Police are not just about policing. In case of road mishaps, in particular, besides catching hold of the wrongdoer, a prime job of the cops is taking care of the victim. On this count, the Chandigarh police are found wanting.
From reaching in time to managing the spot and the crowd, to providing proper first-aid and taking the victim to hospital, the role is difficult, crucial, and more technical than assumed.
The two wings of the police that have a role to play are the police control room (PCR) and the traffic wing. Authorities routinely say the PCR is not supposed to control vehicles, while the traffic cops are generally meant to control traffic, not for taking care of victims. Such an attitude is bound to create problems, especially when coupled with lack of proper training or its implementation.
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Though the UT police claim a response time of five minutes, there have been cases of delay and gross mishandling of the situation. The official protocol and the red tape become more important than lives when junior officers start waiting for seniors at the spot. At least in four accidents in the past two years, the victims’ families have alleged negligence that resulted in deaths.
Last year, when Nayagaon resident Sharmila Sharma was crushed by a Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) bus, she remained on the road, unattended, for a good two hours. Action was taken later against cops responsible for the delay, and even the high court pulled up the authorities.
The police claimed they had proper first-aid kits; but that was not used in this case. Eyewitnesses claimed she was alive after the accident and could have been saved if taken to the hospital, which was metres away, in time.
In case of minor accidents, it is seen that cops start resolving the problem in the middle of the road, without caring for the traffic situation. In case of major accidents, it has come to the fore that police lack training to handle the victims and the vehicles.
Even though the Chandigarh police have a training programme for cops, more needs to be done to create awareness and empathy. Experts say police need to be trained to lift victims with multiple fractures, head injury and even in the state of unconsciousness.
CRUCIAL TOOLS MISSING
However, Chandigarh police even lack proper equipment to open up cars involved in accidents to save victims if stuck inside the vehicle. The city does not have a dedicated ambulance service in the public sector except those run by hospitals and some NGOs.
Whenever there is an accident, the victim is taken to hospital in a PCR vehicle, a Maruti Gypsy SUV in Chandigarh’s case. Even the mandatory first-aid box and a small stretcher in the Gypsy are missing or inadequate. First-aid boxes in police vehicles are supposed to be equipped with cotton, gauze bandages, antiseptic solutions and ointments, some specialised bandages to treat different kinds of wounds, sterile pads, splints, gloves, disposable facemasks, soaps and hand sanitisers.
Recently, when a car and a bus collided and resulted in six deaths, the impact was such that the car — with three young occupants — got stuck in the mangled car. Passersby rushed to save the three young men, but even the police were not able to cut open the car. In 5-7 minutes, the car went up in flames and the victims were burnt beyond recognition inside.
NO DIGNITY IN DEATH
Even in death, the dignity of victims is compromised. Police officials claim that whenever there is a fatal accident the body is immediately covered with a white sheet. But that’s not true in practice, as was evident in recent accidents. For legal purposes, the body is not removed till the area station house officer or his team arrives as evidence is to be collected from the spot. The official photographer is also required. In a recent accident, the body of a cyclist who died after being hit by a bus kept lying in the middle of the road for about half an hour.
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