Parul Sharma l Palladium - Jun 05 2024
Bridging Safety Gaps: A Community-Led Road Safety Movement Unfolds in India

Participants receive CPR training as part of Operation Rakshak.

India leads in global road accident fatalities, contributing nearly 11% to the worldwide total. In 2022, India saw 168,000 road accident deaths – nearly one every three minutes.

“We need a comprehensive approach to tackle this issue,” says Kailas Patil, Director of Palladium India. “While government tends to focus on infrastructure, emergency response systems, and technology integration, community engagement at the grassroots level is essential here.”

The State Transport Authority (STA) of Odisha, in collaboration with Palladium, introduced 'Operation Rakshak' in November 2021 to train community members as on-site first responders to provide swift medical assistance within the critical first hour after an accident.

Abinash Panigrahy, one such community member, was trained as part of the Rakshak initiative last year. Since becoming a first responder, Avinash has intervened in 24 accidents, saving 53 lives, and preventing injuries from becoming worse.

Once trained, volunteers are posted near accident-prone zones, such as eateries and businesses where there’s a lot of foot traffic. These first responders offer first aid and pre-hospital trauma care before professional help arrives and within minutes of the accident occurring. They call this the ‘golden hour’ rule – the idea that if a victim gets medical attention within an hour of the accident, they’re more likely to survive.

Since launching, the initiative has trained over 12,865 first responders across Odisha. The project also plans to integrate the Rakshak portal transit app with 108 ambulance services for efficient information sharing during emergencies.

And this is just the beginning.

“Building on the success of Operation Rakshak, STA launched ‘Junior Rakshak’, an initiative that focuses on spreading awareness and training youth about road safety. This strategic approach is key to creating a culture of preparedness and swift response among citizens,” says Patil.

The Commerce & Transport Department of Odisha partnered with the National Cadet Corps to launch the Junior Rakhshak project. The initiative involves training over 700 Defence Trainers and Associate NCC Officers as Master Trainers, who will then provide emergency response and first aid training to cadets.

All of these programs fall under the STA’s target of "Zero Fatalities and Road Accident Injuries" across the state. "Educating and sensitising community members on road safety is more than a responsibility,” says Amit Patjoshi, CEO of Palladium India. “By actively involving and engaging community members in Operation Rakshak and now Junior Rakshak, we’re fostering a collective sense of responsibility and ownership.”

“In this way, engaging the community becomes the catalyst for enduring change, laying the foundation for safer roads and a more secure future for all."