PARADIP: In 2005 when Pankaj Kumar Tarai, a truck driver, was on his way to Paradip, he found a large gathering of people near Bhutamundai on the Cuttack-Paradip State Highway. A truck had rammed into a motorcycle and two persons lay there in a pool of blood. While one suffered a serious head injury, a leg of the other person was severed. None from the gathering, though, offered to shift them to the hospital and minutes later the victims succumbed on the spot.
“The two lives could have been saved had they received timely medical aid”, said Pankaj, a resident of Hasina village under Kujang block. The incident left him emotionally shaken and he decided to help every accident victim he came across. In the last 16 years, Pankaj, 38, has rescued 400 accident victims in Jagatsinghpur district of whom, 300 survived.
Although Pankaj started rescuing accident victims alone, many others joined him in his mission over the years. Helping him in the drive is a strong group of local volunteers, youth groups, sarpanchs, panchayat samiti members, fire and police personnel, all of whom have been brought under a common platform - Devadutt (meaning Gift of God) Sangathan - which was founded by him in 2015.
There are 25 members in the group. They either rush to help the victims or coordinate with the local police, firefighters and volunteers to shift the injured to hospital. “The volunteers also arrange for vehicles to shift the injured people to hospitals. We work in close coordination to ensure that every accident victim gets timely medical help”, said Pankaj, who has also started a namesake WhatsApp group of volunteers, youth groups, police and fire station personnel who put in information on accidents and also coordinate with sarpanchs and PRI members to help families of the victims.
Neither Pankaj nor his volunteers have sought money from the victims or their families for the work. “Life is a gift of God. There is no greater work for a human being than saving a life”, he said. He spends nearly 25 percent of his monthly income towards helping the accident victims and saves the rest to maintain his family of six. With the increasing number of vehicles, road accidents have been on the rise in the district, particularly the Bhutamundai to Rahama stretch of Cuttack-Paradip State Highway. Several parts of the highway have been identified as black spots (accident-prone places) too.
Many people whose lives Pankaj has saved, consider him a part of their families now. A mechanical engineer, Nihar Ranjan Mohanty of Tandikula village in Balikuda block, said he is indebted to Pankaj for giving him a new life. Ranjan was hit by a car while on his way to Paradip on a motorcycle on Cuttack-Paradip State highway on Diwali last year.
“I had fallen unconscious following the accident. I was told that locals called Pankaj and he shifted me to Kujang hospital. From there, he took me to SCB Medical College and Hospital by arranging an ambulance. Had he not been there, I am not sure if I would have survived”, he said.
Pankaj and his volunteers have also been creating awareness among people to help accident victims in the golden hour (one hour following a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood of preventing death by providing prompt medical care).
“Even today, people hesitate to help accident victims. State government’s Good Samaritan policy is a good step to encourage more and more people to come forward, assist accident victims and save their lives. But it needs to raise awareness among people about the policy”, he said.