17th July, 2014

By Anwesha Dhar:

It was a special day for the Gupta family of Haryana. Jyoti Gupta and her husband Dr.Pankaj Gupta, along with their daughters, three year old Lineshya and eight month old Ashiya, formed a picture of a perfect happy family as they were eagerly waiting for the school bus to arrive for their elder daughter. It was to be her first day in school, the beginning of a new, exciting chapter of all their lives. Fate, however, had other plans in store for them. As Pankaj stood at the stop with Lineshya, waiting for the school bus to arrive, a bus speedily approached them from the wrong side of the road. Jyoti, who stood there stupefied, guarding her eight month old baby, witnessed her world being torn apart as it hit both her husband and daughter. Recounting the horrors of that day, Jyoti says, “I watched my 3-year-old daughter, Lineshya, and husband die in front of my eyes. They were right outside our house waiting for the school van when a speeding bus came from the wrong side and dragged them away. Both of them died on the spot. My whole world turned upside down. I lost everything in just a few minutes.

jyotiAmidst the confusion and havoc wreaked by the accident, the driver tried to escape. Even though he was ultimately caught and jailed, to make things worse for Jyoti, he was out on bail in a few hours. She was left alone in this world, broken, defeated and completely helpless. “The driver who killed my family was out on bail within a few hours. I am still in shock and disbelief.

Battling the tragic turn that her life unexpectedly took that day, Jyoti refused to sit silent. Acknowledging that what happened to her family is irreversible, Jyoti decided to take a step to prevent such a fate from visiting any other family. She filed an online petition with change.org and SaveLIFE Foundation, addressed to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, where she has appealed for stricter road safety laws for India.

I am not alone. Even Cabinet Minister Gopinath Munde died in a road accident recently. In fact, in the last 10 years alone, more than 1 million people have died in road accidents in India. This needs to change. That’s why I started this petition along with SaveLIFE Foundation asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure a stronger road safety law and introduce it in Parliament”, says Jyoti.

Statistically speaking, 20 children under the age of 14 die every day on our roads. 97% of Indian roads do not have proper footpaths. According to a report in Indian Express, “The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, seen as the principal legislation on road safety, has failed to protect and regulate the different types of road users in our country. Even minor amendments proposed to the act during the last few Parliament sessions could not see the light of day and lapsed with the close of the 15th Lok Sabha. A new draft of the act, submitted in 2011 by an expert committee under the chairmanship of S. Sunder, a former Union transport secretary, was never introduced in Parliament.” The petition thus tries to reach to the root of the problem and curb several such tragedies which might rise due to the prevalent inaction in our country for road safety.

The petition, which requires active support from the citizens of the country to gain effect, requests for the following provisions-

  1. Establishment of a national lead agency for cohesive, multilateral coordination
  2. Statutes for safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs)
  3. Statutes for protection of children during commute
  4. Robust, scientific and standardized accident investigation and data collection system
  5. Stringent punishment for faulty road design and engineering
  6. Transparent, centralized and efficient driver’s licensing system
  7. Mandatory safe driving training for all
  8. Strict regulation of Heavy Motor Vehicles (HMV’s) such as trucks, buses and lorries
  9. Stringent punishment for drunk-driving and over-speeding
  10. Stringent punishment for violation of helmet and seat-belt laws

Braving the storms which have shook her world, Jyoti paints a picture of strong determination as she signs off by saying, “The only law governing road safety in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 has not been effective. Pedestrians and cyclists are most affected on the roads but there are no laws to protect them. We cannot let more people die just because there isn’t an effective law in place.

To gain effect, the petition requires 2,00,000 signatures. If you would like to render support to Jyoti to secure this goal, you can sign the petition here.

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