NEW DELHI: Raghvendra Kumar, a resident of Madhubani in Bihar, sold his ancestral land so that he could distribute over 50,000 helmets among those who ride two wheelers without the protective gear.
While wheelchair-bound Harman Singh Sidhu led a campaign to get sale of liquor banned on all state and national highways, and Deepak Sharma, a lecturer in Punjab’s Ferozepur district, runs a foundation that conducts an awareness programme against underage driving.
Common among the three are personal loses in tragedies that turned them into road safety crusaders.
“I lost my friend and roommate four years ago in a road accident. The bitter truth is he could have been saved if he was wearing a helmet,” Kumar told PTI.
“I did not realise the importance of a helmet until then and I am sure many others don’t realise it until they lose their loved ones in a similar way. I then resolved that if I can save lives by warning them against not wearing a helmet, that will be a lesson learnt for me,” he said.
Since the tragedy, Kumar has distributed over 50,000 helmets and is popularly known as the “Helmet Man of India”.
“I first sold some jewellery, which I had at home, to procure helmets, but that was not enough. Then I decided to sell my ancestral land,” he said while speaking about the difficulties in the way to spread awareness on use of helmets.
It has been five years since Sharma lost his 16-year-old son Mayank in a motorcycle accident, but still repents saying, “I should have stopped him”.
The accident, he said, turned him into a road safety activist who warns parents against underage driving.
“I should have stopped him and this will remain with me forever. I run awareness campaigns for parents so one day they do not have to regret that they should have stopped their children or sensitised them against not driving until the legal age,” Sharma said.
In Indore, Ranjeet Singh, a traffic policeman has been using late pop icon Michael Jackson’s ‘moonwalk’ to control traffic in the Madhya Pradesh city for nearly 17 years, and it all started with a road accident.
“I got a message that there was an accident and when I reached the spot and tried to control the crowd, I saw my friend lying in a pool of blood. I decided then that I have to do something unique to engage people in road safety lessons and encourage them to follow rules,” he said, adding that it was then he decided on the moonwalk’ Many people do not respect the traffic light and have an impulse to jump it if there are no police personnel watching, but once they see me performing, they stop and traffic is managed smoothly, Singh said.
“The technique also helps whenever I’m deputed at places where we need to do crowd management,” he said, adding that he has received recognition not only from his department but also multiple awards for the initiative.
For Sidhu it was a 1996 road accident that came as a turning point.
Though he survived a nearly 50-feet fall, it left him paralysed from the neck down and confined him to a wheelchair forever.
Sidhu took up the cause of road safety and filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Punjab and Haryana High Court appealing all liquor vends on national and state highways be closed down as they are a major cause of drunk driving resulting in fatal accidents.
Finally, after years of campaigning for no liquor shops on highways, his efforts got a boost when in December, 2016 the Supreme Court ordered a ban on liquor shops along the highways.