Heartless India? Time to punish people who watched Karnataka cyclist bleed to death | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Heartless India? Time to punish people who watched Karnataka cyclist bleed to death

opinion Updated: Feb 16, 2017 17:43 IST
Ruben Banerjee
Karnataka road accident

The video footage that has now gone viral shows the victim lying in a pool of blood crying for help. (Youtube/Tv9 Kannada)

Is India a nation of heartless Indians? It is, however, bitter and blasphemous it may sound in present times marked by orchestrated patriotic fervor.

What else can explain passers-by filming themselves as a young cyclist in Karnataka lay bleeding on a road and cried for help after being hit by a speeding vehicle on Wednesday? None came forward to help and the boy died in hospital. Doctors said he died because of losing blood. Help given earlier could have possibly saved the boy.

The irony is a young life was lost to apathy at a time when we are trying to be better Indians. Though we are standing up to the national anthem in rapt attention these days, we have let our humanity slip.

The insensitivity on display in Karnataka was not an aberration. On the contrary, it actually was symptomatic of a deep malaise that’s steadily eroding the values of Indianness.

I am still haunted by the images of a middle-aged man lying dead after suffering a heart attack while standing in a long queue in front of an ATM in West Bengal at the peak of last month’s cash crisis. Any sensible person would have been ashamed to be photographed in the queue, doing nothing for the fallen man. But the truth is none really cared, as laying hands on a few currency notes was seen to be more valuable than a human life.

There have been more public displays of our dehumanization in recent months: a young biker was cut into two by a speeding truck, but was miraculously alive for some time to plead for help. People did rush, but only to crowd around and take videos. This man too died an undignified death. Ditto with a police inspector struck down by a speeding vehicle in south India. He died unattended as people around busied themselves taking selfies.

Given our past experiences with police and courts, many of us think it is prudent to stay clear of trouble, including accident sites and victims. But the excuse is no more valid.

I wonder what explanation the gawking Indians could give for their inane ‘inhumanity’ and total lack of empathy.

Given our past experiences with police and courts, many of us think it is prudent to stay clear of trouble, including accident sites and victims. But the excuse is no more valid. Last year, the Supreme Court approved the guidelines issued by the Centre for the protection of Good Samaritans at the hands of police or any other authority. Under the new law, people who volunteer to help victims can no more be harassed by the authorities.

Sadly though, the fine piece of law is being undone by our selfishness. The Law Commission of India states that 50% of those killed in road accidents could have been saved had timely assistance been rendered to them.

Since standing by and watching a person die is no less a crime, it’s perhaps time that the Good Samaritan law have punitive provisions for ‘Bad Samaritans’: people who do nothing to help a dying person.

A strong deterrent towards criminal apathy is what we need. An India that brooks no indignity will make us more proud when we stand up for the national anthem in the future.

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