Over 1,37,000 people were killed in road accidents in 2013, which is more than the total number of people killed in all Indian wars put together, reported NDTV. There is one death every four minutes due to a road accident in India, says the Global status report on road safety, 2013.
While the staggering numbers continue to peak over the rest of India, a small group of Khopoli residents has been striving to save lives on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
Apaghatgrashta Madatil, which essentially means “accident help group” in Marathi, was formed two years ago by a Mountain View Residency local, Gurunath Sathelkar (52), on WhatsApp. This group by the Khopoli resident has over 150 members, and includes other local residents, highway officers, local policemen, regional transport officers, doctors, crane drivers and ambulances.
Funded by Gurunath himself, this group works 24×7 and offers training in rescue work. They provide emergency clothes, shoes and other rescue materials as well.
Gururnath Sathelkar, a landscaping businessman by profession, was rattled by the number of accidents that took place due to poor infrastructure.
He spoke to Midday, describing the challenges of rescue work. “Prior to having my own business, I used to travel daily by NH4 and saw many accidents which would result in death and traffic issues. These accidents were due to poor infrastructure. Later, the new Mumbai-Pune Expressway was built. We are well-versed with the internal shortcuts as well, so it’s easy for us to rush to the spot,” he says.
The group has not charged a penny for the lives they have successfully saved till date. “It’s our way of helping people. When an accident takes place, we first find out whom the car is registered with through the RTO, and then contact the family members of the victims. We have also helped people get blood,” he adds.
Rupali Ambure, Superintendent of Police (Highway), praised the effort by saying, “This group is a great initiative and they have been helping us with many rescue operations. By working with us, they have lessened our burden. As soon as we inform them, they get there with their team.”
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