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Commodification of road accident deaths: The hidden health hazard of motonormativity

By Chandra Vikash* 

Jahnavi Kandula, an Indian student from Andhra Pradesh, studying in America was killed in a road accident by a police motor car in January 2023. Now, 8 months after the accident, a bodycam video of Daniel Orderer, who is the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, has gone viral on social media. He was laughing at her death and saying that “she was 26 years old, anyway… she had limited value… just give her $11,000 (ie Rs 9.13 lakh)”.
It is not a common thing to laugh off road accidents and normalize them. According to the research of Ian Walker, Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Swansea, Wales, it is being considered as a social psychosis. This has been termed carbrain or motorormativity. This leads to an unconscious bias against motoring in society. Instead of preventing deaths and damage to life and property, the problem is avoided by declaring compensation amount in certain cases and publicizing it in the media.
Questions were asked on the incident of making fun of the death of an NRI student. Which should be asked everywhere.
‘Is this the value of an Indian immigrant student in America?’ says a tweet on #JusticeForJahnaviKandula. On this question, let us look at the market value of yesterday’s accident in India.
Every hour 18 lives are lost in accidents on India’s roads. That means 422 people die every day due to road accidents. It is not that this figure has decreased in the past years. In fact, it has been growing continuously over the last 15 years except the 2020 Covid lockdown. Along with this, crores of people fall ill and die many years before their age due to the combined effects of harmful, life-threatening pollution and wastage of time due to traffic jams, stress and being stuck in a polluted environment for a long time.
When the government lists, flaunts and boasts about its achievements in front of the whole world in lavishly decorated programs like G-20, it does not tell how much the deaths due to road accidents within India’s borders have reduced. Or what was the reduction in pollution and traffic jams.
Shouldn’t a permanent lockdown be imposed on the motor vehicle factories, banks and insurance companies responsible for misleading the public and luring the public with cheap and convenient loans – auto loans?

As for a far less harmful virus, the lockdown was imposed in a questionable manner, causing huge losses to small and medium entrepreneurs. Crores of migrant laborers had to endure severe hardships and due to their livelihood being snatched away and their state of helplessness, the government could not even make arrangements for their return to their home areas. Let’s look at a recent news of tomorrow 13th September.
A recent news headline said, "11 people died, 15 injured in Rajasthan accident, PM Modi announced a package." Expressing grief over the deaths and condoling the families of the victims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of the deceased.
This is a quarter of the paltry compensation awarded for the death of a 26-year-old Indian immigrant student in the US. That means, if four Gujarati NRIs die, they will get the same compensation as is given in America on the death of one NRI.
This compensation is also separate for rail and air accidents occurring in India. 5-10 lakh INR for rail and more than 50 lakh for air accidents. From the point of view of commercialization, the cheapest and worst deaths are due to road accidents in India, for which the Prime Minister gave Rs 2 lakh to the dead in Gujarat in the election atmosphere, but the accidents in other states do not even get this. Due to their misfortune, their families have to run from door to door, first to hospitals and then to insurance companies.
The question has to be asked, what is the value of human life? Why is the life of a common citizen so cheap for government leaders who spend lakhs and crores per person every day on their own security?
Could Maas Movement Transformational Approach for Mobility-as-a-Service remove this health hazard?
The central idea of MaaS Movement is a user-friendly multi-modal mobility-as-a-service with an array of innovative features ranging from seamless trip chaining with flexible modal choice, pre-ordained trip routing, choice of speed, cost, favourite co-traveler, driving proficiency rating, turn-by-turn navigation and speed assistance, green corridor to real-time incident management and more direct and indirect benefits.
MaaS Movement offers demand-responsive value plans as Platinum, Gold, Silver and Economy class of mobility services with further personalised choices that are far better than private ownership in the emerging scenario of ‘climate and ecological emergency’.
This fulfills of the long pending demand of New Urbanism of grade separation of motorised and non-motorised modes (more appropriately ‘eye contact’ modes- light, quiet, self-governed speed limit of 35 kmph that do not severe walking and cycling). This is based on the ‘think rail, use roads’ principle that includes motorway stations for modal transfer like railway stations, ramp bridges for walking, cycling and NMTs across roads and Land Traffic Control for pre-ordained trip routing and assured ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival services.
Our unique proposition is based on a pathbreaking innovative platform called LACE-Gaia Model. LACE is localised abundance and circular economies and Gaia is a truly representative grassroots to global governance system for Earth as a whole.
LACE model has 5 verticals and 5 horizontals with MaaS as the pivot based on a dynamic triple bottomline approach of economic, social and ecological benefits.
As the pivot of LACE model, MaaS unlocks ‘perishable inventories’ of space, time, attention and trust that exists in the present privately owned automobile-dependant human habitat based on ‘growth economy’ paradigm that violates ecological limits. This opens up new possibilities for other verticals of food and water abundance, zero-to-landfill, materials library and universal housing and livelihoods solutions and horizontals such as holistic approach to education, health and energy needs.
In this, MaaS Movement carries forward the idea of ‘steady state economies’ with stable resource consumption and stable population to create human-appropriate and human-scale habitats that harmonise economy with the ecological limits and create upward progress that sublimates material constraints into cultural and spiritual abundance.
Gaia model classifies human population on Earth, of presently 8 billion, into 80 territories and 50 districts in each territory. Based on principles of new urbanism and indigenous town and village planning, it advocates city limits (max 0.5 million population and max 1000 people per sq km population density) and towns and cities as hubs that must be supported by requisite number of villages as ‘spokes’.
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*Founder-Mentor, MaaS Movement Pvt Ltd

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