“Please do not send condolence messages. Instead, gift a helmet to a girl riding without one, click your selfie with her and send it,” read the social media post of Pradeep Niphadkar, a journalist and poet, soon the death of his daughter.
Niphadkar lost Pranjali in a in a road accident in 2015. She was riding without a helmet. He has since spent his time trying to get youngsters to wear helmets, through talks and seminars, and even by distributing helmets to in colleges.
“My selfie request went viral across the state. Film stars, professors, directors, businessmen and politicians responded to my humble request. I was overwhelmed,” said Niphadkar, calling it a tribute to his daughter. The focus must not only be on getting the youth to protect themselves, but also finding ways that would encourage them to do so.
Niphadkar gives out helmets at colleges, both on his own and with the help of several NGOs. “Recently, we distributed more than 500 helmets in a college. I don’t work under any banner, but I am just trying to reach out to the younger generation, to urge them to use helmets,” he said.
Why don’t the youth want to wear helmets? “They have many reasons,” Niphadkar said, “but they are all baseless.” “Some say they lose hair, some say it hurts their neck and the weight causes back pain. But you can always cover your head with a cloth to prevent the hair fall and the back problems are a result of long hours of riding.”
But Niphadkar pointed out the state government could work on improving the kind of helmets manufactured. “With time, our technology has made things lighter and more adaptable. Why hasn’t this come down to helmets? They are still heavy and have a standard design,” said Niphadkar.
He said he met authorities to ask for a scheme that will make helmets lighter and make them more attractive for people to use.