Suffering and apathy in Jaipur: drivers ignore hit-and-run victims
Shiv Aroor’s dispatch on Twitter says it all. Other people in India tonight are echoing the theme: people racing through their day in modern India, too busy or too wary to get involved when they see people in distress. In this case, a truck struck a family of four riding on a motorcycle in Jaipur on Monday, killing a woman and her eight-month-old daughter. The woman’s husband and son escaped. The family was riding the motorcycle through the Ghat Ki Guni tunnel on Sunday afternoon when the truck struck them, according to the Hindustan Times and other Indian news organisations.
Here is more from the HT:
CCTV footages showed that the woman’s husband and his four-year-old son beseeched passers-by for help for almost 10 minutes. However, no one stopped to help them, police said. The survivor, Kanhaiyalal Raigher, tried to call relatives from his mobile, but failed as there was no network connectivity in the tunnel. Raigher, a resident of a village on the outskirts of Jaipur, was on his way to his in-laws’ house with his wife Guddi Devi, 26, daughter Arushi and son Tanish.”
Police told media organisations that two-wheelers are not allowed in the tunnel, but that people drive them there anyway to save time.
Raigher and his son waited an hour for help before a man on a motorcycle rode ahead to tell toll booth operators about the accident, according to NDTV. The network added more details and comment about what one group said was lax behaviour on the part of authorities watching the road via closed-circuit TV:
The driver of the truck that hit the two-wheeler is absconding, the police said. They got the truck’s registration number from the camera footage and later found the truck, they said.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has alleged that the man’s wife could have been saved if people in a control room manning the close circuit television cameras or CCTVs fitted inside the tunnel had called the police on time. “People in the CCTV control room didn’t inform the police… There was a delay of one and a half hours… If she had been given medical attention on time she would have been saved,” NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said.
CNN-IBN quoted a worker at the toll booth who said that he tried to help the family:
A young man who works at the Ghati Ki Guni tunnel traffic control booth and was the first one to come forward to help the Jaipur family that lost two members in a road accident on Sunday, blamed public apathy for the delay in help. “The accident happened at 2.13 pm. I saw the CCTV footage and rushed to help the family. But nobody on the road came forward to help. People just drove by without stopping. I called the PCR and they reached within 7 minutes. They were very helpful. If the people had stopped to help, the situation would have been much better,” Ranjit Kumar said.
When asked why the two-wheeler was allowed entry in the tunnel despite a ban, Kumar said they would not be able to handle the public anger. “The company cannot stop two wheelers from using the tunnel. There will be a lot of public anger which the company cannot tackle. We are taking police’s help in controlling traffic.”
Though I have not read this anywhere yet, the incident reminds me of a similar round of soul searching that flared up in China in 2011. As the BBC reported in October 2012, a driver received a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for striking a two-year-old girl on a busy road and leaving the accident scene. The girl died.
Accidents like these underscore a perception of widespread callousness in both countries. More people in India and China want a piece of the prosperity that two decades of economic liberalisation have wrought. Along with that has come a perception that human decency has moved in inverse proportion as more people hustle for their share (There is plenty of evidence to support the notion that this is a human problem, not a China-India problem). The Jaipur incident also comes after the December gang rape that shocked India and the world and sparked protests among thousands of people in India who protested what they saw as a shocking and unacceptable level of human cruelty and an attitude toward women that is inexcusable.
It would be hard to prove that people in India and China have become harder, crueler or more immune to the suffering of others because of a new-found drive toward capitalist-style success, or that they somehow outrank other nations in apathy toward their fellow human beings. Nevertheless, this attitude exists, and it’s getting a lot of attention, at least for today. India’s roads are notoriously dangerous, and families routinely pile four or five people onto motorcycles and jockey for space on the road with trucks driven with abandon. Every drive I’ve ever taken in India has included a moment when I hand over my fate to the gods and hope for the best. The Jaipur accident challenges people to respond to suffering with mercy and empathy, not with fatalism. Whether people will meet that challenge is anyone’s guess.
(Traffic moves along a busy road in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2011. Reuters photo: B Mathur)