Even though India’s apex court has ordered the legal protection of people who help accident victims under the Good Samaritan Laws, people refuse to get their hands dirty.
India is a diverse country, and the one thing that Indians feel proud about is their compassion. Be it the Mumbai train blasts, or the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, we pride ourselves on saving lives of complete strangers. However, where does that pride go when we see an accident?
The most ironical incident was when on 2nd February, 18-year-old Anwar Ali lay profusely bleeding and begging for help. He lay on a road in Koppal for almost 25 minutes after his cycle had been hit by a state-run bus. Karnataka is the only Indian state to have passed a Good Samaritan Bill. This Bill aims to encourage and protect people who come forward to help victims of road accidents.
Just three days prior to this incident, the state saw another accident, where a policeman in Mysuru was left bleeding and trapped in his police vehicle after a collision with a bus. Even there, despite having legal protection, no one came forward to help the accident victim.
Reluctance to help
The reluctance to help an accident victim in India is like a parasite which keeps growing with passing time. This reluctance is one of the biggest reasons for deaths on our roads. The Indian Law Commission (shockingly) estimates that 50 % of the country’s road fatalities could have been averted if only medical assistance was given in time.
In fact, the World Health Organisation said that even the most sophisticated and well-equipped trauma care systems can do little if bystanders fail to help.
Why this reluctance?
When we talk about accidents in India, there are two disturbing facts:
- India has the largest number of road crashes and deaths.
- Three out of four people in the country are hesitant to help injured accident victims on roads due to fear of police harassment, detention at hospitals, and prolonged legal formalities.
The latter was discussed in a survey conducted by the SaveLIFE Foundation. It is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organisation. Its main objective is to improve road safety and emergency care.
Why the Good Samaritan Law?
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways recognized the problem and issued the Good Samaritan Guidelines in 2015. The Supreme Court of India then gave these guidelines the force of law in the year 2016.
The Good Samaritan Law offers the following primary benefits:
- Protection from any legal complication to anyone who comes forward to help out a road accident victim.
- The “Good Samaritan” can choose to file a police complaint without disclosing their name.
This has been heralded as a landmark step towards safer roads in India.
These guidelines are applicable pan-India. However, only Karnataka took a step forward, and made these guidelines a State Law.
Even though these Guidelines exist, and all Indian citizens are protected under it, it took 25 minutes for a Good Samaritan to step forward and help the seriously injured Anwar.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is how bystanders can help in the absence of established emergency medical services:
- They can call for help.
- Provide first-aid to the injured.
- Take them to the nearest hospital, if an ambulance does not arrive in time.
Incidents like these reiterate the fact that it is absolutely necessary that the Union and State Governments run massive campaigns to make people aware of these Guidelines. This country needs Good Samaritans, and the citizens need them. Let’s become the gamechangers, because now the law is with us.
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