While after years of debates and discussions, a draft bill is now finally being prepared to provide immunity to bystanders or passersby and encourage them to help victims of road accidents, a Delhi resident has for years been waging a lone battle against such apathy. He has been contributing his bit to society by rushing accident victims to hospitals.
Meet Suraj Prakash Vaid. He is a tour and taxi operator who has been fearlessly taking accident victims to hospital for the past 30 years.
Claiming that rushing an accident victim to hospital has always been his priority, Mr. Vaid said time immediately after an accident is important. “It is the golden hour and if a victim reaches hospital within the hour, the chances of survival go up. Otherwise, people lose lives due to excessive bleeding when even the injury is not too grave.”
“The first time I helped someone this way was nearly three decades ago. I had just alighted from a bus at Vikas Marg when I saw a man lying injured. His name was Anil and I had rushed him to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in an auto-rickshaw. For that, the then DCP Traffic Maxwell Pereira had issued me an appreciation letter.”
The motivation had its impact. Over the years, Mr. Vaid has taken 70 more people to hospitals from accidents he witnessed along the way. Each time though he would take them to government hospitals as he “knew the system”.
On whether, he ever faced harassment at the hands of the Delhi Police, Mr. Vaid said, on the contrary, he has only got encouragement from them. “But then I knew my rights,” he said, adding that “anyone can leave an accident victim at the hospital without disclosing his or her own identity.”
But in his case, Mr. Vaid said, he always made it a point to take down – wherever it was possible – the victim’s phone number, the registration number of vehicles involved in the accident, as that helped in the police investigation.
“I also used to take over the personal belongings of the victims and hand them over to either the police personnel or the doctors on duty at the hospital. Often I would also be given a receipt for this,” he said.
While some of the victims survived, others proved not so lucky, said Mr. Vaid who ran a transport business in Connaught Place Outer Circle.
He said with the advent of mobile phones, reaching out to the families of victims became easier. “I would either call on the ‘home’ contact or just the last caller and ask him/her to convey the information to the family.”
Though Mr. Vaid acknowledges that in seven to eight cases, he was named as the witness, he said the judges and lawyers were usually appreciative of his act and so he only had to make two to three appearances and not more in the courts. “That is a small price to pay for the satisfaction derived out of saving someone’s life.”
There have also been five to seven instances where people have called up to thank him for saving either their life or that of others. “From Army personnel to foreign nationals, I have got letters of thanks,” said Mr. Vaid, a recipient of the National Award on Road Safety presented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Mr. Vaid recalled how he had transported many of the injured in his white Maruti van through the ’80s and ’90s. “Following the blast at ITO in 1998, I had taken five injured to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital and alerted the hospital authorities to keep their stretchers open and ready for more.”
On his suggestions for improving the confidence of Good Samaritans, Mr. Vaid is clear that the daily diary entries should be made in a clear handwriting as it helps in getting the guilty punished. “I also often tell those driving rash that they should be more sensitive towards others. Often I get glares and stares, but the effort is worth it if it drives home the point to even a few.”