A real-life hero you've likely never heard of

By Srinivas Krishnan | on November 20, 2021

He’s helped save many lives, but you’ve likely never heard about this real-life hero.

‘I was in Class 12 when my father met with a crash while riding his bike to his shop. It left him bed-ridden for over two years. Seeing an active person lying immobile for so long can be unbearable. The event left our small family traumatised, emotionally and financially.

At that time, I came across some students from IIT Delhi, who were working on a road safety project. Each one of them had lost a friend in a road crash, and each one of us had a story that brought us together. I became more involved with them, and we decided to start the Indian Road Safety Campaign (IRSC) formally in 2016-17. In the meanwhile, I went on to complete my B.Com Honours from Delhi University and got a job as a human capital consultant. But four months into it, I decided it was not my calling and decided to start working with IRSC full time.

When it comes to road safety, there is so much resistance to doing anything about it because people are fatalistic that nothing will change. Another thing about road crashes in India is that those who are thinking up interventions are mostly seniors and the elderly, but it’s the young people who are dying on our roads. That’s when we realised that we, the youth, should be crusaders and raise awareness on road safety because the message comes from like-minded people. When we talk to the youth using innovations and engagements instead of top-down lectures, it makes more of an impact.

Our organisation is completely youth-centric. More than 40,000 students are involved with us, from across 27 states of India. With our large youth population, we have to make a difference that will have a global impact. The decisions we make today form the world we want to live in tomorrow.

We have done some interesting work at IRSC. With engineering students, we have done technical interventions and hackathons on road safety. Law students help in delivering compensation to affected individuals or simplify complex regulations to make it easy to understand.

Over 50% of lives in road crashes could be saved if there was access to emergency medical assistance, as we don’t have paramedics readily available in India. Bystanders don’t help for two reasons – one, they don’t want to get involved, and two, they don’t know what to do. For the former, we have created Good Samaritan videos that have an emotional tug. For the latter, we have trained students, non-technical staff in institutions and others to be first responders. So far, we have trained over 25,000 individuals.

When we surveyed small towns, we noticed that youngsters did not learn to drive or ride professionally. They don’t know how to safeguard themselves on the road or have knowledge about traffic rules, so we started training them using offline and online courses with the help of simulators and trainers. We have trained over 20,000 people so far in defensive driving.

When we started, we dug into our own pockets. Our founder Amar Srivastava graduated in 2016 and was the first one to get a job, so he contributed with more funds. Today, our main income comes from CSR projects for corporates as well as from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and the WHO.

Our breakthrough was when the WHO chose us to conduct activities for the 4th Global Road Safety Week in 2017. That raised our profile and gave us access to bureaucrats and the police. We got more projects from WHO subsequently – and MoRTH as well – who recognised the fact that we are effective in talking to a younger audience. We harness the power of the youth very well. We filed over 700 RTIs in over 700 districts to find out the actions taken by District Road Safety Committees under their respective MP or MLAs.

Other than receiving recognition from the President and Vice President of India, we have got global recognition too. I received the Global Youth Ambassador for Road Safety title last year, at the third Global Inter-ministerial Conference in Stockholm. We work with different bodies globally, and I am one of 25 from around the world who is part of the EU’s Youth Sounding Board. I am also one of 12 board members of the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety. And IRSC is also represented in India’s National Road Safety Council.

Unless a loved one has met with a road crash, you don’t think about road safety or do something about it. I am Deepanshu Gupta, 23 years old.’

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