The hapless death of his cousin owing to a lack of emergency medical care after he was hit by a vehicle was a wake-up call for Piyush Tewari. Shocked at the fractured state of road safety and emergency medical care in the country, Tewari made it his mission to change this.
“He was just 16. And nobody came to his aid even as he lay covered in blood on the road and pleaded bystanders for help,” says Tewari who quit his job as the managing director of a US based private equity fund three-years back to dedicate himself completely to his mission. In 2008, a year after the incident, Tewari founded Save Life Foundation, a non-profit NGO that aims to bring down the number of accidents in the country by creating awareness on systematic emergency care and advocating policies.
The organisation which works on the core areas of accident prevention and post accident response has been awarded NGO of the Year (2014) by the Rockfeller and Edelgive Foundations and has won the Rolex Award for enterprise and the Ashoka Fellowship (2013) among other laurels.
“Our initial idea was to facilitate bystander care for accident victims as a whopping 50 per cent of deaths in accidents occur due to delay in medical care. But we realised police personnel were not trained in emergency trauma care while onlookers avoided intervention in fear of legal hassles,” says Tewari.
To encourage bystanders to help accident victims, the organisation has appealed to the Union government to introduce a Good Samaritan Law that would protect good samaritans from harassment and intimidation. The NGO is also working towards facilitating a comprehensive legal framework to ensure trauma services across the country.
“An ambulance alone is not enough. It needs to be equipped and properly staffed to handle patients in critical conditions and there needs to be a system that enforces it,” says Tewari. With India registering the highest number of road accidents in the world with eight deaths per hour, Tewari attributes the mortality rate to bad road behaviour—a fallout of poor licensing system and inadequate education of drivers, poor enforcement of traffic rules, shabby road designing and engineering as well as vehicle engineering and finally a lack of trauma care for victims.
“To address these issues, government departments like the police, regional transport office, health etc. have to work together. While, foreign countries have dedicated agencies that bring these departments together, we sadly lack the same as a result of which India incurs a massive economic loss of 20 billion dollars per year,” says Tewari, while pinning his hopes on the proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill (2014) to bring about a national agency for road safety.
Currently operating in New Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the organisation is helped by bodies such as World Bank, WHO, Global Road Safety Partnership, Harvard Medical School and Mahindra and Mahindra among others. It imparts training on emergency medical care to police personnel and volunteers under its Jeewan Rakshak programme and has trained over 6,500 police personnel over a span of three years. The programme covers three main techniques to save a critically injured victim and is free of cost.
The organisation has also come up with anticipatory driving and accident prevention training (ADAPT) certificate as a part of which it reaches out to truckers and drivers of heavy vehicles in trucking hubs like Jharkhand, Faridabad and Gujarat and educates them on road safety.
The NGO which has petitioned the Supreme Court on the loopholes in the current Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 is currently working towards curbing movement of trucks carrying protruding rods which cause 9,000 deaths in a year.
Tewari, who is currently planning to expand the organisation to Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh, says the NGO is on the lookout for volunteers. “They can just do their bit by referring victims to us or help us with law enforcement by posting pictures of traffic violation through email or social networking sites,” he concludes.