Premchand Jain from the city of Kota in Rajasthan was driving on the Kota-Udaipur highway at around 10 AM on Wednesday, October 30, when his car suddenly broke down. Passersby in the area at the time reported seeing fumes of smoke emerge from the car as the man desperately tried to escape, failing to do so due to his car’s central locking system. Eventually, the car burst into flames and the man was burnt to death right in the middle of the road in broad daylight. But what makes this death even more horrifying is that it was probably preventable by those around. Except, instead of trying to help the man escape, onlookers whipped out their phones and began filming the incident.
According to Assistant Fire Officer at the Kota Municipal Corporation, Devendra Gautam, the fire department was informed about the incident around 10.25 AM, after which two fire engines were rushed to the spot. However, by then it was too late and the man had already burnt to death by the time the flames were doused. He also said that had any of the passersby tried to shatter the windowpane of the car before it caught fire instead of simply standing by and filming the whole thing, they might have even been able to save him. The cops were late able to identify the man only on the basis of the number plate of his car.
Not only does this feel exactly like the narrative of the Black Mirror episode White Bear, in which the main character is forced to live in a park where she is tortured as onlookers film everything instead of helping her, but it’s important to note that there’s no such thing as an innocent onlooker, especially in a situation like this that actually seems avoidable and could’ve saved a man’s life. Police have now registered a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedures related to suspicious deaths and are investigating the matter. But this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
In May 2019, a similar incident occurred in which passersby did nothing but film the horror when a 55-year-old man caught fire because of a short circuit at his workstation in Pune. In an equally appalling instance in Mumbai that same month, a bike burst into flames on the highway, but onlookers simply stood by and filmed the whole thing instead of trying to rescue the biker. In fact, a 2013 survey conducted by SAVELife foundation found that 74 percent of Indians said they were unlikely to help an accident victim, even if there were several bystanders around. This is probably because they’re afraid of being falsely implicated and say the police will assume they are involved or guilty if they do try to help. It’s also to avoid taking on the responsibility of being a witness if a court case were to happen because of how tedious and long legal proceedings can be in India. They were also worried that taking the victim to a hospital would put pressure on them to pay the medical bills, and thus prefer to look on instead of involving themselves in the incident.
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