Ranjona Banerji: Everyone’s an expert on car safety!

06 Sep,2022

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

The death of industrialist Cyrus Mistry in a car crash outside Mumbai has shaken up the chattering classes, sections of social media and business circles. It did not take long though for the WhatsApp Conspiracy Cohorts to write enormously long messages and explanations. Who are these people and how come they have the time to react with such detail to random events all over the world?

Are they just those proverbial monkeys on typewriters or chimpanzees on keyboards?

However, we must acknowledge, that they are all experts.

And as a result of the untimely deaths of Mistry and his fellow passenger Jehangir Pandole, all of us are now experts on airbags, seatbelts, Mercedes Benzes, road safety, neck injuries, spine injuries, vehicle safety and much more. We may never follow any of these, but we know all about it thanks to the sabjantawallahs of WhatsApp. Plus everyone’s great uncle’s best friend’s cousin who worked in a car dealership in 1911.

Of course, car safety regulations are very important. It is imperative that India makes seatbelts compulsory for drivers and all passengers and that all cars have front and rear airbags. India holds the terrible global record for the highest number of road accidents every year and the maximum number of deaths from road accidents. We know this and yet it seems there is nothing we can do about it.

Even in the lockdown years, with limited movement, we still managed over 350,000 accidents and 133,000 deaths in 2020 and over 400,000 accidents and 155,000 deaths in 2021.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/in-mistry-crash-tragedy-a-reminder-of-high-numbers-of-road-deaths-in-the-country-8131214/

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/09/05/business/cyrus-mistry-tata-death-india-accident-intl-hnk/index.html

 

We have bad roads (badly made and badly designed), no consistency in road design, dangerous debris lying everywhere, not enough proper pavements, not enough designated places to stop, little thought to pedestrians who can neither walk comfortably nor cross the road, terrible signages or good signages covered by political hoardings, banners and electricity poles, hardly anyone following speed limits, indiscriminate use of mobile phones while driving, two-wheeler drivers without helmets, not to mention all the other elements which wander along high speed roads, putting themselves and everyone else in danger.

All this is now being discussed.

Excellent.

What is not being discussed quite as much and not in sufficient detail is Cyrus Mistry’s business legacy and his battle with the Tatas. That is, the details of the legal fight that began after Ratan Tata sacked Mistry is everywhere.

The reasons why Tata stepped back to get Mistry out are cloaked in shadow.

There are some hints in this piece by Coomi Kapoor in the Indian Express, that Tata was scared that Mistry was messing with his legacy and that Mistry felt he was fighting not just for his own legacy but for the future of the Tata Group. And that he felt justified because the CEO who replaced him, N Chandrasekaran has carried forward the changes Mistry initiated.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coomi-kapoor-writes-cyrus-mistry-was-an-introvert-bruised-by-tata-battle-8131144/

In general however, a media which has spent years building up the reputation of Ratan Tata as a veritable god, finds it cannot bring down a shibboleth of its own making. That Mistry tried to correct much that was wrong with Ratan Tata’s management decisions, including the ill-fated Nano car, is well-known in business circles and within the Tata Group. But the media cannot bring itself to hold Tata to account. Instead, the concentration has been on events subsequent to Mistry’s removal.

Coomi Kapoor has set the ball rolling. Let’s see how many media houses can take that further.

Like I always say, don’t hold your breath.

And do use that seatbelt.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal

 

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