- Police — (+9180) 100
- Traffic / Accidents — (+9180) 103
- Director General’s Office — (+9180) 22211777 / 22942111 / 22942777
- Help Line (DG’s Office) — (+9180) 22942595
- Commissioner of Police — (+9180) 22260707 / 22942222
Yesterday, I received a letter from Katarina, a Swedish lady expat, who shared with me a horrifying experience her husband, Urban, had at a road accident in Bangalore last March.
It happened when Urban was on his way to his work at a factory in Kolar. There was a heavy traffic queue at the highway and while his car was on a crawl, they suddenly heard a loud thud from the car’s rear. Instinctively, Urban and his driver went out to check what happened. They discovered that a motorcycle had hit the back of their car, and they found the passengers, a man and a small girl, lying on the road. Though they only had a few scratches, the child’s cheek was mildly bleeding.
Urban went down to help the child, but he was horrified when an angry mob gathered around them in no time and blamed him for the accident! Urban and his driver tried to explain that it was not their fault, but the mob would not listen. They threatened to damage their car and hurt them if Urban would not give them money. Scared, Urban gave in to their demand and handed them whatever cash he had in his wallet just so he and his driver could leave the place.
They were then able to drive away, but after a few minutes, a policeman caught up with them and stopped their car. To Urban’s dismay, the policeman aggressively barged into the car. Feeling confused and upset with the threatening situation, Urban phoned the Indian HR director of his company for help. The HR director talked to the policeman on the phone and told the latter firmly that if he does not step out of the car, he would be in big legal trouble. That somehow scared the policeman and he scampered away.
According to Katarina, several Indian friends told them that Urban should not have gotten out of the car so they would not see that he is an expat. “But in my country, it is a crime not to go out of the car to help the hurt passengers,” she said.
After this incident, Katarina confides that she feels very scared for her husband who travels to his factory everyday. “Thank God we are already leaving this country next month,” she concludes.
What To Do In Accidents Like This
I could just imagine the horror Urban must have gone through from this unfortunate incident. Another lady expat had a similar incident when an autorickshaw hit the back of her car. The mob threw stones at her car and threatened to hurt her. After that traumatic incident, she could not drive for at least a year.
I have lived in India for almost eight years now and have heard of such horror stories about the “angry Indian mob”. They do not only react this way to expats, they do this even to Indians, especially if they do not speak the local language. In most cases, without determining the facts, the mob would presume that the driver of the more expensive vehicle is at fault and the inferior vehicle is the victim.
I am sharing this story not to scare you but to help you understand some of the harsh realities of living in India. Pray nothing remotely similar to this happens to any of us. But accidents do happen and we as expats in this country should know exactly what to do when we find ourselves in a similar situation. Here are some important pointers:
1) It is extremely important in situations like this to have presence of mind. First thing you have to do is to call one of these hotlines to report the incident. Inform the hotline that you are an expat and would like to speak to someone who speaks English. The magic words are, “please help me.”
2) If, unfortunately, you could not get through any of these emergency numbers, call a trusted Indian contact, preferably someone who speaks the local language, who can advice you what to do and let him talk to whoever is trying to harass you.
3) If you have a smart phone, try to record everything on video.
4) If you notice an angry mob outside, do not get out of your car. If you have a driver, let him deal with them as he speaks the local language. Tell him to control his temper as well. If you must go out to help someone injured (like in the case of Urban), do what you must, but be careful.
5) If you feel physically threatened in any way, like they’re trying to damage your car or hurt you, describe the actual situation to the hotline operator and ask them to send help as soon as possible. Try to leave the scene right away if you really find it life-threatening.
6) Let it be heard by the mob that you are talking to the Police. If they try to extort money from you, tell this to the hotline operator and let the mob be aware that you are reporting everything.
7) Do not fight or argue with the mob. The more aggressive or hostile you are, the more it will provoke them.
8) If some policeman (or anyone from the mob) tries to extort money from you, do not get intimidated and give in to their demands. Take note of his name. Tell him that you are recording this whole conversation from your phone. Call the police hotline and say, “Hello, Police Commissioner’s Office? Can you please help me?” I was told by an Indian friend that when a road accident happens and if the person dies, whether it’s your fault or not, some miscreant police officers would extort at least Rs 2 lakhs from you.
9) If your phone ran out of battery, fake it as if your phone is actually working. You have to bluff the mob that everything they are doing is getting recorded or reported.
10) Have a pepper spray in your car or in your bag all the time. It’s good to have a backup in emergency situations.