One needs to be incredibly lucky in our country to receive immediate help from bystanders in a road accident. Prof. Naveen, a faculty at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce has been constantly trying to prove the notion wrong and is a fitting role model for us on this Teachers’ day. Prof. Naveen had been trained in Basic Trauma Life Support program by SaveLIFE Foundation in 2010 and has since then rushed to help whenever he has been near the scene of an accident. He has been instrumental in saving the lives of many, including a young man in West Delhi recently.
Unfortunately Prof. Naveen’s story is a rare example of bystander care in our country where close to 400 people die in road accidents every day. According to the Law Commission of India, 50 percent of these deaths can be averted if the victims receive immediate medical care. Fear of legal and procedural hassles, coupled with lack of knowledge and right training compels even those who wish to help to look the other way. It’s not really bystander apathy, but the systemic gaps, which, rather than enabling us to help others, create deterrence.
Pursuant to the Supreme Court order in the matter SaveLIFE Foundation v. Union of India (AIR 2016 SC 1617), the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued a notification, with guidelines to protect and encourage Good Samaritans. In its judgment on March 30, 2016, the Hon’ble Court incorporated these guidelines and invoked its inherent jurisdiction under Article 141 and 142 of the Constitution of India to make the guidelines binding on all States and Union Territories. Theoretically, with this landmark judgment, no person can be hassled in the form of repeated police questioning, detention at hospitals or prolonged court proceedings. However, the common man is not yet fully aware of these new rights.
This is where teachers can play a crucial role. The fact that rules exist but awareness does not, calls for teachers educating children and youth about the existence of these guidelines, and how they can be an important agent for potentially changing the destiny of an injured person on the road. Apart from the usual important lessons on road safety that we hear in schools – stop at red lights, wear a seat-belt or helmets – children must also be made aware of the consequences of road accidents, how one can be of help in any eventuality, and the fact that one is protected by law if s/he wishes to help a person in need.
On this Teachers’ Day, we need to celebrate teachers like Prof. Naveen but also remind ourselves that we need many such Prof. Naveens who can help bring about a positive change in the society and motivate more Good Samaritans to come forward and save precious lives.
– Ravitej M Prasad, Associate – Policy & Research with SaveLIFE Foundation