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  Life   More Features  22 May 2017  DisCourse: Give Good Samaritans wings

DisCourse: Give Good Samaritans wings

THE ASIAN AGE. | PRATIK KUMAR
Published : May 22, 2017, 3:02 am IST
Updated : May 22, 2017, 3:02 am IST

In India, vehicles on roads are increasing faster than the population.

Suraj Prakash Vaid
 Suraj Prakash Vaid

India’s Golden Hour Man:

For over three decades, Suraj Prakash Vaid, a Delhi-based taxi and tour operator, has been challenging the apathy of people towards road accident victims. “Onlookers take selfies; they don't call the police, and neither do they take the victim to the hospital,” he says. He was referring to a fatal road accident in Koppal, Karnataka, in which a cyclist was run over by a speeding public bus early this year, but the same is true of the attitude of the public generally.

Mr Vaid, 66, says that it’s wrong to presume that police harass good samaritans who help victims of accidents. He has helped police register accident cases, appeared in courts as an eyewitness and saved more than 100 lives in the past 40 years. His reputation for helping accident victims is so widely known that he receives regular invites for talks, seminars, and workshops on road safety.

In fact, Delhi’s taxi and auto driver unions have his mobile number and call him when they hear about an accident. “I have been invited to speak to schoolchildren several times. Kids generally insist their bus drivers drive fast: “Bhaiya, aur tej chalo (please drive faster),’ they say. But I tell them about the perils of speeding,” he says. Mr Vaid maintains a file that has photographs of him with survivors of road accidents, photocopies of police complaints that he lodged in accident cases, and medico-legal certificates from Delhi hospitals that mention his name for bringing in the accident victims. He always keeps a first-aid kit in the storage box of his scooter. Mr Vaid was 24 when he helped accident victims for the first time. The then deputy commissioner of police (traffic), Maxwell Pereira had sent him a letter of appreciation for that effort. “I was sitting in a DTC bus, caught in a traffic jam at Vikas Marg in east Delhi. One of the victims later died in hospital,” he recollects.  

If a victim reaches hospital within the first 60 minutes of a potentially fatal accident, the chances of survival go up, says Mr Vaid. This is backed by a report of the Law Commission of India that said that half the deaths on the country's roads could have been averted if victims had received medical attention within 60 minutes of the accident. “In many cases, I have transported victims to hospitals in the same car they were hit by,” he says. Mr Vaid says that he has a meticulous approach when it comes to taking down important details that may help police register a case.

Mr Vaid has spent many nights away from home to complete medico-legal formalities after admitting accident victims to hospitals. “My family doesn't worry much if I am late; they know I might be helping some road accident victims,” he says. For his efforts, he has received dozens of commendation certificates and cash prizes from senior Delhi police and government departments.

But what he cherishes more are those thank you letters he receives from the road accident survivors. Many of those he saved are in regular touch with him. “Four members of a family were critically injured in a car crash with an army truck in Ajmer, Rajasthan,” he says, showing a letter from a couple who lives in Canada. He says road rage has become an increasing problem in the past few years. “In a recent case of road rage near Geeta Colony, six boys were hurt. They were on motorcycles. A PCR van was on the spot. I told the boys that they could either fight or they could get some first aid. They boys ended their fight, thanked me for the help, and later arrived at a compromise,” he says.

Tags: road accident, accident victims