Friday, April 4, 2008

A HELMET: For a sake of life or for a sake of revenue?


Assalamu Alaikum… Wa-Alaikumus-Salam…I am halted. Can I see your driving license or registration documents? Yes sir .. please sure, you can. I put my hand in rare pocket of my trousers, takes out my wallet with a bit of fiddling with my eyes costantly glazing on the hands of that man in a faded uniform. He takes few steps backward, opens up the box attached to rare seat of his bike and joins me again with a small note-book in his hand. I handed over my driving license to him and he starts writing. Why don't you use safety helmet? He breaks the silense. Well… I am in drastically hurry to touch my office that I left off my home. Also its quite warm out here. Moreover, I have had a skin allergy that lessens my love to wear the helmet. Last but not least, I have never felt comfortable watching swift movment of vehicles around me under the helmet. I tries to make as many excuses as I can in a single breath with innocense at my extreme. While I finishes off my words, he finishes off writings on a paper and passes on those pages of traffic violation ticket to me. Thus, those three pages make my all excuses invalid. It is the proceeding of an interaction between me and a traffic constable.

It is just for your safety, my brother. Next time, please wear it. Now the constable wants to get rid of me. But What if I say I don't want to live? Do you think, my life is precious? Do u think, there's only one thing in this country that can save my life is … with the name of helmet? I mean I want law and order, I want poverty reduction, I want employment, I want to live my life with smooth flow of my bike on the roads, Can u help me in such regard? What if I die under the helmet with a lot of stress and strain inside me? Can wearing this helmet justifiably save my life? I put a lot of questions in the mind of that cop, but I thought he is ignoring me and soon I find him standing along another bike with two youngsters riding without hemlet. Now I left that spot with a lot many thoughts still lingering in my mind.

Back to a wider avenue of Islamabad, I am again on my bike with breeze blowing across. My thoughts start drifting again to that cop, Can he help me? No he can not, he is unable to help me? He is not in an authority. He is an employee who is just earning not to allow his spirit get out of his body and he is not doing it for himself but for other family members. Who knows, he himself dislikes it. But he is doing it on a voice of his master, in other words, his boss.

The safety helmet, no doubt is supposed to be helpful in untowered moment of a bike-rider. But I don't have an element of respect to those who implimented this law just in capital city, Islamabad. I'm a frequent traveller of twin cities, and everytime I find out there's no restrictions of riding bike with helmet must on, in Rawalpindi. Is it because, Rawalpindites life is worthless and Islamabdites life has a lot of value? A sane person replies promptly, not at all. Then why? The one of tragedy with us is …. no implimentation of laws but our implimented laws with full of disperity and flaws?

I've seen quite ridiclously designed helmet that are not at all be helpful in any tragic moment, God forbids. Many of helmet users are not using it for the sake of their life but to avoid getting a 100 Rs traffic violation ticket under clause 27 of riding a bike without wearing a safety helmet. Last week I saw a motorist wearing a home-made helmet of kitchen utensils. There are so many who are using viser especially designed for site-engineerrs made up of all fragile plastic. Few helmets are just the size of P-caps.

Now I feel that, this restriction of wearing helmet in any case is not to save the life of every individual who is under the helmet, but to generate revenue from those, who are not using it. The one hundred Rs. note goes to government revenue, Rs 10/ challan ticket for a bank and a nominal commission per traffic violation pocketed by a cop. And miseries from holding that ticket to a long queue in banks to long distant zone offices, from where a poor man recollects his documents is not a one day's tale. So to me, a common man's life has never been valued in this land of pure.

There are so many innocent lives terminated in different parts of this country in recent years. The Jamia Hafsa issue, the east & south Waziristan agencies, and in Balochitan, there are millions of people mercilessly killed by our own security forces. Then why government is taking "so much care" of an individual who wants to terminate his life himself without using helmet? Let him die too. I don’t want to live my life under helmet with a lot of desolations.

There are so many big issues that speaks volume for the plight of common mass. Today the common man is distressed due to prevailing political mayhem and uncontrolled inflation. The only solution to this ongoing turmoil is that political actors should work in harmony and respect the constitution in its spirit, so that country should leap forward towards a more participatory and pluralist political system sans President Musharruf.

Back to helmet culture, Just want to wrap up here with a tiny suggestion to concerned authrities, "take care of big issues and small issues would take care of itself.

Published in daily The Frontier Post on 30th March, 2008

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