Vikram Agnihotri from Indore is the first bilateral upper-limb amputee to avail permanent driving license for himself. The 51-year-old never let his disability define him. Instead, he worked hard to become a professional car racer besides being an active swimmer, gym enthusiast, footballer, aero-modeller and a Limca Record holder.
The tragic accident from childhood
At the age of 7, he lost his upper limbs to an electrocution accident after touching a high-tension wire. His family, especially his mother, supported him to realize that there was nothing he could not do and helped him learn to write and do other activities with his feet. Familial support encouraged Vikram to fight the initial body consciousness of having loose-fitting ponchos to cover his arms. His parents did not want him to attend a ‘special school’ and enrolled him to a regular school.
Early attempts to drive a car
A car enthusiast from the beginning, Vikram decided he wanted to learn to drive and started searching for driving schools. To his surprise, there were no schools or training centres that offered driving lessons for people like him. So he decided to learn the skill himself. With a supportive friend who would control the gear and the clutch, Vikram would steer the wheel with one foot while shuffling between the brake and accelerator with the other and hence mastered the vehicle.
The journey to get a driving license was challenging for him. Vikram first researched the Motor Vehicles Act and its provisions for people with disabilities. Surprisingly, the law did not bar people with disabilities from driving in clear words and was open to interpretations. All he now needed was to find a way to switch gears without assists. He lapped onto this race soon.
Getting the landmark approval
In 2015, Vikram decided to invest in an auto geared car and applied for a driving license. The authorities denied him the driving license due to his disability. This compelled Vikram to take the case to the RTO where he raised concerns about the ambiguity of the law. His mission started gathering media attention and the authorities pacified him with a temporary learner license. But Vikram was determined to get a permanent one. In October 2016, after 15 months of constant effort, Vikram availed himself of a permanent license. He also enabled a landmark amendment in the Motor Vehicles Act that allowed people with disabilities the right to drive.
Early Life of Vikram Agnihotri
The son of an IPS officer, education was always a priority for Vikram. It later turned into an interest and made Vikram pursue his MBA degree. Even though Vikram cleared the IIM Common Entrance Test (CAT) twice, he failed to clear interviews due to his disability. But this did not dampen his spirits. With a never say die attitude, he started to prepare for the UPSC exams after completing an M.A. in Economics. However, the UPSC curriculum barred people with disabilities from appearing for ‘A’ grade services making Vikram drop the idea and started his business as a gas agency in 1993.
An unending love for sports
Vikram believes that there is a dire need for differently-abled people to become a part of the decision-making process as they are the best people to decide what solutions they require. And a lot needs to be done at the administrative level for the same. Besides earning himself the license to drive, Vikram wanted to pursue his dream of professional car racing. He began participating in the car rallies. After securing the first position in the Malwa Adventure Rally, he got himself a ticket to the Desert Storm Motor Rally in India. He went on to become the first differently-abled person to participate in it. He also finished as the 2nd runner up in the race.
About giving back to the society
Vikram Agnihotri also founded Vital Spark Welfare Society, an organization that empowers people with disabilities and offers skill development programs for them. In its current endeavour, the organization aims to conduct a 3-month long Skill Development program for the differently-abled that will provide training in sports, education, and experience-based training in daily activities to its members. He also has a non-profit organization called ‘Winners in Life’ and has conducted various motivational talks as a part of it.
Vikram believes that having expectations from oneself can do a lot of good. Currently, he is learning aero-modelling and aims to take up painting or cooking in the future, adding to his bag of achievements. While those keep piling, Vikram finds his purpose in the more personal ways he has touched people’s lives. Especially for people with disability. “Once a man from Bombay read about my life and decided not to commit suicide. He said reading my story inspired him to fight the odds. I have never been more touched.” recalls Vikram, ” I never knew my life could inspire someone so much, and I feel fortunate to be able to do that”