When the privileged wreak havoc

The shocking incident in Pune of an intoxicated 17-year-old overspeeding in a Porsche at nearly 200kmph, and that too on a narrow lane, and killing two young techies returning home after a get-together, has sent shockwaves across the country. What has come to the fore, once again, is the privileged rich taking for granted their right to break the law. Clear and simple. The drunk teenager flouted with impunity two laws — drinking in a public bar in a state (Maharashtra) where the legal drinking age is an astonishingly high at 25 and driving a car without a valid driving licence, which he could not have attained at 17.

The result of this reckless drunken driving was the death of two young people in the prime of their life. Once again, the privilege of class and money struck after this ghastly crime. The Juvenile Justice Board in Pune granted bail to the teen within hours of the tragic crash, that killed two young people. Astonishingly, his ‘punishment’ was to “assist traffic police for 15 days and pen a 300 word-essay on road accidents as his bail conditions.” Predictably, this decision triggered widespread outrage on social media where the users fumed at such a lenient punishment for somebody who had committed three crimes — drinking, driving illegally and killing two people. Scathing comments were made on the Indian judicial system being a ‘joke’ and how “power and wealth dominate the system, leaving ordinary people powerless.” The father, who had devised an elaborate escape plan to flee from Pune in typical movie style, was taken into custody from Aurangabad, and the bar manager and owner were arrested for serving alcohol illegally to a teenager. After two whole days, the bar was sealed, as CCTV footage clearly showed the guilty teenager drinking there along with his friends. And, following public outcry, the teenager’s bail was cancelled and he was remanded to an observation home.

While public memory will soon fade, what is scary is the surfacing of too many cases of youngsters indulging in substance/alcohol abuse, and their parents indulging them. While an overwhelming majority of Indians can only dream of owning a car, leave alone an uber luxury car such as a Porsche, which can cost anywhere from one crore to a few crore rupees in India, our country today can also boast of wealth that enables a parent to casually hand over the control of such an expensive vehicle to a child who had no licence to drive it. The arrogant underlying statement is: if he gets caught, we can manipulate the system to fish him out of trouble. But in this case, the “trouble” was much more than smashing a couple of road barricades or dividers… it was the end of two lives, and along with them the unleashing of a lifetime of sorrow and tears for two families. What blows the mind is the simple question… if you have crores to buy a Porsche, couldn’t you spare a few hundreds to hire a driver for the night, especially after paying ₹48,000 at the bar?

If at all a lesson is learnt from this… it should strengthen the resolve of civil society organisations such as Rotary to intensify their efforts to spread awareness, first of all among parents, to protect their children from alcohol/substance abuse. When civil society faces such grave danger from illegal and irresponsible drinking, no effort can be considered too little. But then, like charity, vigilance too begins at home.

Rasheeda Bhagat

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