Illustration ? Soumyadip Sinha
BENGALURU: Jaya Hegde, along with her husband and two kids, was returning to Bengaluru by car after a splendid vacation in Mangaluru. About 50 km from Bengaluru, nearNelamangala (NH 48), they met with an accident. Hegde and her daughter, who were in the back seat, were thrown out of the car and all four had suffered major injuries. The horror did not end there. When they came near the car, they realised that they have been robbed of their valuables – Hegde’s bag, wallet and mobile phones. There they were, hurt and helpless, waiting for assistance.
“If only we had our mobile phones, we could’ve contacted someone — our family members or an ambulance — for assistance. Who do we blame? The crowd? The thief would have already left the spot by the time we could recover,” Hegde says.The thieves, hiding in the crowd, come over to ‘help’ the accident victims. In the melee, they try to make a quick buck by stealing wallets and mobile phones, which are easily ‘accessible’. Such instances are very common on highways as it is easy to divert attention and escape from the place. Lack of CCTV cameras at the accident spots is an added bonus.
Techie Raghu Krishnappa was returning from Mysuru on a bike when he was robbed after an accident. “I met with an accident near Channapatna. I had fallen down and people picked me up and helped me to a spot, to rest, nearby. On reaching the city, I went to buy painkillers and that's when I realised that my pocket was picked. I am certain that my wallet had not fallen down... I felt miserable that day,” he says.
Dileep Nagraj, a soft-skills trainer, was travelling near Hassan, when a lorry driver rammed into his SUV. “I parked my car and went to speak to the lorry driver.
He agreed to pay the money, and I went to get my wallet to give him my card. Voila! Both phone and the wallet, which were on the dashboard, were missing. I had forgotten to raise the windows and the thief was in the crowd, waiting for an opportunity. The crowd kept looking at me while I was searching for my valuables. It was horrible,” Dileep recalls.
Arvind KR, a businessman, recalls how he was ‘pushed around by the crowd’ after an accident. “It was the other driver’s fault. Because I was alone and they were a gang of five, I was assaulted and was robbed of gold chain. I’m now scared to drive alone.”Psychiatrist Mallika Raveendra says, “These thieves, if they ever get arrested, need to be counselled first. How can anyone think of stealing from the people lying in a pool of blood? It is very inhuman. They are fully aware of what they are doing but consider it a ‘job’,” she says.
‘300 patrol vehicles on the road, ready to help’
MA Saleem, commissioner of road safety and traffic, says they are aware of such incidents. “We have over 300 Highway Patrolling Vehicles, who will be the first respondents to such incidents. You can reach them by calling 100. The accident victims can also file a separate complaint at the local police station, where the incident happened. Local police will assist them in the case,” Saleem says.