Helping accident victims and doing our duty as citizens
John F. Kennedy‘s famous words:
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country
are words that every Indian knows only too well, in spirit I mean. The government and the media does ask a lot from us common citizens. In fact if things go tragically wrong, citizens can be blamed and called heartless. There are similar such situations in many cities in India. Just a small example.
Recently, young Chinmay Bedekar bled to death on the Eastern Express Highway in Mumbai (not a crowded road, but yes the traffic is fast and busy with mostly motorists and commercial vehicles frequenting the highway) because no one could get him to hospital in time. A lot of vehicles whizzed by without helping. Reportedly even a vehicle with policemen passed by but they did not take the victim to hospital:
Minutes after the accident, a police Sumo heading towards Thane stopped at the spot. The driver stepped out to check what was happening. But when we asked him to take the victims to a hospital, he offered lame excuses and left. Since he was a cop, we could not even force him to help us,” said Rajiv Sharma, a Thane resident who was on his way to work in Mumbai but had stopped to try and help the victims.
Mumbai is taking the accusation that they are heartless to heart, and college students in Mumbai/Thane are trying to raise awareness about helping accident victims. Its a very good initiative and certainly we all need to imbibe noble virtues such as stopping and helping accident victims, and I look forward to a time when citizens feel it is their duty to put aside all personal apprehensions and help victims. After all it can be a matter of life and death.
A major apprehension amongst citizens is the fear of harrassment by the police. People believe that the police harass those who bring in accident victims, and infact even doctors believe that they will be harassed if they treat the victims. Of late the police have been insisting that does/will not happen anymore…that questions will not be asked, but the reality on the ground is that no one believes it.
Why don’t people just call the ambulance services? Ambulance services do exist, but not only is awareness low, people who do know about them have little faith that the service will arrive in time. How many people have the numbers of ambulance services by heart?
But I don’t believe that citizens don’t help. Why just recently, a 75 year old man was taken to hospital by the people, after being knocked down by a tanker. In a rickshaw. Sadly, he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Citizens play cops too
Just to give another example of how much citizens do is a story in the Mumbai Mirror just today. It’s about a 20-year-old student of SNDT College whose bag was snatched at a railway station. She chased the thief, dangerously crossing tracks with trains zipping by, and actually caught hold of his collar! The thief held his ears and apologized to her…imagine just a slip of a girl did this! There was also this case of a boy cop, who caught a man who had robbed him by staking out the railway station for a good 22 days!! These are the stories of the heroes and heroines of our city but to expect such heroism from the average citizen is not practical.
What’s a good citizen? All this made me think about what a good or ideal citizen is all about. Here are some answers (the definitions below are not in my own words, but are mostly quotes, with minor changes):
 Good citizens understand that they have a responsibility to the community, environment and law.
 Vital work carried out in the community by individuals or groups who expect nothing in return for their efforts.
 Being an ideal citizen means first being a good husband and a good father, being honest in his dealings, faithful and fearless…these being as important as the civil and military duties.
 Being a good citizen goes well beyond voting, jury duty, and community service. It involves doing work that reminds us of our heritage, helps us better understand our government, promotes a sense of community, and keeps individuals and families strong…
Traits of a bad citizen
Looking out only for yourself.
Littering and wasting resources.
Leaving all political matters to the so-called “experts.”
Well, I guess there are other definitions and explanations too, but what finally matters is what the individual himself believes are his duties, what his own life situation is. One does tend to expect more from well-to-do educated individuals. And while Kennedy’s words have echoed in my mind since I was a child, I think it’s natural to expect something from our government and our police. And yes, some understanding from our media.
(All pictures are from Mumbai Mirror)