Pilgrimage turns to last journey

Six Air Force personnel were on way to Akshardham temple from Haryana when a car rammed into their van, killing three

Pilgrimage turned to nightmare for these Air Force personnel when a Skoda car rammed into the Maruti Omni van they were travelling in, leaving three of them dead and others gravely injured on Rajpath near India Gate, on Sunday.

Death on wheels: The Maruti van that met with an accident with the
Skoda at Rajpath near India Gate, in New Delhi, on Sunday.

According to police officials, the incident took place around 10 am, near hotel Le-Meridian. The van carrying six Indian Air Force personnel, and another passenger, was on the way from Jhajjar, Haryana to Delhi, to visit the Akshardham temple.

Family members of victims at RML Hospital. Pics/Imtiyaz Khan,
Subhash Barolia

"Police immediately reached the spot and rushed the victims to the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. Occupants of Skoda escaped with minor injuries. Three of the personnel--Sapan Chakraborty (50), Manish Chauhan (23) and Lakhan Dass (38)--were declared dead on arrival. The injured were identified as Ajay Kumar Yadav, Shailendra and Vaishak. Chakraborty's wife Meenakshi is still critical," said a police official.

Wrong turn
The van was crossing the street following the green signal when the Skoda jumped the signal and rammed sideways into the van. The errant Skoda driver, 22-year-old Nishant Kumar, has been arrested. There is no information regarding Vinod Kumar, owner of the car, so far.

Chakraborty's in-laws were shocked when the news reached them in Agra. While they lost one family member, the other one is still not out of danger. Lakhan Dass' 16-year-old daughter Pooja, who was standing outside the Trauma Centre of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital with her mother, couldn't stop herself from bursting into tears when she heard of her father's death.

Dass was a fourth-class employee with the Air Force. He is survived by wife and two young children. He was living with his family in Dwarka for the last eight years." On Sunday morning, my father told us that he is going to Akshardham temple along with his colleagues and would return around 5 pm.

Then around 10.30 am, we saw on a news channel that his vehicle has met with an accident. We then tried calling him on his cell phone but he did not pick up. Finally, we called his office from where we got all details about the incident," said Pooja.

Indian roads worst in the world
Indian roads have been officially declared as the worst and the most dangerous place to drive in the world. The death toll due to road accidents reached more than 1,30,000 last year.

The World Bank estimates that road accidents don't just claim lives but every year, road accidents cost India about three per cent of its gross domestic product.

Delhi Police, however, said there has been a significant drop of eight per cent in the number of deaths by road accidents, which came down from 1,026 in the first six  months of 2010 to 944 in the first six months of 2011.

This was due to increased surveillance, and regular checks against violation of traffic rules, including drunken driving, as a result of which more violators were caught this year.

However, these reports were met with criticism as the drop mentioned is marginal, and the police have not yet been able to provide adequate safety facilities to the city's elderly and women.

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