The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: As Mamata Banerjee accuses the BJP of intolerance, she may be held guilty of the same

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Battle of Bengal

The political rivalry between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal may be a case study in how a democratic battle should not be fought. This week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called the BJP a “militant organisation” which created social divisions and was “religiously biased”. Banerjee was responding to remarks made by state BJP chief, Dilip Ghosh, who had just threatened the Trinamool with “direct encounters” between party workers. What is more worrying is her stated intention to demand reports on areas where the BJP did well in the panchayat polls. The saffron party, she warned, won by tampering with electronic voting machines. Allegations that the BJP manipulates electoral outcomes have surfaced before. But, in this case, Banerjee seems unable to accept a democratic choice that did not work to her party’s advantage.

The Trinamool, for its part, did not cover itself in glory these panchayat elections. Even before the polls were held, the party won an unprecedented 34% of the seats uncontested, though the Supreme Court has directed the state election commission to hold off from declaring the results for those seats. Opposition parties claim widespread intimidation by the Trinamool to prevent them from filing nominations. This was accompanied by unchecked violence: while the BJP claimed 52 of its workers had been killed, the Trinamool counted 14 dead. In one instance, a journalist was stripped and threatened by Trinamool workers for reporting on the violence. Does Banerjee now express disbelief that some voted for other parties in spite of the Trinamool’s best efforts to bully and bludgeon both political rivals and the electorate?

Bengal has long been accustomed to domination by one party, whose cadres range the countryside, armed and organised. The baton has been passed down from the Congress to the Left Front, which perfected the culture of violence, to the Trinamool, which spent long years in the state opposition. As the BJP makes inroads in the state, it also uses the idiom of violence; witness the Ram Navami marches where saffron party workers cut across the Bengal landscape wielding weapons. However, though the BJP has made creeping gains in the state to emerge as the chief opposition, its presence is still thin on the ground.

But there is more to Banerjee’s vitriol against the BJP than fears of being upstaged in Bengal. On the national stage, she has emerged as one of the main opposition leaders taking on the BJP. There, the BJP is the Goliath that must be fought by a coalition of smaller regional parties, with or without the Congress. But Banerjee must distinguish between her role as opposition leader in Delhi and her responsibilities as chief minister of West Bengal. In Bengal, she must give adequate space to the opposition and respect electoral choices. While she accuses the BJP of intolerance, she should take care not to be held guilty of the same.

The Big Scroll

Shoaib Daniyal takes note of five developments in the panchayat poll saga.

Ipsita Chakravarty writes that in Bengal the BJP is using Ram Navami marches as an exercise in domination.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Amitabh Mattoo, once advisor to former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, asks why Delhi does not trust the people of Jammu and Kashmir with real democracy.
  2. In the Hindu, Sameer Bhardwaj on the old Kashmir-Jammu dilemma and how the BJP was well placed to manage it but chose short-term political gains.
  3. In the Telegraph, Anup Sinha on how organised religion aims to create a single identity.

Giggles

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TA Ameerudheen on how Kerala might end its Raj-era orderly system after a police officer’s daughter assaulted a constable:

  The orderly system was introduced by the British in the late 19th century and continues in many Indian states. Orderlies are supposed to run errands for the officials they are assigned to, guard them, drive them around, answer their telephone calls, and such. In reality, they are treated as house help. They are made to cook and clean in their officers’ homes, and even bathe pets, take children to school and families for shopping. Apart from constables, senior police officials take camp followers – civilians who work as cooks, washers and barbers in armed reserve police camps – as orderlies.  

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People who fall through the gaps in road safety campaigns

Helmet and road safety campaigns might have been neglecting a sizeable chunk of the public at risk.

City police, across the country, have been running a long-drawn campaign on helmet safety. In a recent initiative by the Bengaluru Police, a cop dressed-up as ‘Lord Ganesha’ offered helmets and roses to two-wheeler riders. Earlier this year, a 12ft high and 9ft wide helmet was installed in Kota as a memorial to the victims of road accidents. As for the social media leg of the campaign, the Mumbai Police made a pop-culture reference to drive the message of road safety through their Twitter handle.

But, just for the sake of conversation, how much safety do helmets provide anyway?

Lack of physical protections put two-wheeler riders at high risk on the road. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are ‘vulnerable road users’ – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the Indian transport ministry, about 28 two-wheeler riders died daily on Indian roads in 2016 for not wearing helmets.

The WHO states that wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. The components of a helmet are designed to reduce impact of a force collision to the head. A rigid outer shell distributes the impact over a large surface area, while the soft lining absorbs the impact.

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Pillion rider safety has always been second in priority. While several state governments are making helmets for pillion riders mandatory, the lack of awareness about its importance runs deep. In Mumbai itself, only 1% of the 20 lakh pillion riders wear helmets. There seems to be this perception that while two-wheeler riders are safer wearing a helmet, their passengers don’t necessarily need one. Statistics prove otherwise. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Cyberabad traffic police reported that 1 of every 3 two-wheeler deaths was that of a pillion rider. DGP Chander, Goa, stressed that 71% of fatalities in road accidents in 2017 were of two-wheeler rider and pillion riders of which 66% deaths were due to head injury.

Despite the alarming statistics, pillion riders, who are as vulnerable as front riders to head-injuries, have never been the focus of helmet awareness and safety drives. To fill-up that communication gap, Reliance General Insurance has engineered a campaign, titled #FaceThePace, that focusses solely on pillion rider safety. The campaign film tells a relatable story of a father taking his son for cricket practice on a motorbike. It then uses cricket to bring our attention to a simple flaw in the way we think about pillion rider safety – using a helmet to play a sport makes sense, but somehow, protecting your head while riding on a two-wheeler isn’t considered.

This road safety initiative by Reliance General Insurance has taken the lead in addressing the helmet issue as a whole — pillion or front, helmets are crucial for two-wheeler riders. The film ensures that we realise how selective our worry about head injury is by comparing the statistics of children deaths due to road accidents to fatal accidents on a cricket ground. Message delivered. Watch the video to see how the story pans out.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Reliance General Insurance and not by the Scroll editorial team.