Car crash on our way to airport

crash car 006Viewing this image you would not hold out much hope for its passengers. I wouldn’t,  either, had I not survived the crash. This was the vehicle in which my wife and I were going to the Bangalore airport to catch an early morning Dubai-bound flight. It happened near Bididi, nearly two hours after we had left Mysore,  at the dead of night.  Our vehicle  brushed  against a bitumen laden truck,  taking a ‘U’turn on a high-speed highway.

crash car 005We were at the rear-seat, asleep. I didn’t know what hit us, as I woke up to the crash; my wife had passed out on impact.  Stranded on a highway in pitch darkness, I felt futile and helpless. For a few agonised minutes I believed it was all over, as my wife wouldn’t respond to my frantic calls, and efforts to shake her awake.

It must have been minutes,  but seemed an eternity, before my wife  regained consciousness.  She was dazed, and kept asking what had happened, and why, and where we were heading , what for. Whatever I told her didn’t register, for she kept repeating the same questions, to a point when I lost patience. I found myself utterly at a loss as what to do next.

Our driver Mahadevan knew the drill. He informed his travel office in Mysore; called the police, and the ambulance service. Meanwhile a crowd gathered, even though it was past midnight.  Somewhat irritated at our becoming  a spectacle for curious passers-by, I gave vent to my frustration, asking the driver why he wouldn’t try to stop a passing vehicle to take my wife to hospital, instead of wasting time answering silly questions from inquisitive onookers.

I didn’t realise then that  Mahadevan, hurt and bleeding from his right ear, was doing his best, unmindful of his injury. I learnt later that he had a slashed ear. A few minutes later a policeman showed up on a bike,but there was no sign of ambulance.

Under stress I get clumsy at handling  things, even a cell phone. I managed to call co-brother Raghu in Mysore.  I had a credit card, but not much cash.  He called his co-brother Narsimhan in Bangalore, who was the first to turn up at the hospital at the crack of dawn. As it turned out, I didn’t need cash. The ambulance ride was free; and I used credit card at the hospital.  Incidentally, it came as a relief to learn that the Karnataka government has a free ambulance service in place on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. So dire was its need for me that I would have  readily paid a thousand rupees, if only I had the cash.

It was, I believe,  nearly half-hour ambulance ride to BGS Global hospital at Kengari. The approach road to an otherwise well-equipped hospital is bumpy, and bad for fracture cases. And the multi-speciality hospital,  located close to the highway receives mainly accident victims. I see repair of potholed  road to the hospital as a medical priority in critical care. 

Emergency service was prompt, and efficient. Dr Venkatesh who attended on my wife stitched up a nine-inch cut on her neck; had her right shoulder x-rayed for supected fracture; and kept up a conversation to calm our nerves.  At my request he agreed to take a call from my anxious daughter-in-law, a doctor in the US. I found Dr Venkatesh a multi-tasker with reassuring way with words in dealing with patients – the kind, I believe, would be an assset in any medical emergency room. I wonder why a hospital that has a well-functioning ER and claims to have world-class infrastructure, including helipad for air ambulance,  can’t fix its bumpy driveway.

crash car 008On our way back to Mysore, after a day in hospital, I stopped by to see,  for the first time, our damaged vehicle. The scale of damage may spell death for others. But I associate life,  my reality of it,  with that mangled mess on wheels, if only because my wife and I are still alive to see it. The image of the wrecked Sumo  tells me that at times a split-second or sheer hair-breadth is all that is there  between life and a pointless death.

Nano’s ‘no,no’ to West Bengal

So Tatas have moved on,leaving West Bengal to pick up the pieces in Singur. News is Nano may well roll out of the relocated plant in Gurarat by the end of 2008. And West Bengal may well have its growth clock set back by a decade or more. Can anyone with investment in mind be expected to opt West Bengal after seeing what the Tatas had to go through in Singur?

Mamata Banerjee, by ‘pulling the trigger’ as Ratan Tata put it, may have scored a political point. The Trinamool Congress supremo, unrepentent, and still on a protest mode, is crying ‘state-sponsored terrorism’;she has cautioned chief minister Buddhadeb Battacharjee not to ‘play with fire’.The chief minister, on his part, accuses the opposition of being ‘very, very irresponsible’. He claims his government has lost a battle, but not the war.

Not the kind of political rhetoric that inspires investor confidence, does it? The message Mamata sends out to potential investors is, no matter who is in power, those who wish to do business in West Bengal would need to do a deal with her.

Mamata and the environmental activists promoting, what Alka Sehgal terms, ‘romanticised images of rural life’ would have one believe that the Singur farmers who sold/lost thier small holdings had little to gain from the compensation package, or benefit from urbanised growth the Nano car plant would bring to their area. Ms Sehgal, writing in a web magazine Spiked , cites business columnist Gurcharan Das as saying, ‘the real question is whether Indians want to remain starving peasants or become part of an urban proletariat.’

Not a particularly inviting choice, is it, considering that one could argue equally persuasively against either option. But the immediate question that stares at Singur farmers after the Tatas pullout is, WHAT NEXT?. One farmer, who had willingly given up land for the plant, told the media: ‘Can any of the opposition leaders tell us what we do now?’ He might as well bang his head at a brick wall.

For the way we practice democracy doesn’t provide for politicians’ accountablity for the socio-economic damage they cause by agitations to further their political agenda. Law makers would do well to consider bringing in legislation banning agitations against any project that is past the ‘commitment’ stage. Such ban would however not preclude a judicial review or litigation pursued in public interest.

It is said that West Bengal’s loss is Gujarat’s gain. Neither can be said to be a winner insofar as the Nano pull-out set off an unseemly scramble among states, vying with one another to attract the Tatas. Potential investors, on their part, tend to shop for concessions and privileges in excess of the declared industrial policy of a state. The project goes to the highest bidder, not necessarily the most deserving one. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is charged by the opposition Congress with ‘a sell-out’, and making ‘secret’ deal with the Tatas.

Politically motivated ? Sure, but such charges, even if unfounded, seek to create public suspicion and to undermine a government’s integrity. The ultimate loser is India.The circumstances that led to the relocation of Nano project doesn’t enhance the country’s image among foreign investors. They don’t help us project India as a preferred FDI destination.