It Happens Only in India: Apathy towards Accident Victims

India is possibly the only country in the world where people on the streets exhibit a cold, callous attitude towards the victims of road accidents. By and large worldwide, human beings tend to make an effort to help people in distress- be it drowning, outbreak of fire, or a road accident. This they do by calling the police or rushing the hapless victims to the nearest medical centre.

On the contrary, in India, once an accident takes place, a large number of people will quietly materialize out of nowhere, and form a solid ring around the victims. Comments, wisecracks, opinion and comparisons will fly thick and fast; but none from among the crowd will drop to the ground to check the victim’s condition or fetch a doctor.  Sadly enough the Good Samaritans are now a near extinct species.

In 2013 the  cctv footage of a hit- -and-run case which took place in a north Indian city shook the entire nation, It involved a family of four-  a couple, their son and  an infant daughter. They were travelling on their motor bike when the tragic incident occurred. The clip showed a person by the name of Kanhaiya  Lal  appealing to passers-by for help. Many vehicles swept past him without bothering to stop and lend a helping hand. Lal’s wife and infant daughter were in a critical state, while their motorcycle was badly mangled.  Help did arrive but too little too late. By then the mother and the daughter had succumbed to their injuries.

The tragic deaths sparked a nationwide debate over the attitude of the passers-by.  The media dubbed it as “the day humanity died.”

The outcry finally died down but a safety campaigner named Piyush Tewari was badly shaken up. He realized that this wasn’t a lack of compassion but a   flawed system pitted against road victims. So Tewari decided to take up something to help accident victims. In 2006 came a nasty jolt. Tewari’s 17-year-old cousin was knocked down on the way home from school.”A lot of people stopped but nobody came forward to help …..He bled to death on the side of the road, “an anguished Tewari recalls. This pushed him to take his mission farther. He began by studying the psyche as well as behavior of men on the streets. He discovered a similar pattern across the country: people wanted to help but were holding back and doing nothing.

“The foremost reason was intimidation by police ……oftentimes if you assist someone the police will assume you’re helping that person out of guilt.” says Tewari.

Tewari also learnt that people were afraid of getting trapped as a witness in a court case. Even if if they transported the victim to a hospital, there was the risk of being forced to pay for the victim’s medical treatment. Finally in 2008 Tewari set up an NGO by the name of  Save Life Foundation, based in  New Delhi. Since its inception the organization has relentlessly struggled to minimize the incidence of road accidents, maintaining statistics of  mishaps, besides  organizing campaigns to create awareness about road  safety  among the masses.

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