Different tragedies, different organisations, but similar goals

For young minds: Arundhati Foundation, a non-profit organisation, conducts, among other events, SafetyQuest for schoolchildren to touch upon aspects of safety.  

On November 18, ‘SafetyQuest’, an event for schoolchildren touching upon aspects of safety — road, fire and electrical safety — was conducted by Arundhati Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Bengaluru. It coincided with two other events: the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on November 19 (commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year) and what would have been the 27th birthday of Arundhathi (November 21), in whose memory the foundation was started.

In September 2014, Arundhathi, 23, a PG medical student in Vellore, was heading to college from her hostel, about 12 km away, riding pillion, wearing a helmet. She was run over by a truck. That is all that the family knows. “To tell you the truth, we really don’t know what happened. That is part of the pain. There is no closure. People keep saying it is fate. No one takes responsibility. In September 2014, everything came closer home. Life changed. At some point of time, we realised dieticians are not fate and we can no longer remain bystanders. So we decided two months after her death to start the foundation,” said Shubhangi Tambwekar, Arundhathi’s mother.

Since then, the foundation has been engaged in various activities, including aspects of road safety. “Road safety is a two-way affair. There is a lot that the government can do. But we as citizens too can do simple things, such as ensure we wear helmet and seat belt,” said Dr. Tambwekar, who also stressed on the need for better accident investigations.

Creating awareness

There are other such initiatives that have resulted out of tragedies. The Ability People is an Andhra Pradesh-based NGO with the mission to create “road safety consciousness and social justice for persons with mobility disability”. Dilip Patro, its founder-secretary, was 27 years old when an incident changed his life forever. Employed with a Bengaluru-based IT company, Mr. Patro was in Mumbai in 1997 to complete his visa procedures as he was set to move to the U.S. for a project.

“I was heading to the hotel from office and was crossing the road on the highway. A two-wheeler hit me. The rider was drunk. He fled the scene. I was thrown off the road and lay there bleeding for four hours. When I was finally being shifted to an ambulance by the police, my neck was broken in the process,” he recalled. Seventy-two hours later, recovering from a coma in a private hospital to where his colleagues shifted him, he was told that he had suffered a high-level spinal cord injury.

“People are not aware of how to help crash victims during the golden hour or the Good Samaritan guidelines. Every year, more than 20,000 new spinal cord injuries are reported in India because of accidents, and our hospitals have only 900 beds for them. So we started a rehabilitation centre specially for patients with spinal injuries and other orthopaedic injuries,” said Mr. Patro.

Origin in a tragedy

SaveLIFE Foundation is among the best known independent organisations working in the area of road safety in India, and its back story traces to a tragedy as well. Shivam Bajpai, 16, was returning home after school in 2007 in Kanpur. A four-wheeler knocked him down. He managed to drag himself to the side of the road. Passers-by offered him water, but not medical help. He bled to death. The incident affected his cousin, Piyush Tewari, to such an extent that he started the foundation in 2008, and immersed himself full-time into it in 2011.

Among its major achievements, the foundation managed to bring about guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans and the standard operating procedures for their examination by the police and during trial, through a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court in 2016.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 11:57:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/different-tragedies-different-organisations-but-similar-goals/article20552988.ece

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