Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
In India more than 1.50 lakh people die every year during Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs). This means 400 people die every day on our roads or one death after every 4 minutes daily. During last 6 years (2013 to 2018) approximately 5800 persons died in Jammu & Kashmir during road crashes. Most of these accidents took place on Srinagar Jammu Delhi highway (NH 44) followed by other roads especially Jammu- Doda -Kishtwar road , Srinagar Anantnag road and Srinagar Baramullah road etc. As per the fact sheet prepared by Save Life Foundation an NGO that has been doing lot of advocacy and awareness on road traffic issues, there were around 23,000 road crashes between the year 2013 to 2016 in Jammu & Kashmir State. The NGO quotes the data prepared by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Out of these 23,000 road accidents more than 33,000 people were injured and almost 4000 people lost their lives. Hundreds have become permanently disabled. During last 10 years more than 14 lakh persons have lost their lives in India which is much.
I was shocked when I got to know about these figures at a meeting organized by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation New Delhi recently. Piyush Tewari Co Founder and CEO of Save Life Foundation gave a detailed presentation on road traffic accidents in India. The session was very much informative and an eye opener for the participants who had come from different states of India. Piyush is crusader who has been fighting for enactment of Good Samaritan Law at national and state level. Infact because of his sustained efforts Supreme Court of India in a Writ Petition (Civil) 235 of 2012 titled Save Life Foundation v/s Union of India, passed a judgment (AIR 2016 SC 1617) by incorporating the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the examination of Good Samaritans by the Police and during trial. The Apex Court invoked Article 141 and 142 of the Constitution of India, making these guidelines and SOPs binding throughout the country thereby giving them the “force of law”. The Law Commission of India in one its reports has said that 50 percent of the deaths in road traffic accidents (RTAs) in India can be averted if the victims were able to get the basic care at the time of accident (golden hour) . This is only possible when people at the site of accident come forward and handle such cases. But as police used to question people coming forward, most of people present at the site of accident or road crash were reluctant to help the accident victims and this lead to lots of causalities. Now the scenario is changing day by day.
Piyush’s 16 year old cousin was hit by a vehicle in New Delhi around 2008. There were dozens of pedestrians around this injured boy but nobody dared to come forward and take him to the hospital during that golden hour. It was too late when the police came and by that time the boy had bled profusely and he was no more in this world. Piyush who was a banker decided to challenge the law wherein people coming with helping hands were questioned by police , courts and hospital staff. In absence of an emergency medical system bystanders and pedestrians can play a great role at the time of accident. This as I said does not happen in most of the cases because of police harassment or litigations. Even after the Supreme Court ‘s intervention and continuous radio and TV campaign by Government , people are still reluctant to come forward for the help. This is mainly due to lack of awareness. Piyush along with Krishen Mehta founded an NGO Save Life Foundation (SLF) soon after his cousin’s tragic death. The NGO started its activities by training police officials who are the first to come to the accident spot. The training was provided in basic trauma and life support skills. During last more than 10 years SLF has diversified its work. It started doing advocacy for robust road safety and emergency care legislations. In addition to it accident prevention training programs for high-risk commercial drivers is also being imparted by NGO. SLF which is based in New Delhi now operates in over 11 states and union territories across the country. Piyush featured in Time Magazine in 2015. His NGO Save Life Foundation (SLF) has been awarded NGO of year ward by Rockefeller Foundation in 2014. Clinton Global Initiative gave membership to SLF in 2014. Piyush got Ashoka fellowship in 2013 .
Good Samaritan Law
Because of SLF’s efforts Supreme Court of India under its special constitutional provisions has made the implementation of Good Samaritan guidelines and SOPs binding on all States and Union Territories of India. But this is yet to be made a legislation by Government of India. Karnataka state enacted a Good Samaritan Law which was given assent by President of India in September 2018. Karnataka has become the first state to give legal protection to good Samaritans through a legislation. On September 30th 2018 President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill, 2016. The aim of this legislation is to give legal protection to volunteers / good samaritans so as to ensure immediate medical assistance for road traffic accident victims within the ‘golden hour’. This law will also encourage people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment at the hands of police and other authorities. The ‘golden hour’ in the medical terminology is the first hour after a traumatic injury when emergency treatment is very crucial. Under the new law Govt of Karnataka will also provide financial help to good Samaritans to volunteer themselves during road traffic accidents.
In view of large number of road traffic accidents (RTAs) taking place in Jammu & Kashmir State, we loose lot of precious lives every day on our roads. In most of the cases people do not come forward due to reasons discussed above. It is essential people are made aware of the Golden Hour and Good Samaritans are given a legal cover. Government and NGOs need to create awareness on these issues. Jammu & Kashmir needs to enact a law in this direction so as to reduce fatalities during road traffic accidents. I would appeal local political parties to make sure they include this issue in their election manifesto for the upcoming Assembly elections. Good Samaritan Law needs to be enacted in J&K through a legislative process…..
(The author is Founder & Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement)
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat