Mumbai's drivers from hell

A 21 year-old student was run over and a woman injured in two separate hit-and-run instances on Saturday. With 6,000 traffic offenders caught daily, Mumbai is at the mercy of care-a-damn motorists

A third year Bachelor of Science student and a middle-aged woman were involved in two separate hit and run accidents on Saturday. While 30 year-old Ashwini Yogesh Gangurde received injuries on the right side of her face and body, 21 year-old Darshan Kadam, a student of Vidyalankar College, died after he was taken to KEM hospital in Parel.

Junior college student Rahul Desai holds up a bloodied handkerchief that accident victim Darshan Kadam was carrying. Kadam's bike was hit by a tempo on Saturday morning on Elphinstone bridge

Kadam was riding his motorcycle on the Elphinstone flyover at 9.45 am, when he was run over by a tempo. The driver fled from the scene leaving a grievously injured Kadam behind. Rahul Desai, a junior college student, who witnessed the incident, took Kadam to KEM hospital in a taxi.

However, Kadam succumbed to his injuries. A speeding biker hit Gangurde, a resident of Ulhasnagar, while she was crossing the road on the Currey Road flyover, at 11.30 am. The biker, who had stopped after the incident, fled the scene after a crowd began to gather.

Saturday's accidents seem to be part of a rising number of hit and run incidents in a city plagued by narrow pot-holed roads, incessant construction work and footpaths taken over by hawkers.

Rise in road mishaps and deaths
Last month, television actor Ronit Roy was arrested for reportedly ramming into a Wagon R with his Mercedes. The actor was returning from a Diwali party on October 27, when he hit the car. Three persons, including a 56-year-old woman, were injured in the accident.
In April, Ankesh Shahra, the son of the managing director of Ruchi Soya Group allegedly knocked down a motorcyclist with his Porsche car on Marine Drive. Shahra was booked for negligence and drunk driving.

While figures of hit and run incidents are unavailable, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Brijesh Singh told Sunday MiDDAY that 6,000 traffic offences are recorded daily.
"Every day, the traffic police fines more than 6,000 offenders for breaking traffic rules such as over-speeding, drink driving, jumping signals, driving without license and without helmet etc," he said.

21 year-old Darshan Kadam, a student of Vidyalankar College was hit and run over by a tempo on this spot Elphinstone flyover at 9.45 am on Saturday

A recently released National Crime Record Bureau report also revealed that the country has witnessed a 50 per cent increase in the number of deaths caused by road mishaps in 2010 than a decade ago. Maharashtra accounted for 16.7 per cent of them with 64,204 deaths.

Eyewitnesses come forward to help
Desai, a 17 year-old student of Aryambhatt Junior College saw Kadam being run over by the tempo. "I was returning from college when I saw the accident occur. When no one came forward to help the injured man, I crossed the divider and took him to KEM hospital in a taxi.

I called up his father from his cellphone to inform him of the incident. Kadam's upper body was damaged, but he was still breathing when we were going to the hospital. He even managed to walk into the hospital. I regret the fact that despite my efforts, I was not able to save his life," he told Sunday MiDDAY.

Kadam's father, Manohar Kadam, is an assistant sub inspector at the local arms unit 1 of the Mumbai police. He had bought a new bike for his son on Dusshera. Kadam, a Naigon resident, was on his way to the service centre when he met with the accident. Kadam is survived by two older sisters, one of whom is an airhostess, and another a student.

His friends and family are inconsolable. Suresh Sawant, his neighbour said, "He was a shy child. His father and mother are in a state of shock and his sisters have lost their only brother. His father is under the impression that Darshan will return from the servicing centre. He was supposed to accompany him."

Gaurav Kshirsagar, a close friend of Kadam said, "I met him yesterday  and we made a plan to attend a friend's birthday party on Saturday. He was supposed to call me after returning from the service centre."

"The incident that took place on Saturday morning is unfortunate, but we will see to it that strict action is taken against the accused. The main reason behind rising accidents is over speeding of vehicles on narrow roads. We have enforced strict laws to punish such motorists and will do so on a daily basis," Singh said.

Gangurde, who was hit by a speeding motorcyclist, said, "I was stepping down from the footpath, when a biker who was speeding, hit me. I fell down, writhing in pain and felt giddy. Luckily, my husband works close by, and the pedestrians present called him and I was taken to KEM hospital."

Gangurde was treated for injuries and released the same day. Road safety expert Jitendra Gupta said, "The main reason behind the increasing number of accidents are Mumbai's narrowing roads. The traffic police officials should keep a strict vigil on speeding vehicles and fine errant motorists.
The BMC should also take action against hawkers who encroach on footpath, leaving pedestrians with no choice but to walk on the road." Both Currey Road and Elphinstone Bridge flyovers have narrow footpaths on which hawkers sell wares, forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads, dangerously dodging traffic during peak hours.

Pointing out the loopholes that offenders exploit, advocate Kiran Makasare said, "Hit and run cases are Bailable offences, even if the victim dies. The accused often flee from the spot since they fear mob rage. It is difficult to prove rash and negligent driving. Eyewitness evidence is essential to convict the accused."

Mumbai's hit and run diaries
September 2002 Actor Salman Khan reportedly ran over workers sleeping on the road near a bakery in Bandra, killing one and injuring four.

A court of metropolitan magistrate had framed charges against Khan under sections 304 A of IPC (rash and negligent driving), 279 (rash driving), 337 (causing minor injuries), 338 (causing major injuries) and 427 (negligence) of the IPC.

The nine year-long case has seen many twists and turns, including the actor saying he was not behind the wheel of the car, and witnesses turning hostile.  Earlier this year, in March, Khan said that he cannot be charged under section 304-II of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

January 2010 Nooriya Haveliwala (27), who according to the police, was driving over 150 km an hour in her SUV, rammed her car into a police jeep and two other vehicles, killing two people and severely injuring four policemen. She was released on bail in April.

April 2011 Ankesh Shahra, the son of the managing director of Ruchi Soya Group allegedly knocked down a motorcyclist, a delivery man, with his Porsche car on Marine Drive. Shahra was booked for negligence and drunk driving.

September 2011
The son of a Shiv Sena politician was accused in a hit-and-run case, in which a 55-year-old pedestrian was killed in Bhayander. The driver of a white car banged into another car, before crashing into a two-wheeler, and then hit the pedestrian, who sustained serious injuries, and later succumbed to them.

October 27, 2011 Television actor Ronit Roy was returning from a Diwali party when he hit a Wagon R with his Mercedes. Three persons, including a 56-year-old woman, were injured in the accident.

What if you are caught in a hit & run?
Hit and Run cases are registered under the Section 279 Indian Penal Code (IPC): "Whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both."

Hit and Run cases can also be registered under 134A and 134B of Indian Motor Vehicle (IMV) Act. If death occurs, the driver can be charged under Section 304A causing death by negligence punishable with imprisonment of upto two years, or with fine, or with both.

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