From fellow industrialists to politicians and the average Indian, ex-Tata Sons chairperson Cyrus Mistry’s death sent shockwaves through the country last Sunday, with an outpouring of support for the 54-year-old business stalwart’s family.
Mistry’s death, which occurred just a couple of months ahead of his father Pallonji Mistry’s passing, shook the foundations of the $30 billion Shapoorji Pallonji Group, but also sparked a serious debate on one of India’s most notorious ‘leading’ statistics — road accidents and related deaths.
India’s roads are among the most dangerous in the world when it comes to traffic accident deaths — only China has worse numbers. According to statistics put out by the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), there were close to half a million road accidents in India in in 2019 (the last full year we had normalcy before the Covid pandemic). The total number of deaths was 1.51 lakh and the number of injured 4.5 lakh.
This means that, on an average, there are 51 accidents every hour of every day on Indian roads resulting in the death of 17 people and 51 serious injuries. 70% of the fatalities are of men and women in the age group of 18-45.
Considering that most of the people who die in road accidents are in the prime of their lives, the economic loss to the families of these people, their businesses, and to the nation as a whole is staggering. According to a study by the German auto parts maker Bosch’s Advanced Autonomous Safety System and Corporate Research Department the total annual loss to the Indian economy as a result of traffic accidents in 2019 was in the region of Rs 1.2 lakh crore to Rs 3.1 lakh crore ($15.71 billion to $38.81 billion) which worked out to 0.55 to 1.35% of GDP.
While bad roads are an important reason for the accidents, a more important cause is the bad driving habits of Indians. Failure to adhere to common sense traffic rules, speeding, refusal to wear seat belts and helmets are all equal contributors. As news reports have indicated,in the instance of the accident that caused Cyrus Mistry’s death, not only was his friend Anahita Pandole driving her Mercedes Benz SUV at around 50 kmph over the speed limit, the two rear seat passengers who died — Mistry and KPMG director Jehangir Pandole were both not wearing seat belts. The two others, despite being in the front, survived most likely because they were wearing the seat belt which also activated the release of the air bags.
Both Mistry and Pandole were in the prime of their careers with many more productive years left ahead of them which makes the tragedy even more poignant. The avoidable tragedy,as most of us now, is not unusual in India. Almost every day there are reports of young men and women dying in car and bus accidents. Here’s a list of similar tragedies over the years of men and women who perished on Indian, most of which were probably avoidable with the most basic of precautions.
Rajesh Pilot (57), Politician
The senior Congress leader and union minister was in the prime of his career when his jeep collided with a bus in his constituency of Dausa, 90 kilometres from Jaipur in June 2000. Born to a family of farmers as Rajeshwar Prasad, Pilot earned his moniker after becoming an IAF squadron leader, following which he became a Member of Parliament. His son Sachin Pilot is the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
Bhakti Barve (52), Actor
An iconic presence in Indian films, theatre, and television across three decades, Barve’s best-known Hindi film was the 1983 cult-classic, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. On 12 February,2001, after performing a solo act, Pu La Fulrani Aani Mee, Barve was on the Mumbai-Pune expressway returning to Mumbai, when her driver rammed into a lamp post at the Bhatan Tunnel opening, killing both instantly.
Saheb Singh Verma (64), Politician
The former Delhi CM and BJP vice-president was killed in a car crash, along with three others, when his Tata Safari SUV had a head-on collision with a truck in Alwar, Rajasthan. According to the local police report, the truck driver swerved out of control after trying to avoid a cyclist — crashing over a divider and directly into Verma’s vehicle.
Gopinath Munde (64), Politician
A key figure in Maharashtra’s OBC political sphere, BJP leader Munde was killed in June 2014 when a speeding cab, which cut through a red light, rammed into his side of a compact sedan. After being rushed to the AIIMS hospital, Munde succumbed to his injuries — prompting a major probe into the circumstances surrounding his death.
Nandamuri Harikrishna (61), Actor and Politician
A major face in Telugu cinema, Harikrishna played roles in nine films across his life, eventually serving as a major figure in the Telugu Desam Party. In August 2018, he was driving a Toyota Fortuner without a seat belt to a friend’s religious ceremony, when his car crashed into a road median, succumbing to his injuries. In a cruel twist, his death followed not only a stint as a Minister for Road Transport — Harikrishna even died on the same road where his son Janaki Ram suffered a fatal crash back in 2014.
Deep Sidhu (37), Actor and Activist
After a successful stint as an entertainment industry lawyer, Sidhu became a prominent Punjabi film actor, before taking a political stand post-2019. At the time of his death, on 15 February this year , Sidhu was driving a Mahindra Scorpio with his girlfriend, actor Reena Rai, when the pair crashed into the rear end of a truck on the Kundle-Manesar highway, near Delhi. Rai survived, while Sidhu was declared dead at a hospital.
Sonika Chauhan (27), Model
A successful model, actress, and TV host, Chauhan sustained a fatal head injury after a collision with a jewellery store at Kolkata’s Rashbehari Avenue in February 2017. Actor Vikram Chatterjee, who was behind the wheel, was driving at over 100 kmph before the accident — leading to major public outcry that saw him arrested on culpable homicide charges.
Rekha Sindhu (22), Actor
Kannada TV actor Rekha Sindhu, along with three other victims, were killed in a car crash in May 201,on the infamous Chennai-Bengaluru highway. After a collision with a truck, it was reported that all four passengers were killed instantly.
Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya (56), Folk Singer
Born into a family of musicians, Bhattacharya spent much of his life working to preserve and popularise Indian folk music, through research grants and his ensemble, Dohar. In March 2017 Bhattacharya and four other members of Dohar were fatally hit from behind by a truck on the NH2 highway.
Sana Iqbal (29), Biker and Activist
A popular cross-country biker and psychology student, Sana started her journey intending to commit suicide through bike accident, and ended up deciding to raise awareness on depression and mental health issues instead through her long-distance rides and seminars. She tragically passed away in October 2017 in an early-morning accident while travelling in a car with her husband Nadeem, who survived the crash.
Sagardeep Kaur (35), Athlete
A prominent Indian runner in the early 2000s, Kaur would go on to win golds at the Asian Athletics Championships and compete in the Olympics, before serving as a Punjab Police sub-inspector. She tragically died in November 2016 in a road accident at Kaithal, Haryana — and is survived by her husband and two daughters.
Samir Bangara (45), Entrepreneur
Known for long-term collaborations with AR Rahman, Vishal Dadlani, and other music entertainment personalities and founder of the Mumbai based digital marketing company Qyunki, Bangara was driving his BMW S1000R superbike when he collided with a truck on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway in June 2019. He died instantly.
Saksham Yadav (28), Powerlifter
Famous for clinching multiple world championships, the Delhi-native bodybuilding champion was traveling on the Delhi-Panipat highway with five other powerlifters in January 2018 , when an accident occurred in foggy conditions — claiming the lives of all but one passenger. It was later revealed that the occupants were likely travelling under the influence of alcohol during the incident.
Ashwin Sundar (31), Race Driver
A major racing talent from Chennai, Sundar tragically passed away in March 2017, after his BMW smashed into a tree, and was pinned against a wall as the car burst into flames. The horrific crash claimed the lives of both Ashwin and his wife Niveditha, who worked as a doctor.
Lead Image: ANI