Khanna at the event. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 7: Delhis first citizen has hit the nail on the head but touched a raw nerve by dragging a region into his diagnosis of what is wrong with the capital.
In this region, the situation is such that commonly it is a matter of pride to violate the law, lieutenant governor Tejendra Khanna told a traffic enforcement meeting.
The crux of what Khanna said — that people take pride in breaking the law — is not a matter of great dispute but as lieutenant governor — the equivalent of governor — he is not expected to make sectarian generalisations.
Besides, Khannas comments have come at a time Raj Thackerays outburst on north Indians has inflamed passions in Maharashtra.
It is a speciality of northwest India that the people feel a sense of honour and pride in violating law and boasting that no action has been taken against them, Khanna added.
But the disease is not confined to north-west India alone. Anyone travelling in Calcutta will vouch how unsafe its roads are because of frequent traffic violations, irrespective of the errant drivers roots.
Khanna, a retired bureaucrat and the erstwhile head of a pharma giant, added: The behaviour pattern in south India is such that the people naturally stay within the limits of the law.
But Kerala — which does not have too many drivers from north-west India — had over 3,000 road accident fatalities in 2007. The toll hovers around 2,000 in Delhi each year.
Khannas office later issued a statement that said he meant metropolitan cities in the south. Bangalore did have a lower casualty rate than Delhi in 2007 at 950 deaths on roads.
Smelling blood, politicians like Mayavati have sought the lieutenant governors scalp, turning the issue into a sectarian conflict and burying hopes of a debate on how to make Indians more law-abiding.
The lieutenant governor, who has definite views about transport development and has contributed critical inputs to the Delhi Master Plan, later said the context and content of his comments had been seriously distorted.
Khannas remarks were borne out by relevant statistics, Raj Bhavan said. The lieutenant governor had referred to the comparatively lower level of autonomous self-compliance of traffic regulations in Delhi….
But Delhi IIT professor Gitam Tiwari, who has researched on transport, said she was not aware of any data that proved people from a particular region violated traffic rules more than the others. Safety depends on law-enforcement and road design, she said.