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On Holi day, television news showed us the CCTV footage of a woman waking naked asking for help after being gang raped by five men and jumping from first floor. Two cars sped by and many men just look at her till an Auto-rickshaw driver offers her lift to the hospital. On New Year’s Eve Bangalore was shamed by mass molestation of women while thousands of people looked. We saw the disturbing image of an 18 year old boy bleeding to death in Karnataka while the onlookers take video of his preventable death. Insensitivity shown in these cases is not an aberration. Unfortunately such inhumanity and total lack of empathy has become a norm of our increasing centric society.
We all find such apathy appalling and we condemn it, write blogs about it, judge witnesses who do nothing to help in poor light and rightly so but do we ever judge ourselves? Do we introspect? Do we keep ourselves in that situation and honestly ask ourselves- What would I have done instead? When the last time I stopped and helped a person involved in accident or raised my voice against a bully in work place or intervened in domestic violence case of a neighbor or my maid?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke
More often than not, the good men /women choose to do nothing. They do not feel morally responsible for something they are not part of. They are just innocent bystanders! Wrong!! There is no such thing as innocent bystander! The very fact of witnessing something makes you part of it, Makes you morally responsible for it.
There is a reason why people in crowd choose to abdicate their responsibility and look the other way. It is explained by ‘Bystander Effect’ a term coined by two American psychologists in 1968- John Darley and Bibb Latane. ‘Bystander Effect’ occurs when presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. It reasons that people are less likely to offer help when they are in a group rather than when they are alone. It maybe, because of apparent indifference of the crowd and every person taking visual clue from others in the crowd. It may also be because of diffusion of individual responsibility in face of collective responsibility. When a person is alone with a victim he is more likely to offer help because he feels 100% responsible in the scenario and abdicating responsibility may result in 100% guilt- a heavy burden to carry on his shoulders. But in a crowd his individual responsibility shrinks and there is always’ someone else will take care of it’ mentality. The same effect works in reverse I think when people commit crimes in mob.
When the victim is woman and the situation is of rape or molestation there is additional factor which works against men offering her help. The culprit may be sexist attitude and prior history of coercive sexual behaviour towards females. Influence of alcohol and anonymity of crowd aggravates both the vulgarity of mob and apathy of bystanders as recently proved by Bangalore’s molestation case.
The repeated excuse of not helping victims of accidents or abuse is fear of being harassed by hospitals, police and judiciary. People are shy to jump in, be a hero and get hurt in the bargain. But these are just excuses to hide our irresponsibility and insensitivity. Anyways the Supreme Court on 30th March 2016 approved the guidelines issued by the Center for protection of Good Samaritans at the hand of police or any other authority. The guidelines are-
In 2013 a survey by Save Life Foundation found that 15 people are killed every hour in road accidents in India. Every day 16 children die in accidents in India. About 50% of victims die of injuries that could have been treated had they received timely help. It means that more than 70, 0000 lives can be saved every year. However the Survey also pointed out the horrific fact that 74% of Indians were unlikely to help an accident victim!
Moreover the Indian Ambulance System has lot to be desired. Ambulances are few, poorly equipped and slow to arrive.
Hence the need of Good Samaritan Act!
But as we have witnessed in last one year that mere Good Samaritan Act do not suffice nor does incentive scheme for Good Samaritan as started by Delhi Government (payment of Rs 2000 cash and certificate) is adequate. We ignore something that takes us out of our comfort zone of thinking and we are governed by ‘Bystander Effect’. And we continue to inflict passive violence on the victim by our silence and inaction.
What can be done to defeat Bystander Effect?
1. Spread awareness
People should be made aware of Bystander Effect by various education programmes, active campaigns in school, colleges, work places, media. Awareness of paralysing psychological bystander effect will help to avoid diffusion of responsibility in large crowd.
2. Train active bystanders
We can run programmes, drills and campaigns in school, colleges, work place and media to encourage active participation of bystanders. We can train people to take lead, to control the situation and instruct others in the crowd. Even if a single person takes lead, it immediately snaps some more people out of their lethargic inertia. They no longer remain just spectators. It’s not the ‘missing humanity’ as often blamed but ‘avoiding involvement’
3. Raise Good Samaritans
Active bystander needs moral courage to act on his/her values and beliefs in spite of potential danger or inconvenience to self. And he/she needs a strong set of human values. Herein comes the role of parents of teachers. We can instil these values and moral courage in our kids both by our personal examples and teachings. If you help a victim of accident or abuse and your kid witness you doing it. I can promise you that he/she will respect you immensely and will be a Good Samaritan himself/herself. But if you ignore your responsibility in such scenario, no matter what good counsel you give your kids it doesn’t make any difference! As parents and teachers, please teach kids to turn to each other and support fellow kids in need of help. Teach them to stand up against the school and neighbourhood bullies and help their fellow beings
4.Learning First-Aid compulsory
Art and science of first-aid should be taught to every kid and adult as a necessary life skill. People in our country are hugely ignorant of basic principles of first aid and that includes postgraduates, technocrats, professionals, bureaucrats, intelligentsia, most of the population! They still offer water to accident victim, they don’t know not to crowd over the victim, they don’t know how to stop bleeding, they don’t know how to move the victim without aggravating his/her injuries etc. So besides not doing anything it’s also a handicap of ‘Not Knowing What To Do’.
5. Propagate awareness of Good Samaritan Act
Maybe many people are genuinely scared of getting themselves in hassle with police and other authority. So Good Samaritan Act should be actively popularised by us and the media
6. Punish Bad Samaritans
There should be some way to hold people accountable and punish who do not help the victim and instead keep on recording the suffering of victims on their phones or look the other way. Maybe there should be Bad Samaritan Act too!
Let’s take a pledge today that next time we witness a situation where we can help out a victim, we will not hide behind our fears and inertia. We will take lead and be active bystander. We will actively campaign this cause and raise our kids to be Good Samaritans.
Lets take this pledge with strictly utilatrian view, being totally selfish. We know that one day the person bleeding to death on te road can be you or I or anyone we love more than our lives!
Any positive suggestions from the readers are hugely welcome!
Maybe Mycity4kids can start their next campaign # Be Active Bystander # Be Good Samaritans