While it is widely agreed that accidents take a heavy toll of human lives in India, most discussion on accidents takes place only in an urban context. There is very little recognition of the fact that accident rate in rural areas can also be very high, and in addition the mortality in rural accidents is invariably higher.
In the case of most accidents, particularly road accidents, there is high chance of reducing mortality if the accident victims can be provided proper first-aid and taken in the care of a hospital during the first hour of the occurrence of the accident, often called the ‘golden hour’ from the point of view of saving lives of accident victims.
While conditions of ‘golden hour’ care are unsatisfactory even in big cities, in rural areas the chances are even lesser. While bystander care may be more prompt in several rural areas compared to cities, the possibilities of accessing good hospital care are almost negligible. Hence the mortality rate of accident victims is likely to be much higher in rural areas.
There has been a significant increase in purchase of vehicles, particularly motor cycles in many rural areas. However adequate steps have not been taken to teach safe driving and ensure wearing of helmets (or seat belts in cars and jeeps). Many roads are in a state of disrepair, bumpy and dug-up at many places. Overloaded trucks and trolleys carrying sand, stones and minor minerals add greatly to accident risks imposing unbearable burden on modestly constructed rural roads, culverts and bridges.
Accident rates in agricultural fields and plantations have increased with the rapid use of machinery and pesticides. Thresher accidents have snatched away the limbs of many workers and farmers. Accidents (as well as suicides) involving the use of pesticides are increasingly common. Other occupational accidents involve mine and quarry workers, workers in stone crushers, forest workers and sanitation workers.
Accidents even in rural schools are increasing with the mandatory daily cooking of meals on a large scale in or near schools.
Another major accident risk to which villagers are more exposed to are in religious places and fairs where there are frequent incidents of stampede caused by overcrowding and poor preparations to handle this.
Accidents relating to household gadgets are likely to be higher in rural areas as less standardised and poorer quality products are pushed for sale there.
However, a higher source of risk has been rising fast in rural areas with more and more hazardous industries and infrastructure/ electricity plants being pushed to rural areas. This poses a high risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals, gases and radiation in the case of potentially devastating accidents in future.
All these aspects of high and increased exposure to accidents in rural areas should be taken into consideration while preparing national level strategies and plans for reducing accidents and mortality from accidents.