K.K.Nagar child loses leg, but do we care?

Today’s column by Paul Krugman dwells on the long-term effects of malnutrition. Children without adequate nutrition tend to lose out on full intellectual capacity development and hence are condemned to poverty in many cases. Krugman’s anguish is based on scientific evidence from the AAAS, and has strong resonance among Indians, whose great nation holds arguably the largest number of malnourished children on the planet.

I would like to add to that continuing tragedy, the shocking lack of safety for children attending school. The Hindu reported last Friday (Feb. 15) that a six year old child lost its leg in an accident involving a car very close to Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School in K.K.Nagar.

Most likely, there will be little outrage at such an unspeakable tragedy, of a child called S.Swaminathan being condemned to disability for life due to rampant motorisation in India. A mad rush for vehicles with no standards, training or safeguards whatsoever. The majority of middle-class Indians are too busy enjoying their new luxuries, including powerful cars, and have little time to devote to such horrors or to the crumbling state of infrastructure in which their nation is cooking up 8.5 plus per cent growth.

Many children make such dangerous trips everyday in Chennai.

I took the accompanying picture on way back from K.K.Nagar three days after the accident was reported. It shows a motorcyclist squeezing through some rubble that has been generated by construction of a median, near Jawahar Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar. There was no need to replace this median, but apparently, someone in the Chennai Corporation or another agency decided to replace the existing one with hard granite. Of course, these planners can never get down to setting footpaths right. That small step would help many school children walk to school safely, but apparently, dressing up with costly granite is more important to today’s civic managers than investing in simple, effective solutions.

We can only express our deep anguish that many generations of Indians will have to lose life and limb, before our polity acquires the maturity to view these safety issues as fundamental. Until then, our semi-literate politicians and their brand of dangerously creaky politics will rule, aided greatly by middle class indifference.

Of course, for the police, lives are mere statistics. This statement from the Chennai City Traffic Police only confirms that depressing reality.

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