Measuring Social Unrest – Revolutionary new OakTyre scale shows the true impact of protests

Measuring Protests In IndiaEveryday we read stories about protests in the country where buses are burnt, trains are stopped, public and private property is damaged and so on. However one often feels that the creators of these protests do not get due credit for their work. The government releases figures about the property damages in rupees. However these figures don’t quite convey the true impact that a protest had on the nation. How useful would it be if earthquakes were reported not in a Richter scale but just in terms of the monetary loss of property? Only when someone tells you the Richter scale reading of the quake, do you truly feel the power of the quake. Considering India’s need for a scale for protests, the researchers at Oak Labs have devised the ingenious “OakTyre” scale for measuring the impact of social unrests.

The basic unit of measurement in the OakTyre scale is a “Tyre”. Like we measure distances in meters, we measure protests in Tyres. So the measuring scale goes as follows

1) Vehicle damages are measured as per the number of tyres on those vehicles. So a destroyed motorcycle = 2 Tyres, car = 4 Tyres, buses = 6 Tyres and and so on.
2) A smashed glass pane = 1 Tyre.
3) Stopping a train = 15 Tyres.
4) Assembly of 50 people = 1 Tyre, resultantly 500 people = 10 Tyres.
5) Humiliating a service provider = 3 Tyres. This includes blackening faces of administrators.
6) Forcibly stopping a cultural event / movie = 4 Tyres.

Protests below 1 Tyre are of no significance in India. The list is fairly long but arbitrary at the moment. The entire scale is available at and new entries are still being accepted.

Using the scale, even a layman can easily calculate how big a protest was. For example the recent destruction of glass panes at 2 movie theatres in Pune comes in at a modest 4 Tyres. The destruction of retail outlets by mobs of 50+ get into the double digit Tyre count. Ram Setu movement which stopped trains across India, destroyed property and also had mass gatherings across India would cross the 100 mark. The Gujjar demonstrations that brought much of north India to a standstill for a number of days would top the charts for 2007. Thinking of it, releasing a top 10 list every month and giving out annual prizes at a grand bollywood bash also sounds like an exciting use of the scale.

The current government methodology of measuring protests based on the monetary damage caused are nowhere near showing the true picture. Because if the protestors burn a few expensive cars, suddenly the figures get distorted. For any protest, burning a Mercedes is at par to burning a Maruti 800, as rightly reflected by the OakTyre scale. Both get 4 Tyres. Also there’s always the risk of the Mercedes being built from fire resistant material and hence spoiling the show.

The OakTyre scale also rightly shows that peaceful protests do not have much of an impact in India. So, a peaceful assembly of even 500 people comes in at just 10 Tyres and can be easily surpassed by a handful of protestors by stopping a train and smashing a few glass panes.

The OakTyre scale however suffers from a couple of drawbacks. One that it only depicts short term impact. The second being that it needs to be calibrated every few years as newer forms of destruction are introduced. Maybe in a few years, we might have to add new measures like
1) Hacked the office website – 5 Tyres
2) Sent malicious emails to everybody in the organization – 10 Tyres
and so on.

Considering the ability of this scale to truly depict unrest in the society, I would suggest that the government forms a cabinet committee to ensure that the OakTyre scale is constantly reviewed and updated. Also I would suggest that off the record, the government should keep a quick reference table to help ministers decide when a protest is to be ignored and when they need to intervene and take action. Something like
1) < 50 Tyres – Ignore
2) 50 – 100 Tyres – Send a government representative. Blame previous govt.
3) 100+ Tyres – Ministerial visits and assurances. Blame previous govt. and foreign hand
4) 200+ Tyres – Plead to Delhi for help
5) 300+ Tyres – Disgrace old leader, name new chief
6) 400+ Tyres – Use religion and caste card

Although the OakTyre scale is uniquely suited to Indian conditions, it can be easily adapted to suit any developing or under developed nation that hasn’t yet forgotten the only real form of public protest, that of burning public property and resorting to other forms of destruction.

As I write this, in-depth research is underway at the Oak Labs to also develop a scale that will show unrest in developed nations. Based on initial reports, this scale uses parameters like number of celebrities in rehab, number of security scans at airports and number of books on weight loss released. Any suggestions for fixing or enhancing the OakTyre scale are welcome.

  • Add a comment stating what you think should be on the list and what should be its Tyre count.

Article “Measuring Social Unrest” published as part of my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald…