They use these unfortunate incidents to promote road-safety, each in their own way. During this year, they had to put their regular campaigns on hold, but the desire to educate, and even gently nudge people into safety consciousness, is seared into their souls. As a symbol of this resolve, Meher’s father Freddy Rohinton Sanjana has tattooed his son’s image on his arm.
In 2010, Pavit Singh Nayar, a 20-year-old met with a fatal road accident at Besant Nagar. If he had buckled up, the youngster would have survived the crash. The same year, his family started the Pavit Singh Road Safety Trust, with awareness campaigns about wearing seat belt and helmet as the main focus area.
On June 1 2017, Meher, a 21-year-old, lost his life, in an accident that involved a pedestrian climbing over a low median and crossing the road.
Freddy says that due to the CA classes he was attending, Meher’s day had begun early. At Perungudi on Old Mahabalipuram Road, a pedestrian scuttled across the road, having climbed over the low median, and Meher swerved his motorcycle sharply to save the man, and in the process he himself fell and was critically injured, having “sustained head injuries despite wearing an expensive helmet”.
For Manjit Singh Nayar, Pavit’s father, there was no doubt about what course he should take. He straightaway plunged into a seat-belt campaign, which Nayar points out, was ahead of its times. As general secretary of the Guru Nanak Educational Society, Nayar has ensured the faculty and students riding motorcycles are not allowed to enter the campus, if they are not wearing helmets. Through its NSS and NCC cadets, the Trust promotes road safety awareness on busy roads. Since 2012-13, the family has been offering langar (free community lunch) to students coming to the campus without food. Nayar says that around 700 people are fed during working days.
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The Pavit Singh Nayar Memorial Trophy, an annual inter-collegiate T20 cricket tournament, is another effort to keep the son’s memory alive. Twelve teams took part in the inaugural edition held in 2015. “Now, the event has gone national with colleges from other states also taking part in it. Since the last two years we have expanded the scope of the event to include women cricketers,” says Nayar.
Freddy conducts road safety campaigns, undertaking them individually or in association with the voluntary organisation Thozhan. His personal campaigns are focussed on the danger of crossing roads at undesignated points; highlighting why low medians should be raised; and creating awareness about what ought to be done to help a road accident victim meaningfully, which includes ensuring immediate golden-hour treatment at a well-equipped hospital nearby, even in cases where the accident victim would not be able to continue with the treatment there.
His efforts are centred around OMR where his son lost his life.
Since 2015, a voluntary organisation ‘R-SAFE’ has been organising a candlelight vigil in select parts of Chennai on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (which falls on the third Sunday of November) to help families honour the loved ones they lost to road accidents and achieve some healing. It is also aimed at sending an unspoken message about road safety to the larger world.
In the early years, the candlelight vigil was organised opposite the West Tambaram Bus Stand; the Semmancherry Police Outpost and CMBT Bus Terminus.
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“Now, due to lack of permission, the vigil is conducted only at CMBT,” says J. Krishnamoorty, former joint director, The Institute of Road Transport, and founder of R-SAFE.
“I established R-SAFE after my retirement to promote road user safety through presentation of awareness modules, complete with slides and videos, to students, corporates and drivers,” says Krishnamoorty. “Nobody can fix a price on human life — whatever the compensation, you cannot make up for the loss of a life.”
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