‘Protect India’s future’ – Road crash survivors appeal for strict motor vehicles laws to be upheld
At a time when many states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jharkhand have refused to implement stiff penalties under the newly amended Motor Vehicles Act, road accident survivors have emerged as powerful voices of support. The laws, they say, are necessary to protect future generations from disability and death. That’s the focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
“The goal is not to escape paying fines to the police, the goal should be to escape death!” Pratishtha Deveshwar, an emerging voice in India’s disability rights movement is among those speaking out against the way one state after another is shamelessly diluting the provisions of the newly amended Motor Vehicles Act.
Starting with Gujarat, several states have been quick to roll back the fines announced for traffic penalties, a move that has angered road crash survivors and their families. Pratishtha, a student of Lady Sriram College in New Delhi, is also unhappy with how the issue is being covered.
Some of the memes and captions going around are saying things like ‘I will have to take loans to pay the challan’ etc. I agree some are funny, but this is the reality for families whose loved ones have been in accidents, they literally have to beg for money to save the lives of loved ones. Accidents and the expenses incurred on treatment can drain you. – Pratishtha Deveshwar, Head, Equal Opportunity Cell, Lady Sriram College
Pratishtha was 13 when a road accident left her with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and paralysed for life. Her car overturned due to bad road conditions and she got no help in the initial hours as people didn’t come forward fearing police harassment.
“If the Act, as it is today, was there during my accident people would have come forward to help thanks to the Good Samaritan provision. The amended Act also gives citizens the right to demand better roads. Again, if this had been there, my accident may not have occurred”. Pratishtha was not wearing a seat belt at the time. “If the rule about compulsory seat belt existed, my parents would have made me wear one”, she adds.
The amended law is important as it will hold people accountable and not bad karma. High time, says Shishir Bhatnagar, a nautical consultant, who uses a wheelchair due to an SCI. He sustained his injury in a freak swimming pool mishap and is vocal in his support for tougher road safety laws. “45% of SCI are due to road accidents and given this situation. fines must be higher. I simply don’t get the protests over this. This means they simply want to keep breaking the rules”.
Kerala disability rights activist Prajith Jaipal agrees.
“People must accept laws that exist for the larger common good, but that doesn’t happen”. He points to the protests over the Kerala government’s move to make helmets compulsory for pillion riders and seat belts mandatory for people seated in the back seat of cars. Prajith has made a video on road safety highlighting the amended laws, that can be watched here.
“The only way to make laws effective is to have high penalties”, adds Shama Noorani Choudhary, Project Expert, Enable Travel. “We should feel ashamed to be caught riding without helmets or driving without a seat belt. I feel the government should put their heads down and enforce this in some way. I think the amended act is fabulous”.
Above all, they protect India’s future, argues Pratishtha. “It is important we take care of our children as they are the future so people must come together to help protect India’s future”.