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Cashless care hope in crashes

New Delhi, March 26: Road accident victims will get treatment for the first 48 hours without having to pay a penny, if a one-year pilot project the Centre is rolling out succeeds.

The cashless treatment scheme will be tested on National Highway-8 on a 190km stretch connecting Gurgaon to Jaipur. If sustainable, it will be extended across the country.

“The pilot project will begin in the next two months, for which 51 hospitals have been empanelled, which would provide help to victims during golden hour, the first hour or the most crucial period after the accident. The ministry will contribute Rs 30,000 as upfront payment for any victim’s treatment,” road transport and highways minister C.P. Joshi said today.

The 51 listed hospitals on the stretch will not ask any questions or demand a deposit from an accident victim. The government will bear the cost of treatment up to Rs 30,000 for the first 48 hours.

The road transport ministry has set aside a fund of Rs 20 crore. It signed a pact today with ICICI Lombard, who will manage the funds and provide administrative support for the pilot project. The private insurer will also contribute Rs 30 lakh as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The insurance firm will hire 20 volunteers to act as first responders, who will accompany a victim from the accident site to the hospital and help with the paperwork. Ten ambulances will be posted along the stretch. The firm will also set up a control room to co-ordinate between police, the volunteers and the ambulances.

“The third party liability insurance, which is compulsory for all vehicle owners to take, is a bleeding sector. Every year, we lose a lot of money paying compensation to vehicle owners and accident victims. By saving lives we will also be able to save our own financial liability,” said Birendra Mohanty, vice-president, ICICI Lombard.

According to official estimates, about 1.4 lakh people die across the country in road accidents every year — over 250 deaths are reported on the Gurgaon-Jaipur stretch. At 5 lakh a year, the number of accidents in India is among the highest in the world.

The road ministry feels the project can easily be extended countrywide. “Even if we spend Rs 30,000 on each accident victim, we will have a bill of Rs 500 crore that is manageable. However, we would not have to spend Rs 30,000 on all victims since all of them may not have serious injuries,” road secretary Vijay Chibber said.

Scan on accidents

The other aim of the project is to carry out a detailed accident analysis. IIT Delhi has been brought in as part of a plan to scan every accident and pinpoint whether it was the driver’s fault or an engineering defect in the road. Volunteers will take photographs of the accident site as soon as they reach, to help with this analysis.