Thursday, December 04, 2008

The bigger killers

First of all I condemn every terrorist attack. I express deep sympathies to all the victims and I commend the bravery of our security forces. Last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai have woken up this nation. All sorts of promises have been made to combat terrorism. I hope these promises are kept so that this great nation will be a safer place to live in.

But in all this attention directed towards terrorism, in my opinion is unjustified. I am going to put forward statistics about three other silent killers which are killing our citizens at an astonishing rate behind the scenes. And no one seems to be bothered about it.

First is road accidents. Many people will say that terrorist killings are not accidental. I am not comparing the cause here. I am comparing the effect. Every tragic loss is mourned in the same way whether a person dies from a bullet shot or from a head injury in an accident. Last year in India, an astonishing 114,590 persons lost their lives in road accidents. (info from National Crimes Record Bureau ) And that number has been rising consistently. What has the government done to combat this killer? Mind you, even after factoring in the fact that India has a billion plus population, our country is miles ahead of the other nations.

Secondly, deaths from suicides. Many stories are discussing the impact of this terrorist attack on the economy of Mumbai and India in general. Besides the absolute loss in terms of damage to infrastructure, there is the unknown loss to the economy in terms of loss of business, investments etc. I am no expert in this subject. And you can never put a price on a human life. But any economist will tell you what a great loss suicides are to the economy. What is the government doing about this killer? More stats from the same source, the National Crimes Record Bureau. And you have got to check this out. Accidental deaths and suicide clock. It will give you a feel of the magnitude of the tragedy.

The third silent killer in India is poverty. I have not got any concrete stats to back me up here. But we all know how scores of children die from malnutrition, disease etc. These people don't make it to the news because it has been happening for a long time and its nothing new. It doesn't make that impact which the media craves for. What is the government doing about this silent killer?

I am not saying that the government should stop spending money on defense and internal security and divert all funds to these things. I am just putting things into perspective. One of my favourite books 'Freakonomics' discusses why deaths from terrorism and crimes make a much bigger impact than deaths from more dangerous killers like road accidents. It the human psychology that works that way. You decide what you want to fear. Terrorists or BMTC buses in Bangalore.

Further info: Times of India, December 12, 2008, Bangalore Edition


Planning Commission Puts Social Cost Of Accidents At Rs 55,000 Crore A Year

Road accidents are severally eating into India’s economy. According to the Planning Commission, the social cost of road accidents in India stands at Rs 55,000 crore annually. This constitutes 3% of the country’s GDP.

In 2006, Indian roads saw 1.05 lakh accident deaths — 290 deaths everyday. Of this, the provisional number of persons killed due to drunk driving stood at 8,313 and those killed due to defects in road conditions was estimated at 2,024.

According to K H Muniyappa, MoS in the ministry of shipping, road transport and highways, the
cost of road injuries is usually estimated at 1% of the gross national product in low income countries, 1.5% in middle income countries and 2% in high income countries. According to WHO’s estimates, the direct economic cost of global road crashes has been estimated at $518 billion with the cost in low income countries put at $65 billion.

Accelerated urbanization has led to alarming increase in rate of accidental injuries in India India has 1% of the motor vehicles in the world, but bears the burden of 10% of global vehicular accidents


  1. Great post. But out of the 3 killers you have mentioned 2 killers - poverty and suicide have been present since the time of independence. One may argue poverty leads to suicide. The point is somewhere our policies have failed in uplifting people. The reason may be we havent elected right leaders. But then again comes the question How many of us actually take part in the process for election of leaders?

  2. dude but all the reasons u hav mentioned are not dividing nations ... but terrorist attack is ... thts why it should be taken much seriously ...

  3. @nimit. It will take a long time to get the right leaders elected. This past state elections, in my constituency, a new young guy stood against a 5 time MLA and lost miserably. I dont know how we can try to bring about this change. And please dont ask me to stand for elections. I have lost everytime i stood!! :D

    @im18 I dont think this attack is dividing the nation much. The media, political leaders and police should not make irresponsible statements against any community.