Dinesh Mohan championed public transport, public protests

Dinesh Mohan

I was very sad to hear of the death this morning of Dinesh Mohan, noted expert on road safety, in St Stephen’s hospital in Delhi. It is a big loss to the international campaign for road safety, he was a consultant to many countries and currently the U.N. is observing a road safety week.

He did pioneering research on road crashes with Prof Geetam Tiwari in Delhi IIT for many years.

His partner is Peggy Mohan, the noted linguist and her book on Indian languages was scheduled to be released this evening.

Dinesh Mohan was also politically very progressive and wrote an article for Wire earlier this year making a strong plea for the right to protest in public spaces in the context of the Shaheen Baug and farmer agitations.

A real loss. I met him at several conferences, the last was in in Pune on road safety organized two years ago by Sujit Patwardhan and his team.

He was a great champion of public transport , a rare voice in a snobbish society flaunting its love for the motor car at the expense of common people.

Dinesh Mohan wrote extensively on road safety and crashes, he wrote books, research papers, articles, participated in numerous international conferences.. He was one of the few people I looked forward to hearing, there was something always new, refreshing, such a change from most boring, lifeless presentations one comes across often at conferences.

In an article he wrote some time ago, he was also critical of the automobile and media industry. An analysis, based on a survey of the print advertisements and TV commercials for safety content, and the pricing policy for offering safety technology of six major automobile manufacturers, shows that manufacturers are not promoting safety issues or their safety technology in any significant manner. They are not offering airbags or anti-lock braking systems in most of the base models costing less than $12,000. It is the responsibility of the Government of India to announce strict crashworthiness standards for cars sold in India, since vehicle manufacturers generally do not provide safety features unless forced to do so.

Reacting to Tata’s Nano, he had said that it would have been better if Tatas had gone in for a cheap bus.

A proper tribute to Dinesh Mohan would be for India to reduce road crash injuries and deaths. It now has the shameful record of accounting for the highest number of deaths in the world, surpassing China. Also, it is desperately necessary to reduce speeds, a suggestion made repeatedly in many countries during the current global safety week. For this we must educate our speed-crazy politicians, bureaucrats and engineers who are virtually acting at the best of the motor car lobby and glorifying the speed machine at the cost of human life.

Road accident scenario in India is more threatening than Corona virus, declared Nitin Gadkari, transport minister, recently while releasing a World Bank report on road safety. The report titled “Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society”,t highlights the disproportionate impact of a road crash on poor households that pushes them into a vicious cycle of poverty and debt. It sheds light on the links between road crashes, poverty, inequality, and vulnerable road users in India

The 6th UN Global Road Safety Week, held 17-23 May 2021, highlights the benefits of low-speed urban streets as the heart of any community. The Week calls on policy-makers to act for low-speed streets in cities worldwide, limiting speeds to 30 km/h (20 mph) where people live, work and play. Low-speed streets make for cities that are not only safe, but also healthy, green and liveable. The objectives of the Week are to garner policy commitments at national and local levels to deliver 30 km/h speed limits and zones in urban areas; generate local support for such low-speed measures; and build momentum towards the launch of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 in late 2021 and the High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2022.

Though Dinesh Mohan was based in Delhi many decision makers and even the media have not shown enough awareness to the issue of road safety. This is clear from the way much of the media has suppressed the news of the death of a prominent member of its own fraternity, Renu Agal, editor of Hindi Print and former BBC professional. She was hit by a car allegedly driven by a drunken official of the defence organization DRDO in March and she succumbed to her injuries last month. I think one reason her death received less attention is that she was travelling in a cycle rickshaw, a very downmarket way of travelling in a status conscious capital city. She did not own a car. This must be so odd for the snobbish upper class. This class thinks that every road user other than a motorist is a nuisance and should be marginalized.

Dinesh Mohan was so unlike this class. He had a heart and was a great supporter of public transport auto rickshaw, cycle rickshaw , pedestrians. He was not opposed to cars but he was certainly against monopolization of street space by cars.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book concerned with road safety and the cause of public transport , cyclists and pedestrians.



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