Sunday, August 02, 2009

A small sacrifice...

Why do Delhi buses kill people with such regularity (115 people killed in 2008), ask Dave and Jenny, in their blog “About our Delhi struggle”. Despite the volume with which these buses roar down the street—you hear them coming from a quarter-mile away—they still manage to pounce on an astounding number of victims ( via Freakonomics)

Dave and Jenny then provide an economic analysis:

The Blueline’s grim numbers stem entirely from two perverse economic incentives: the driver’s salary is wholly dependant on how many fares he picks up, and each bus is in direct competition with every other bus on the route.

The Blueline buses are privately-owned, not city-run. While a city-run service would prioritize getting its citizens from A to B, a private driver is less focused on customer service than on overtaking the next bus down the road. After all, the faster he drives, the more competitors he passes, the more passengers he picks up, and the more money he makes.

The safer he drives, the more buses will pass him, and the less money he earns.

I am afraid that this is too simplistic an explanation. Indian traffic and road behaviour do not lend themselves so easily to economic analysis or reasoning.

When I watch, on National Geographic Channel, the story of the wildebeests of the Masai Mara region crossing the river to get to the Tanzanian side of the grasslands, I get a clue on our road instinct. These wildebeests, in their thousands, jump into the river, regardless of the fact that there are hungry crocodiles waiting for them. While quite a few succumb to the crocs, the victims still form a small percentage of the total herd. So, the species moves on to the greener side. If a few individual wildebeests had to die, so be it.

That’s the instinct that guides our behaviour on the roads. As an individual, of course, I may not want to die, but as a species as a whole, we are programmed differently. It is inevitable that some (or many) people will die in accidents. But that should not frighten us into introducing traffic rules and needlessly complicating our lives. 115 people fed to the Blueline crocodiles is no big deal, in a city of 10 million people. The species must move on.


Shalini said...

Sarcasm thy name is Raj.
I can hear you saying why do you have to state the obvious?

Well! On a broader perspective when you look at the different species on earth and the game evolution has played over eons here, I guess what you say makes sense. We are nothing but another species fighting for survival and what applies to the wildebeests
applies to humans too. What difference does it make if we we possess a few more gray cells.
And call ourselves civilized!


Viky said...

Indeed. The same logic applies to the brain too. The brain is only as fast as its slowest grey cell. Drinking causes the slowest grey cells to die thereby making the brain run faster as a whole.

It is also the reason why people appear brighter after a few shots :)

Raj said...

Shalini, the point I mentioned applies only to the sub-species called the 'Indian road-user". Not to the human species as a whole.

Viky: Nice one.

Balajisblog said...


Among sub-species called " Indian road users", sub sub species is " Delhi road users". Typically, the IQ upper limit to become a Haryanvi bus driver is 80. Mathematically expressed, when the number on the speedometer is > or = the IQ level of the Haryanvi bus driver, lives are taken. he poor public have no way to determine either number, and some make the supreme sacrifice in their unintended quest to find it.


Raj said...

Balaji, actually here the ones with low IQ and wildebeest-mentality are the pedestrians. The Blueline drivers are the crocodiles, remember? You don't talk of IQs for crocs.