"The fight is not just for my son. Why can't agencies take steps to avoid such tragedies? Why can't we have a protocol to identify and fill our potholes?"
On February 10, 2014, Manoj Wadhwa was riding his bike on the National Highway-2 in Faridabad (Haryana). His wife, Tina, was riding pillion and three-year-old son, Pavitra, was sitting between them.
Manoj spotted a pool of water on the highway and applied hard brakes. The road was slippery, causing the bike to skid. Pavitra hit a stone on the road and a vehicle run over Tina’s legs.
All this happened within a few seconds, leaving no time for Manoj to understand the situation.
He rushed Tina to the hospital, while some bystanders took Pavitra to another hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.
Because of a small pool of water, Manoj and Tina had lost their child.
Following this, the police filed a closure report, claiming that this was a hit-and-run case. Manoj was following up with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the Haryana Government and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as well as the police but no one answered his calls.
Frustrated with the lack of response and the “sloppy” investigation in the matter, Manoj moved the Punjab and Haryana High Courts to seek justice for Pavitra’s death in 2016.
This seemed like a good decision because the court directed the Faridabad police to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in August 2018.
The Faridabad city police filed a report with the HC saying that the SIT had found the directors and project managers of Larsen & Toubro and Delhi-Agra Toll Road Private Ltd responsible for the condition of the road.
And now, the HC has held six executives of the two agencies responsible for the mishap.
According to the report, the six accused have been charged with “causing grievous hurt by endangering life or personal safety and causing death due to negligence” under section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and sections 279, 337 and 304-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Denson Joseph, the lawyer for the Wadhwa family, said in a statement, “The couple suffered mental agony. This was not all. The family spent more than Rs 24 lakh on the treatment of Tina, who remained hospitalised for more than a month.”
Accidents like these are not uncommon in India. In 2017, accidents due to potholes claimed about ten lives every day! Such horrible numbers call for accountability from the makers of the road.
As Manoj told TOI, “The fight is not just for my son. Why can’t agencies take steps to avoid such tragedies? Why can’t we have a protocol to identify and fill our potholes? The practice of paying Rs 4-5 lakh compensation for each death should stop. How can [the] government simply end the matter [by] fixing such a price for any human life?”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)