Monday, June 04, 2007

Hell-met!!

Yes, that’s what most people, who were forced to buy helmets and use them in Madras, seem to think they are. Those of you who are not living here should know that the state government made it compulsory for all those travelling by two-wheelers (bike-riders as well as those on pillion) to wear helmets from 1st June. While the state government had been dragging the issue for years, its hand was forced by the Madras High Court which passed strict orders directing the government to implement the rule. A couple of writ petitions were also filed by some good samaritans before the High Court in the fag end of May as a last ditch effort to prevent implementation of the rule, but the Court refused to budge. Expectedly there was a mad rush to buy helmets on 31st May and those selling them, literally made hay while the sun shone.

As 1st June dawned, there was literally a sea of helmets on Mount Road, a scene which I hadn’t seen before. The police were also present in strength in quite a few roads implementing the rule with gusto and slapping a fine of Rs.100 on anyone found without a helmet! However, as the day progressed their attitude seemed to ease up a bit and they let off people with a stern warning and advice to wear a helmet in future.

It was quite evident that a majority of the two-wheeler riding population wasn’t happy with the new rule as there was quite a bit of cribbing. It must be noted that yours truly, for once, did not crib, having been used to wearing helmets for the past several years!! Nevertheless, one could understand their feelings considering the fact that we have such pleasant sunny weather throughout the year. Evidently, a lot of people did not stop with cribbing and had also pleaded with the Chief Minister to consider not enforcing the rule strictly! After considering such pleas, the Chief Minister in his birthday-eve message said that wearing helmets as per the Court order should be treated only as a necessity to safeguard lives and that its enforcement, in no way, should cause hindrance to the public! The people certainly took the message in the “right” spirit and there was a marked reduction in the number of helmets seen on the roads from Sunday!! The police also seem to have taken the hint and clarified today that it was optional for women and children riding pillion to wear helmets!

But if one looks at it carefully, most people concerned with the rule are happy about the turn of events. The state government, by implementing the rule, has duly complied with the court order. The people, though they were set back by a few hundred rupees for purchasing the helmet, are happy as they know that the rule wouldn’t be enforced strictly and they can continue going out not wearing helmets. The police are also happy as this would give them the option of turning a blind eye or enforcing the rule, as and when it pleases them. Certainly opens up yet another revenue stream for them! As for the helmet vendors, they are the most happy as they were the biggest beneficiaries as they’ve sold the helmets, whether people wear them anymore or not. Last but not the least, we come to the Court. They must be happy, shouldn’t they? After all, the rule was certainly implemented by the state government and what more could one expect from a people’s government?