India embarked on another bout of soul-searching yesterday over a shocking video showing passers-by ignoring a man's pleas after his wife and daughter were killed in a road accident.
CCTV footage surfaced on Monday showing him cradling his son next to his overturned motorbike and calling for help from other motorists as his wife and eight-month-old daughter lay bloodied on the road.
Police say he was ignored for 40 minutes inside a newly built tunnel in the city of Jaipur, 250 kilometres southwest of the capital, with a stream of cars, buses and motorbikes driving past.
"That kind of failure is very, very common on the roads," campaigner Mridul Bhasin, who works for the Muskaan road safety group, told cable channel CNN-IBN. "This is happening day in, day out every minute in our country. People die and we turn a blind eye."
A report in the Mail Today was headlined "Callous India drives past mishap victims", while The Hindu said the incident had "brought to life civilian apathy".
"It's the duty of all people to take such victims to hospital because lives could be saved," Jaipur traffic police chief Lata Manoj said in a televised interview.
A worker in a toll booth noticed the stricken family and called the police, who transferred the mother and daughter to the SMS hospital in Jaipur.
The doctor in charge of the SMS emergency unit, D. S. Meena, said they had died before arriving. "The situation might have been better if they were provided medical help in time," he said.
The man and his son suffered light injuries.
The accident highlighted the routine flouting of traffic regulations - the motorbike was carrying four people without helmets, and bikes are banned from the tunnel.
The family were knocked off the bike after a collision with a truck, which drove off without stopping, police said. Its number plate is visible on the footage and police are seeking the driver.
The woman's uncle, Prabhu Dayal, blamed the deaths on public indifference. "Her husband cried for help for 40 minutes but no one stopped. It's shameful that apathy took two lives," he said.
The situation echoes incidents in China. In 2011, a toddler in Zhejiang province was struck by two vehicles and lay dying on the street while at least 18 people walked past.
Public apathy in India was brought into sharp relief in December when a 23-year-old gang-rape victim was also ignored by bystanders after she had been stripped and dumped on a New Delhi street.
Many pointed out that fear of the police was a deterrent because anyone who stops to help is often dragged into the legal case, or even implicated in the crime.
A total of 131,834 people died in road accidents in India in 2011, according to the government's National Crime Records Bureau.