The Inside Story
NEW DELHI: Rakesh Singh a Gurgaon-based industrial consultant who spends half the month working in Saudi Arabia had big plans for his 16-year-old son, Akshay. He wanted to groom the 6.4ft-tall boy as a national-level swimmer while Akshay had always thought of joining the defence services. Both dreams were crushed as a speeding truck loaded with 45 tonnes of illegal mining material ran over Akshay last May during a marriage procession in Bijnor city. And what followed was a father's lone battle to bring to book his son's killer as well as stir the conscience of an apathetic state.

At a time when the jury is still out on whether hit-and-run cases should be taken at par with murder, this incident is a pointer to how scores of innocent lives are lost at the hands of merciless truckers driving without valid licences.

"I was dancing and suddenly the band stopped playing. When I asked what was wrong I was told a speeding truck had hit my son and another person in the Baraat. I could recognize Akshay only from his shirt. His face was smashed,'' recollected Singh, whose wife and daughter are inconsolable.

When the police failed to pursue his case beyond filing the FIR even after repeated requests, Singh took it upon himself to catch the accused driver. He did everything from eating at roadside dhabas where trucks stopped to even hitch-hiking. For more than a week, Singh stalled all his work and travelled in trucks plying in Bijnor. "The local police said they could not trace the truck. So I spent days eating at different dhabas to find the truck and driver responsible for my son's death. I interacted with many truckers and was shocked to hear what they said. They had no sympathy or sense of guilt for crushing innocents to death under their wheels. Many, I found, did not have a valid driving licence. Now, I also know that they obtain licences just by paying Rs 100,'' he said.

Singh eventually found success besides the details of the driver and truck, he recovered documented proof on how the driver had violated all norms by carrying more than the permitted load of 15 tonnes. "How is it that the state machinery could not do what I alone managed? The government is responsible for ensuring that drivers have a valid licence and also for checking if vehicles are overloaded. But they don't enforce the law even as thousands of innocents die on the roads. Are they not responsible for these deaths?'' asked Singh adding, "I did not want Akshay's death to go in vain.''

Driver Ravinder Kumar was arrested by Bijnor police a month later in June and was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court. Bijnor SP Raj Kumar told Times City, "After finding there was laxity during the initial investigation, I suspended the investigating officer of this case. His promotion has been stalled for the next five years a huge financial loss to the cop. We arrested the driver and the transporter. As this is a bailable offence, they are now out of the jail.''

It has been four months since the death of the Class X student of Scholar's Home, Dehradun, and his family is still learning to cope with the irreparable loss. "I want to prosecute the state for its failures. Everyone tells us to forget what happened, but is it that easy? My family breaks down every night,'' Singh said.

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