Traffic Jam Takes Toddler’s Life, Are Capital City’s Roads Smart Enough?

**Bhubaneswar:** A four-year-old girl battling with life and her anxious family members stood before a sea of protestors. Their hearts were racing and sweat dripped down their faces. Traffic was standstill and ahead of them stood adamant agitators refusing to give way to the ambulance as the clock ticked away.

Leaving no choice behind, one of the family members got down from the car, folded his hands and stood praying to the police and the public to save the little girl’s life.

One might think that this was a dramatic scene straight out of a movie but unfortunately it was real life. Had an ambulance been given way in Lower PMG square on Monday, a four-year-old girl’s laughter would have ringed in the air today. But, alas!

The toddler, a resident of Satya Nagar Housing Board Colony, had reportedly fallen into a water tank while playing. After being rescued, she was being rushed to the nearby Nilachal Hospital by her family members. However, the ambulance got stuck on Janpath road as various groups had gathered to protest there.

Despite the siren and repeated prayers by the helpless family members, the irate public refused to budge and cops present at the scene were of little help. The traffic congestion and standstill vehicular movement led to the death of an innocent four-year-old girl, before the emergency vehicle could reach the hospital.

This is not an isolated case in the State. Similar incidents have occurred in the past in Odisha and across the nation as well. India is a country where elaborate arrangements can be made for VIP vehicles to pass freely but ambulances are not given the same treatment. In the race to reach their destinations early, the citizens too are of little help as drivers usually don’t give way to ambulances.

In other countries, disciplined citizens quickly create a corridor when they hear the siren of an ambulance. Special police squads also make sure to push away the traffic and make way for the emergency vehicle which is why such cases are a rare occurrence abroad.

Once in a blue moon, Indian cities like Delhi and Chennai too create a green corridor-a route that is demarcated and cleared out for an ambulance carrying harvested organs. The objective is to ensure that the in-transit organ arrives at its destination in the shortest time possible. This is done in coordination between the hospital and police.

This brings us to the role of police in Monday’s incident. Janpath- the entire stretch from Sishu Bhawan square to Vani Vani square has several important police stations located at strategic points along the road. This includes Capital police station, Kharvel Nagar police station and Shaheed Nagar PS. The cops of these stations could have deployed extra personnel to divert the traffic in the by-lanes. But they did not take any steps, remarked a capital city resident.

On the other hand, Bhubaneswar DCP Anup Sahoo said, “Whenever there are rallies in the Master Canteen area, the traffic jam gets worse. Normally, we divert the traffic from Ram Mandir and Raj Mahal when such situations arise. But the case was different on Monday as agitators were sitting on the road refusing to leave. As a result, the congestion persisted for a longer time. We will definitely probe into the matter and take action accordingly. We will also look into speedy traffic diversion with deployment of additional officers.”

In 2015, disapproving the practice of detaining ambulance during passage of VIP cavalcade, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had said that life of patients were more precious and had issued directions to construct special corridors. In the first phase, the ambulance corridors would be constructed near major road crossings, an official release had stated.

Immediately, a committee was formed comprising officials of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Works department, Police and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) to discuss modalities of the service. The cops had also asked the Works department to widen roads in some areas so that an ambulance lane could be earmarked. Plans to conduct massive awareness drives to educate commuters were also in the pipeline. After one meeting between police and representatives of private hospitals, the project was forgotten and is yet to be materialized.

Maybe, it is high time now.

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