Two weeks after nine-year-old Ramya's death at the hands of a drunken underage driver, the Hyderabad police have begun to stringently check drunken driving and underage driving in the city.
A special drive against underage driving was conducted in the North District limits on Wednesday, and an astonishing 267 minors were caught driving without a proper license. And among this number were included drivers as young as 13 years old.
Faced with such an astonishing number of underage drivers, the North District police have called for a three-day counselling programme for the minors along with their parents on Thursday at the Traffic Training Institute at Begumpet.
Many of the underage drivers who had been caught claimed that urgent circumstances forced them to take to the road. 15-year-old Naman, studying in Class 10, for instance, said he was driving to a medical shop near his home when he was caught. He said, "My parents usually don't allow me to drive, but on Wednesday I had to drive for an emergency to the nearest medical shop, and I was caught by the traffic police".
He adds, "I know minors should not drive and it was my mistake. My parents never bought me a two-wheeler even though I asked for it many times. But I learnt to ride on my friendâ€™s Scooty.â€ť
Asserting that he would not drive again until he had his license, Naman added, â€śI heard about Ramya's accident. What happened to her and her family is very bad. The culprits behind her death should get strict punishment."
39-year-old Mamta, Namanâ€™s mother, who is also a school teacher, regrets sending her son out to buy medicines on Wednesday. She said, â€śI never allow my son to drive. Yesterday I was not aware that he borrowed our neighbor's Scooty to go to the medical shop, I thought he had gone walking.â€ť
She added that she was glad that the Hyderabad police was carrying out this counselling exercise. â€śIt is a little painful to attend these sessions for three days continuously, as we also have to go to work. But as it is for the betterment of our kids we will definitely try to attend all the three sessions.â€ť
17-year-old Shanmai, studying in Class 12, was on her way to Eseva when she was caught. Shanmai said, "I admit my mistake that, as a minor and without a learning license, I should not drive, but what else can we do in emergency cases? My father expired a month ago and my elder sister cannot drive, so I have to do all the officials work that we have had to do after my father's death. So I have no other option except driving and taking my sister and mother everywhere.â€ť
She adds that public transport options are too limited in the city, and the problem is exacerbated by growing traffic density that makes travel difficult. "These days there is so much traffic in the city due to the metro work, so a two-wheeler is the best option. We can't wait for such a long time for buses, which donâ€™t have any place to sit either. The government should introduce some new buses for students like us.â€ť
According to the officials conducting the counselling session, while the absence of underage drivers from some of the counselling sessions could be excused, it was mandatory for their parents to be present for all three days of counselling. â€śEven if the children can't attend the session, parents must attend the sessions because stopping dangerous incidents in the city depends on the guidance of parents,â€ť said one of the policemen at the event.