Friday, February 28, 2014

Big spends, small gains

By Neeraj Mahajan

Six decades after Independence India is South Asia’s biggest defense spender and the fourth largest defense spender in the world behind U.S., China, Russia and U.K. Almost like a compulsive window-shopper without any specific purpose in mind, India would be spending approximately $ 80 billion on weapons and equipment like—fighter planes, artillery guns, surface-to-air missiles, tanks, bullet-proof vests, snow shoes, choppers and bullets from international suppliers. This is sought to be justified as a small price to pay for living in the world's most dangerous region with two nuclear-armed neighbors. 

Tatras- Nobody could change!
Traditionally the Indian Army receives bulk of the overall defense budget. In FY 2012-13 the army received almost half of all funding, followed by IAF 25%, Navy 19% and DRDO, 6% of the budget. The Indian Navy received 4% more funding while funds for army and air force decreased by 1% and 4%. The Naval budget grew 37-fold over the past 25 years from $181 million in 1987 to $6.8 billion in 2012.   But in the 2013-2014 defense budget, the Navy's share of total defense spending fell sharply with the Navy receiving the smallest chunk of the budget 18 % – as compared to 28 % for IAF and 49 % for Indian Army.   
Even though it was to achieve 70% self reliance by the 1990s, India continues to produces only about one-third of its defense equipment. It thus has to depend upon import because the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) with a network of 51 laboratories and staff of over 30,000 including 6,800 scientists and engineers has failed in its mission to usher self-reliance in critical Defense technologies. It is today nowhere close to fulfilling its promise to usher-in 70 per cent self-reliance by 2005. Despite gulping four to six per cent of the Defense budget annually, none of the more than 1,100 items worth developed by it is a state-of-art weapon or equipment.

Almost all its projects- Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag Missile programs, Pinaka multiple-barrel rocket launcher, MBT Arjun, Light Combat Aircraft, Electronic Warfare equipment and Sonar system for Navy are way behind schedule. The landed cost of MBT Arjun with more than 60 per cent imported components like engine and gun control system is going to be over Rs 25 crore a piece. In contrast a T-90 tank cost less than Rs 10 crore along with technology transfer. 

Similarly high cost of production, delays in delivery and suspect quality is the reason why more than 1,500 types of low to medium technology products produced by the 39 Ordnance factories and eight Defense Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) under the Department of Defense Production and Supplies hardly find any buyers even within the defense services or export markets.

An example of counterproductive overdependence on exports is the Rs 560 crore Project Tejas aimed to manufacture India’s first indigenously light combat aircraft. The test flights started in 2001 and after nearly three decades, the IAF has got operational clearance to initially induct only one squadron (20 aircraft). Despite promises to come up with a completely indigenous and higher variant by 2014, LCA’s engine, radar, navigation system and displays are imported. The matters came to a pass a few years ago when Israel reportedly refused to give AESA RADAR EL/M 2052 for LCA on the advice of US. Similarly no attempts were made to even change the drive system of Czech-BEML TATRA trucks from Left to Right hand drive in more than 20 years – the vehicles remained in service.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roadblocks in modernization of Indian Armed Forces

By Neeraj Mahajan

Indian Armed Forces are poised for major modernization in the next fifteen years. The process would involve upgrades of hardware and systems with new state of art equipment to meet the security challenges of the coming decades. 

 Army Purchases:
The Army’s shopping list includes USD 3,000 million deal for 197 light observations/utility helicopters; USD 1,100 million deal for Future Infantry Soldier System (F-INSAS); and USD 2,170 million deal for howitzers.

Navy Purchases:
Navy’s wish list includes USD 3,500 million deals for seven Scorpene Submarines; USD 7,600 million deals for 12 stealth frigates; and USD 1,000 million deals for 16 multi-role helicopters.

Air Force Purchases:
Some of IAF’s biggest deals in the pipeline include USD 10.5 billion MMRCA contract for 126 combat aircraft -- the largest aircraft procurement deal in the last one decade worldwide, USD 1,000 million deal for six transport aircraft; USD 700 million deal for 12 heavy lift helicopters

The other big-ticket contracts in the offing include 214 fifth-generation fighters being jointly developed by India and Russia, Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mk. II turboprop aircraft and IAF’s plan to buy 59 Russian-made Mi-17 V5 helicopters over and above the 80 it ordered in 2008.

Almost all the prominent players who matter in the arms trade including Rafale, Raytheon, Dassault, BAE Systems, Saab, MiG, EADS, Aeronautica, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rosonboronexport, Thales and Snecma are competing for the Indian bids. Raytheon has tied up with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for internal security installation of GPS systems at 100 airports across India at a project cost of USD 22 million; while and Lockheed Martin has tied up with Wipro Technologies for opening up a network centric operations centre in India.

Among the three services, IAF is the most comfortable with the largest share of Defense capital budget and 15% of total Defense allocation. IAF has always managed to corner half of all appropriations and used more upgrading funds than any of the other military wings. Unlike army and navy, IAF has spent its allocated funds and managed to convince the Finance Ministry to allocate extra funds for spare parts, aerial bombs and missiles. IAF which completed the first phase of its 15-year modernization by 2022 that began in 2006 needs around 800 rotary aircraft in the next, 11th, 12th and 13th Five Year Plans. In addition to hi-tech fighters, IAF is revamping its transport and surveillance fleet to achieve larger reach in the next decade. 

The 1.3 million strong Indian Army – is the world’s third-largest military after China and United States). Having around 3,300 main battle tanks; 3,000 towed artillery; 1,500 armored infantry fighting vehicles; and 232 multirole helicopters – it is subdivided into 6 regional commands, a training command, 13 corps, and 38 divisions. Many of its weapons and equipment are obsolete and need replacement. The Army needs battlefield transparency, battlefield management systems, enhanced firepower, night-fighting capability, terminally guided munitions, self-propelled artillery, surface-to-air missiles, latest assault engineer equipment, tactical control systems, and integral combat aviation support. 

A bulk of the army’s mechanized forces are “night blind,” artillery needs towed and self-propelled 155-mm howitzers for the plains and mountains as well as replacements for its outdated arsenal of L-70 40-mm, SAM-6(Kvadrat), SAM-8 OSA-AK and ZSU-23-4 Schilka air defense (AD) gun systems. Likewise the Infantry needs shoulder-fired missiles, hand-held battlefield surveillance radars and hand-held thermal imaging devices for observation at night to increase its operational effectiveness and lower casualties in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. The armored corps needs tanks and infantry combat vehicles for internal security duties as well as offensive and defensive moves in conventional warfare. At present only two regiments are equipped with indigenous MBT Arjun and T-90S MBTs imported from Russia – an additional 347 T-90S tanks need to be assembled in India.  Similarly there is a requirement for mobile corps-to-battalion tactical communications system and a battalion-level battlefield management system and capabilities for offensive and defensive cyberwarfare. 

Apart from all this, the Army is raising two mountain infantry divisions of 40,000 personnel drawn from the northeastern states of Nagaland and Assam for deployment along the LOAC. It’s future plan include arming atleast two new regiments with BrahMos land attack cruise missile and deploying them along this frontier by 2017. This would make India’s army the first in the world to induct supersonic missiles. For better communications and mobility, it is also constructing more roads, bridges, helipads and railway tracks along the LOAC.

In contrast the Indian Navy is nowhere close to meeting the standards set up by the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet in 1964. A recent report by India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that the Indian Navy only has 61% frigates,  44 % destroyers and 20 % corvettes -- projected as its minimum requirement. The Indian navy has 1 aircraft carrier, 10 guided-missile destroyers, 10 missile frigates and 15 tactical submarines. IN is keen to develop its amphibious capacity through 17 landing ships that can carry 4,000 troops or 88 tanks. It is developing INS Arihant an indigenous nuclear-powered attack submarine as part of its “sea-based strategic deterrence.” Apart from this its strengthening the naval air wing comprising of 31 combat capable aircraft, 11 advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, 11 Sea Harrier ground attack jets, and 9 Russian-built anti-submarine warfare platforms. The Navy wishes to augment its space-based surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, airborne early warning, strike, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and air Defense capability through induction of shore-based aircraft, integral helos, carrier based aircraft, UAVs, sensors and force multipliers like satellite based global communications, reconnaissance and network enabled platforms. Eventually the Navy plan to dovetail both its Eastern Naval Command and Western Naval Command operations around an aircraft carrier. Eventually the navy plans to have atleast three aircraft carrier based battle groups with a fleet of 150 ships in the next ten to fifteen years. For this it needs to build around 50 warships and acquire around 100 new vessels. To meet this requirement the Navy needs to induct five ships every year over the next six to seven years and acquire 500 aircraft and helicopters including some 100 jets. Similarly there is a massive plan to upgrade the capabilities of Indian Coast Guard to protect India’s coast line in a more effective manner. But, all this seems wishful thinking.

An interesting anecdote occurred when Field Marshal K M Cariappa asked the first Indian Prime Minister for extra funds for modernizing the post-independence Indian Armed Forces. Nehru reportedly told him, “India does not need an army; it needs a police force.” Politicians do not need Generals and Officers to run the Army but rubber stamps that bend backwards and endorse the flawed political agenda –on defense and National security matters.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Enemy within or without

By Neeraj Mahajan

Forget any enemy or its capabilities- India is and shall remain unprepared for any proxy or conventional war – not because of anyone else’s doing but its own attitude towards defense preparedness. Indians it seems do not need enemies – they are capable of damaging and destroying their armed forces more than any enemy ever can. Defense planning – is a neglected issue in India. It’s a system where the service chiefs' remain silent when their financial powers are tripled from Rs 50-Rs 150 crore, even while their respective services are starved of funds for operational requirements? This is killing India.

The Indian Army has not purchased a single gun since the Bofors scam 27 years ago and is finding itself cramped due to shortage of critical anti-tank weapons and ammunition. Similarly a 50% deficiency of anti-tank guided missiles is threatening to weaken its operational punch. The Indian Airforce is critically short of fighters, Indian navy literally forgotten how to dive—without any new submarine being inducted in its fleet in the last 15 years. That is despite the approval to induct 24 new submarines in 1999. It is well known that a lead-time of 15-20 years is required to plan, train manpower and induct a new weapon system but moving from scam to scam, India has failed to evolve a fool proof system.

Time-cost overruns, corruption, scandals and scams – are just a few symptoms of the larger governance failure affecting Indian defense planning and National security which requires long-term vision, clear cut goal, training and perspective planning taking into account various political, social, economic, technological and strategic aspects. Cumbersome procedures delay the process of buying weapons and equipment. Tenders are floated and withdrawn. But in the meanwhile prices change or there aren't enough funds left after paying the installments for the purchases made in the previous years. Overriding economic compulsions over strategic considerations, fuzzy vision, unclear national security perspectives, unplanned ad-hoc decision making, are the reasons why Indian defense preparedness is at an all time low and modernization of the Indian Armed Forces is a big farce.

Arbitrary cancellation of orders, blacklisting of suppliers and delays in acquisition of vital systems is the reason why the three services are forced to nurse -obsolete equipment like Vijayanta tanks, MiG-21s and IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft -- many years after expiry of their life cycle – even though they cannot be maintained in a cost effective manner.

One of the stumbling blocks in Defense planning is the urge to spend the capital budget by the end of the financial year as the unspent amount has to be surrendered.  

The Group of Ministers (GoM) and Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) the Kargil conflict in 1999 had strong recommended creation of Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) for integrated planning and coordination of tri-service operations. But till date this post is lying vacant. In the absence of a unified command and control apparatus - Army is spending 42.4 Billion, Air force 24.8 billion and Navy 12.8 billion US dollars– based on arbitrary projection as there is no single authority to decide what each of the three services want or should get. The government-appointed Naresh Chandra committee on Defense reforms in India had also criticized the casual manner of treating national security and failure to commit funds for modernization. The Naresh Chandra committee report was not even made public.  

Many weapons acquisition programs are languishing for want of funds including a deal to purchase 145 M777 light guns from BAE Systems to equip a new mountain strike corps on the Himalayan borders. BAE Systems kept waiting for the order before dismantling its M777 assembly line in the US. As a result the contract cost rose from $647 million to $885 million. Even though the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the creation of a new mountain strike corps of nearly 40,000 troops along the disputed China border by 2016, the urgency is lacking. Despite aggressive Chinese patrolling and attempts to increase its military presence along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) Indian security planners have coolly decided to spread raising the mountain strike corps over eight instead of five years as originally planned at a cost of Rs 64,700-crore. Isn’t this compromising national security is all about?
Most five-year Defense plans have failed to make any long term impact on the ground situation. Both the 10th and 11th Defense Five Year Plan, were delayed and ended up promoting adhoc, unplanned decisions regardless of long-term impact and overall requirements.

Penny wise; pound foolish– this phrase captures the mindset of Indian defense administrators. Recently INS Airawat--a 6000 ton assault ship ran aground in the harbor at Vizag because the Financial Advisor in MoD disallowed dredging of the channel. The sands deposits due to ocean tides were making the channel unsafe for shipping. But the bureaucrats in the Defense ministry kept rejecting the Navy’s proposal. The outcome is that while INS Airawat needs major propeller repairs, other submarines and ships are facing similar tribulations.  

Another dimension of the problem is that both MOD and Ministry of Finance (MOF) decide on the defense expenditure based on political instead of strategic considerations. The armed forces have a limited role to play in the decision making process in the civilian MOD. The defense ministry procedures are so complicated that it takes least 18 departments within the defense ministry to sign before a deal goes through. Each stage adds to the delay as a result either the requirements change or the price goes up. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cashless Facility for CGHS Beneficiaries

Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) empanels private hospitals for providing inpatient medical treatment to its beneficiaries. They may avail the requisite treatment with prior permission for procedures advised by CGHS and other government specialists / CMO–in-charge. CGHS pensioner beneficiaries are entitled for cashless medical treatment in the CGHS empanelled private hospitals. The empanelled private hospitals under CGHS provide treatment to the pensioners on credit /cashless basis for the procedures for which they are empanelled.

However, in case of emergency conditions empanelled hospitals are expected to provide treatment to pensioners on credit basis, even for conditions for which they are not empanelled and they are expected to shift the patient to another empanelled hospital after stabilization as per the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed with government.

In case of violation of the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement, suitable action, including depanelment can be initiated against errant hospitals.

This was stated by Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Lok Sabha today.

Source: PIB

Treatment at CGHS Empanelled Hospitals

Government empanels private hospitals under CGHS for indoor treatment and treatment can be undertaken with prior permission or under emergency. OPD medicines are issued by CGHS Wellness Centres on the prescription by CGHS Medical officers / Government specialists only.

In case of cardiac surgery, cancer treatment, neuro-surgery, renal transplantation and hip/knee joint replacement surgery, there is provision for issue of permission for post-operative follow up treatment from the same empanelled hospitals, where the initial treatment was taken with prior permission. In such cases OPD medicines as per the available brand name / generic name are issued by CGHS Wellness Centres.

In respect of other post-operative cases, where permission was granted, there is provision for issue of OPD medicines on the prescriptions of empanelled hospital for up to one month.

This was stated by Shri GhulamNabi Azad, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Lok Sabha today.

Cabinet Approves Amendment to Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014

The Cabinet on 6 February, 2014 approved the proposal of the Department of Disability Affairs to incorporate amendments in the proposed Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, which are:-

- Definition of person with disability in terms of interaction with barriers also;

- High support needs person enabled to take independent and inform decision also;

- Definition of low vision will be notified by the Government;

- The appropriate Government to take necessary steps to ensure reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities;

- No person with disability will be discriminated on grounds of disability;

- Appropriate Governments to ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others, in all aspects of life to have equal rights as any other person before law;

- Recognizing legal capacity of person with disability, limited guardianship would be the norm, to enable the person with disability to take joint decision with legal guardian;

- Person with disability would also have the right to appeal against the decision of appointment of legal guardian;

- Disability Certificate to be valid across the country;

- Educational institutions funded and recognized will have to provide inclusive education for children with disability;

- The appropriate Governments to constitute to expert committee with representation of persons with disabilities for identification of posts for Government employment for persons with disabilities;

- Review period shortened from 5 years to 3 years in case of identified posts;

- 5 per cent vacancies reserved for persons with disabilities will be computed against the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength;

- National Commission and State Commission will have power to exempt any post in an establishment from the purview of reservation for persons with disabilities;

- For greater coverage and employability in Government sector, the appropriate Governments to prescribe relaxation for upper age limit for employment of PwDs;

- National Commission shall formulate and enforce regulations.

Source: PIB

Saturday, February 8, 2014

16 Asian Cities Yields Interesting Retail Market Insights

Leading international real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle India has released its latest research report 'Retail Realty In India – Evolution & Potential'. The report compares the real estate viability of key emerging retail markets across Asia.

On the basis of strong signals indicating that Emerging Asia is poised to become the engine of future economic growth, the report examines the diversity of different Asian cities and the retail opportunities they offer. With established markets such as Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing already having seen high retail growth rates, newer markets are now emerging in strength.
"'Retail Realty In India – Evolution & Potential' offers a comparison of the retail markets of the top sixteen cities in the Emerging Asian countries," says Shubhranshu Pani, Managing Director - Retail Services, Jones Lang LaSalle India. "An analytical juxtaposition shows that each city has distinct and variegated socio-economic, demographic and infrastructural factors driving the growth of their retail real estate markets. India, a country where each city presents its own subtleties and market behaviours, is a good case in point."
While leading cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore have the highest level of market potential and retail maturity; rising income, consumption and infrastructure scenario in other cities make them high potential markets for retailers and developers in future.     
Anuj Puri, Chairman & Country Head, Jones Lang LaSalle India says, "Different Asian countries are at different stages of development of infrastructure, logistics capability and general real estate market development. Retailers are prevailed upon to tailor their local market strategies according to factors such as real estate locations, price points and available logistics. Such issues do not, as a rule, exist in developed world."
The characteristics of Asian consumers that make them different from consumers in developed markets are also noteworthy. Most Asian populations are witnessing rising incomes. This makes them prone to higher spending impulses than consumers in the West, who are currently in belt-tightening mode.
"Also, consumers in India, China and other emerging nations are curious and want to explore new brands," says Puri. "Consumption of high-value items and luxury products is rising. Simultaneously, the Asian consumer at all times keeps an eye on the affordability of products." 
'Retail Realty In India – Evolution & Potential' asserts that the seven leading cities of India - Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata - are on par with some of the leading emerging retail markets in China, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta and Hanoi and goes on to provide data-driven comparisons.

Friday, February 7, 2014

India needs tougher road safety laws

By Neeraj Mahajan

At least 44 people including several children -- lost their lives when the tank of the speeding bus on the Bangalore- Hyderabad highway exploded triggering a major fire. Most of the victims were at that time deep asleep and had absolutely no chance. In all 49 people were travelling on the bus when the accident took place but only the driver, conductor and three others managed to get out of the bus after breaking the windows before it erupted in flames.  The driver and conductor were taken into custody for questioning while the three other survivors were taken to a nearby hospital. Preliminary investigations revealed that the bus belonging to Jabbar Travels crashed into the roadside barrier while overtaking another vehicle. The impact let to explosion in the tank and powerful flames engulfed the bus with 44 people trapped inside. Almost all of them were unrecognizable.

Most of the victims were software engineers, on their way home for Diwali.

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At least 22 people were killed soon after midnight when a bus carrying wedding guests spun out of control in the Jalaun district of Uttar Pradesh and hurtled into a river. Only fifteen people survived the accident. The bride, groom and 11 people were among those who were missing.

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After three separate yet back to back ghastly accidents within a span of a one month causing the death of 52 passengers – serious doubts were raised about the suitability of European-made high-end Volvo 9400 multi-axle  AC luxury coaches for Indian road conditions.

A common feature in almost all the accidents was that passengers unable to flee the raging flames and were burned alive because they could not operate the emergency exits. There were also no hammers for them to break the window glass to escape.

According to an expert Volvo buses did not have proper emergency exit doors from 2003 and 2006 as mandated by the Central Motor Vehicle (CMV) Rules 128 (4). Between 2006 to 2010 the Motor Vehicle Rules itself was amended to accommodate Volvo’s comfort level. Finally though the rule provided for rear windscreen emergency exit, this exit was nine feet above the ground making it impossible for passengers to jump out without hurting themselves.

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Interestingly the investigation into the two Volvos road accidents tried to down play the incident by putting all the blame on the driver.
“The driver of the Hyderabad-bound bus was stressed because of double duty and hence he could not find the brakes on time," Road Transport and Highways Minister Oscar Fernandes informed the parliament.
"There were firecrackers in the Bangalore-Hyderabad bus," he added. According to Fernandes the bus might have caught fire due to a spark causing the firecrackers to explode.
Fernandes however declined to comment on the second incident in which seven passengers were killed and 40 injured when a Bangalore-Mumbai bus caught fire after hitting a road median at Haveri in Karnataka.

Meanwhile, a preliminary report by Accident Data Analysis Centre of National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project highlighted that the buses had wooden flooring and inflammable seats and its speed limit was also high.

Another plausible reason thrown up by preliminary investigations is dies is over speeding by drivers and possible use of adulterated fuel that ignite easily.

Road accidents are common on India’s highways and claim hundreds of lives each year but rarely do buses burn down at the speed seen in these recent incidents.

These accidents have also highlighted efforts by unscrupulous private operators’ ways to do away with emergency exits to accommodate extra seats in the 45-50-seater to increase the profitability of Low-chassis multi-axle Volvo buses.

The accidents have dented the image of Volvo, the foreign bus maker with the highest market share in India with some 5,000 buses on the roads. Incidents like these have seriously eroded Volvo’s promise about the safety and comfort of the air conditioned Volvo buses. Many questions have cropped up regarding technical safety and design fault in the Volvo buses which were fast becoming a popular mode of intercity travel in India.

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At least 37 people were killed and 15 injured – when an overnight bus carrying passengers from Goa to Mumbai crashed through a guard rail and plunged off a bridge in a pre-dawn accident in Ratnagiri district 200 kms south of Mumbai.  The cause of the accident was not clear.

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22 children were burnt alive when a school bus caught fire in Mumbai.

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At least 10 people died and 30 were injured when a bus travelling on the Pune-Satara road was hit from behind by a container truck.

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At least six students of Sangawade Secondary School of Kolhapur aged 14-16 years were killed when their bus met with an accident on the Solapur-Dhule highway in Maharashtra.  The accident occurred when the bus was negotiating a sharp turn near Nagoba Temple, 15 km from the famous pilgrim centre of Tuljapur and failed to notice a speeding private tourist bus coming from the opposite direction. The two buses collided head-on at the sharp turn.

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A school bus driver and conductor in Delhi were arrested for sexually abusing a six-year old girl.
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At least 26 students and teachers were killed when a bus fell from a bridge into a dry riverbed in northwestern India

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A school bus collided with a truck laden with bricks in northwestern India killing at least eleven children.
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During the last few years there has been an increase in number of school bus accidents involving children… However In spite of an increase in school bus accidents in the past, transport authority and the school management are not taking any action to avoid accidents.

Recent School Bus Accidents:
·         3 Jan 2014: 40 people, including students, were injured in an accident when a school bus collided with a private bus near Chakkarakkal in Kannur.  
·         16 Jan 2014: Eight children were injured, two of them critically when a bus belonging to Army Public School collided with a truck in the morning fog near Sector 31 Noida.  
·         10 January, 2013: At least 25 people, including 11 children, were been killed when the truck they were travelling overturned in Bihar
·         30 July, 2013: At least 10 children aged 7-17 died on the spot and 20 were injured in an accident when their school bus collided with a truck on a national highway in the district of Ganganagar district in Rajasthan. The bus driver was allegedly trying to overtake another vehicle when he collided with a truck coming towards him. There were nearly 50 children in the bus at the time of the accident.
·         9 May 2013: At least 39 people including 3 children were killed and 40 injured in a bus crash in Himachal Pradesh.
·         4 March, 2013: At least 11 children and a driver were killed and another 10 children injured when a school bus collided with a truck in state of Punjab.
·         19 August, 2012: Twenty teachers injured in Tadepallygudem.
·         20 March 2012: Eight children killed and 30 injured when a school bus plunged into river in Andhra Pradesh.
·         7 March 2012: A 6 year old kid dead under a school bus in an accident in Krishna district 
·         1 March, 2012: 7 children injured in a school bus mishap in chittor district.
·         1 March, 2012: Two children died in East Godavari District.
·         29 February, 2012: Again two kids lost their life in East Godavari.

India has the world's worst record of child safety. 19 out of every 100,000 children are killed in road accidents. Road accidents account for over 130,000 deaths annually. According to World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety India has overtaken China -- and has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide.

Speeding, drunk driving, bad roads, overloading, poor vehicle maintenance, no use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles are the main causes of fatalities in road accidents. Every hour, 40 people under 25 die in road accidents around the globe. According to the WHO, this is the second most important cause of death for 5 to 29 year olds. Eight percent of India’s road user deaths are bus drivers or passengers, 32% are riders of motorbikes or three-wheelers.

In India, the death toll rose to 14 per hour in 2009 as opposed to 13 the previous year. According to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau or NCRB the total number of deaths every year due to road accidents has crossed the 140,000 mark. Drunken driving is the major cause of accidents, the NCRB report states.

Almost 99 per cent of the fatal accidents occur outside the cities are due to drunken driving. This notwithstanding, a common misconception among bus and truck drivers is that they are fully geared for highway driving after a few pegs down their throat. 

Trucks and two-wheelers are responsible for over 40 per cent deaths; peak traffic during afternoon and evening hours is the most dangerous time on the roads.

The matter is really serious as almost all the states of India are facing the brunt of the problem. The more progressive and developed states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are the most affected. What is worse is that the real numbers of fatalities are not even reported in most cases.

Significantly there is no estimate of people injured in road accidents who die within a few hours or days after the accident. Their deaths are then no longer linked to road traffic accidents.
114,000 people died nationwide on the roads in 2007, which equals one fatal accident every four-and-half minutes.

According to an international study conducted by Reuters Foundation India is the sixth most dangerous country worldwide for children after Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Iraq and Somalia as well as the worst place for women in the world amongst G20 nations.

•          41% of children in India die every year in transportation accidents
•          Every day, 27,000,000 school children traveling on 500,000 buses risk Delays, Run Over, Accidents, Terrorism, Death, Kidnappings, Bullying, Molestation,  and all kinds of traffic hazards.
·               12-year-old boy on his way to school kidnapped and murdered
•          Teacher & Bus Staff arrested for sexually abusing children aged 3-12

Strangely school bus and child safety is one of the parameters used to measure dangers to children. But if Indian school bus and child safety records are any indication, figures reveal a grim picture: 

·         3% of India’s GDP is spent on road accidents- this means road accidents cost a staggering Rs. 350 billion or Rs 35,000 Crores to the economy
·         13 people die every hour in road accidents in this country.
·         India with just 1% of the world’s vehicles, accounts for 10% of the world’s fatal accidents.
·         70% of road accidents take away the main wage earner.
·         Mortality rate per 10,000 vehicles in India is 14 
·         Mortality rate of children in India per 100,000 people is 19 
·         According to National Crime Records Bureau, Tamil Nadu (14%), Maharashtra (12.4%) and Andhra Pradesh (12.1%) have the maximum accidents in the country.
·         Drivers’ fault (78%) is the single most important factor responsible for accidents
·         Child traffic death rate in India is four to five times higher than other developed nations.
·         That is when an estimated 30% of accidents go unreported

Four year old Japneet Singh’s father dressed him neatly in nursery school uniform and dropped him off at the bus stop. In the afternoon, his grandfather waiting at the bus stop but Japneet never returned home. He was found lying in a pool of blood on the roadside. His schoolbooks were scattered on the ground, and his brother, Parmeet was kneeling beside his limp body. Cherry!” Parmeet implored, “Get up!” but Japneet did not respond.

All over India many unfortunate schoolchildren- like Japneet go to school in the morning but never return home.

Japneet was crushed beneath the wheels of the bus when he exited the bus.

It’s been some time since India enacted the laws regulating school bus safety following a Supreme Court judgment which mandated speed governors to limit the vehicle’s speed, mechanical opening and closing of doors as well as qualified and experienced, law-abiding driver conductors. Surprisingly even the parents are reluctant to take on schools on safety issue.
At the time of searching for a new school, most parents usually take pains to find out things like student teacher ratio, curriculum, academic track record of the school, sports facilities offered and other such things but they are satisfied if the school has a bus service that reaches their doorsteps.
According to an eminent eye specialist, sharp reflexes of drivers affect their decision making capability on road. He emphasized the need to test the reflexes of drivers to be made mandatory to ensure road safety, prevent crashes and reduce road injuries. Reflexes diminish with age and time
The Supreme Court guideline also makes it mandatory for school bus owners to install speed governors but the transport operators express their helplessness as the cost of the speed governors has shot up from Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000 because only a handful of manufacturers monopolize the market.  
These are some of the reasons why school bus accidents are so common in India that they don't make news.
Since 2000, 1,386 people have died in school bus accidents at an average of 139 fatalities per year. Most of the people who lost their lives in these crashes (72%) were occupants of other vehicles involved.
Since 2000, 130 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) have died in school transportation-related crashes. Over two-thirds (67%) were killed by school buses, 6 percent by vehicles functioning as school buses, and 27 percent by other vehicles involved in the crashes. Almost (43%) 5-7 year old pedestrians’ in school-going age groups were killed in school transportation-related crashes.

On average, 10 school-age pedestrians are killed by school transportation vehicles (school buses and non-school bus vehicles used as school buses) each year, and 4 are killed by other vehicles involved in school bus-related crashes.

More school-age pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day.

All this is hardly any consolation for the family of the three-year-old who was knocked down by school bus last year, or the six-year-old girl from Chennai who died after falling through a hole on the floor of the bus.