It has been over 3 years since a horrific accident shook Hyderabad's conscience. July 1, 2016, was nine-year-old Ramya's first day at a new school in the city. Her family members; including her mother, grandfather, and two uncles had gone to pick her up.
However, as they were returning home, a speeding car near Nagarjuna circle rammed into their vehicle, killing three occupants; Ramya, her uncle and her grandfather. The speeding car was being driven by then 20-year-old R Shravil, an engineering student, who had been drinking with his friends, which included minors, at the TGI Friday pub near KBR park.
Four months after the accident, a charge-sheet filed by the police revealed that the accused had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 63.25 mg, more than twice the permissible limit of 30 mg.
Shockingly, the case is yet to come up for trial. TNM has learnt that the a local court in Nampally was yet to frame charges in the case. (Framing charges is when the magistrate/judge decides the sections under which the trial happens).
More than three years on, yet another horrific accident has come back to haunt Hyderabad. Two people of a family, including a 14-month-old child have died, after an over-speeding minor rammed his car into an auto.
Ramya's father, Venkata Ramana, tells TNM that nothing much has changed on the ground and the latest accident showed the impunity with which a section of society still went on.
"Nothing has changed, at least not for the better. Ramya's case made the headlines in the two Telugu states and even across the country. There is no responsibility and no accountability for lives lost in accidents in India," he says.
Venkata Ramana, a software engineer by profession, says he misses Ramya every single day. "I lost my daughter, brother and father. It is unpardonable. We feel very bad. Every time I see her photos, I can't express the pain that I feel in words," he says, his voice choking.
"Shravil and the accused got bail within a few months, and now they're dragging the case," Venkata Ramana alleges, adding, "The police and the Excise department should put themselves in my shoes and feel the pain. Then they will come to know what I'm going through. Money or political power of accused shouldn't matter in such cases."
Ramya's father points out that all this was happening, despite several politicians including sitting Ministers in Telangana assuring them of justice on public platforms.
"Till now, there is no punishment. If nothing happens even when such a sensational case comes up, why won't another accident happen? They will continue to happen," he says.
Venkata Ramana has also been demanding a 'Ramya Act', that not only details punishment to the accused like holding the driver and establishment responsible, but also addresses other concerns like monetary compensation for the victims.
"Another brother of mine, who was a civil engineer, was injured and can't do physical work anymore, as he is in trouble and could not perform his duties. My mother and wife are in trauma. In such cases, taking care of all these people is a painful situation," he says.
Who is responsible?
"Once an accident happens, we get only lip condolences. It is only in the short term memory of the people, who will think about it for a few days and then move on with their lives. The victims continue to suffer. It is I, who have to survive my daughter's death. My case at least made it to the news. Many people are facing such pain, and it is not even making news," Venkata Ramana said.
Ramya's father argues that the responsibility for drunken driving accidents must fall not only on the accused who drove the vehicle, but also the establishment which served the alcohol.
"Even after Ramya's death, I only had one question; Who is accountable for my loss? I still don't have an answer for my question. That is the tragedy. It shows that either the law is not stringent, or it is not being implemented," he said.
"The drunken driver behind the wheel is accountable for their actions. However, the establishment which served the alcohol should also be held liable. Despite this, it was only closed for a few days and reopened later," he adds.
While the police had announced grand plans following public outrage, including intensifying inspections and insisting that pub goers must have a designated driver, things have returned to their old ways.
Venkata Ramana says that it still pains him, each time he reads about such accidents in the media, and argues that strict penalties must be levied against those who are responsible.