wheelers still don't wear helmets. The same is true for seatbelts, very few motorists buckle up. In fact, in a 5-month drive on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, over 6,000 motorists have been booked for not wearing seatbelts and some 700 for talking on the phone while driving.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Wrong side drivers rule our roads.

Now this talking on the phone business while driving or riding, or checking your Whatsapp messages or social media accounts, is so very common. Almost every single day I see someone either watching a reel, replying to a message or talking animatedly while driving or riding.

Are accidents unintentional? Or does incompetence cause accidents?Another one bites the dust, and another one gone and another one gone.

These morons are not just putting themselves in harm's way, but also risking the lives of other road users. If you have to look into your phone or attend to a message or call, why not just pull over and do it. But you hardly ever see anyone following this simple and safe practice. So if an accident occurs because of this, can you call it an accident? Definitely not.

Photos by Bob Rupani

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