Editorial by Inderjit Badhwar
Have you lost someone—a friend, a relative—in a road accident who could have been saved through timely intervention? Have you driven past—whether in your own vehicle, or riding public transportation—a body contorted with pain or writhing in agony in the middle of the road or lying in a ditch? Chances are, if you live and travel in India, you have. And chances are, as you read this, you will suffer a pang of guilt because you might have been in a position to save that life but you didn’t. Something made you into an uncaring spectator as you passed that still-alive human being.
If it’s any comfort to you—and it really shoul-dn’t be—you’re not alone. There are millions just like you who have witnessed cases like that of five-year-old Om Gaikwad and his parents, Aparna and Mangesh, a few months ago, who cried for over an hour, pleading bystanders for help, after being hit by a bus. The entire family, including little Om, died due to the reluctance of bystanders to help them.
This is just one case cited by Piyush Tiwari, one of thousands working for social and political transformation through Change.org whose petition drives help to reach a wider audience through this column from time to time.
Piyush and his friends and those who have signed a petition to Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, whom I know to be a caring and compassionate human being, apart from the fact that he is physician known for his untiring activism in conducting vaccination drives in Delhi, are pursuing a noble cause.
The Law Commission of India states that 50 percent of those who die on Indian roads can be saved if they receive timely medical attention, including assistance from bystanders and passers-by. An astounding 70,000 lives can be saved every year.
But in India, says Piyush, “most bystanders and passers-by choose to remain mute spectators due to prolonged legal hassles and severe inconvenience and intimidation at the hands of the legal system.” Even medical professionals are not spared of such legal hassles and intimidation.
The Law Commission of India states that 50 percent of those who die on Indian roads can be saved if they receive timely medical attention. An astounding 70,000 lives can be saved every year.
The Supreme Court of India has taken note of this: “Good Samaritans who come forward to help must be treated with respect and be assured that they will have to face no hassle.” That’s why Piyush has started a petition urging Dr Vardhan to introduce a Good Samaritan Law in India.
Writes a supporter, Abhay Hukku, of his own experience: “I am a youth of 21. Many a time, I have helped people who have met with accidents, major and minor both. I have to sometimes lie: ‘Well, I am a doctor…’ Though I know the basic rules and procedures of first-aid both in minor and major accidents, thanks to YouTube, the question here lies is why am I not able to say : ‘Yes I am a citizen of my corrupt INDIA but still am a human and I wish to help.’”
He continues: “I was once questioned badly, taken to the police station when I helped two men in a road accident which happened between 9-9.30 pm and one of his fellow mates lost his life after 25-30 minutes of the accident. Everyone was busy taking videos and pictures. Nobody bothered to go further and help the guy. As usual, the police arrived late and so did the ambulance. There’s a saying, ‘nowadays a pizza arrives within 30 minutes guaranteed, but the ambulance…?’ I was in the police station facing questions from 11pm-2:30 am. My dad was calling me repeatedly. How could I pick up the call? Even if I did, how could I say, ‘Dad I’m in the police station…?’ When the word ‘police station’ arises, there’s a rush in your spine which hits your brain giving negative signals.
“And because of this reason, no one wants to help anyone. Everyone wants to help if the tagline of the police ‘police is your friend, help us to help you’ means what it says. Gandhi said: ‘You be the change that you wish to see in the world.’”
Several countries have laws to protect and reward Good Samaritans. India needs one urgently. Accor-ding to the petitioners, the new law will protect and encourage Good Samaritans to help an injured person on the road and will include:
- Protection from legal hassles for Good Samaritans who help injured victims.
- Protection from legal hassles for medical professionals who immediately attend to the victim.
- Hassle-free procedures for investigation and evidence in police and court.
- Strict disciplinary and departmental action against public officials who coerce or intimidate a Good Samaritan.
- Guidelines to all hospitals to treat trauma victims and not to detain those who bring the victims.
- A system for recognizing and celebrating those who save lives.
Piyush, this editorial is in support of your petition. It is my signature. Because I too wish to Be The Change.