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Saving lives with safer streets

Thirty-two year-old Piyush Tewari is currently in the US to receive the much-coveted Echoing Green Fellowship Award for Healthcare, which, apart from a generous financial donation, also gives him the opportunity to participate in workshops with other social entrepreneurs like him.

Born in Kanpur and raised in Delhi, Tewari graduated with a Bachelors degree in IT and had spent a considerable amount of time in the financial space working as managing director of a US-based private equity firm. But in 2008, his ambitions suffered a major overhaul.

“On 5th April 2007, Shivam, his 16 year-old cousin, was hit by a car and grievously injured. As he lay on the road bleeding he begged passers-by to help him and take him to a hospital. No one came forward and in 45 minutes he bled to death in full public view,” he recalls.

Eighteen deaths and 60 serious injuries every hour is the national average of accidents that happen on Indian roads. 18 deaths an hour — that is nearly 1,60,000 deaths in a year. 80 per cent of road accidents in India do not get access to urgent care within the Golden Hour, the period in which the chances of survival are highest.

To combat these acrimonious statistics, published by the National Crime Bureau and the Indian Journal of Surgery, Tewari established Save Life Foundation, a non-profit organisation that endeavours to make Indian streets safer. It also tries to mobilise Indian citizens to respond better to situations like the one Shivam suffered.

He recollects, “The incident shook me. I realised that Shivam was not alone to have gone like that. I could not turn a blind eye knowing that there was a problem that had to be addressed urgently. This led to the birth of SaveLIFE Foundation.”

The foundation aims to create community-driven emergency response systems across the country. This entails training not only policemen and officials but also the general population to react appropriately by providing basic first aid, mobilising the crowd and calling the right people. They also propagate the need for a Good Samaritan Law, which protects bystanders who might assist victims from legal hassles. They are also trying to substantiate the need for better road laws. Finally, SLF aspires to create greater awareness around road safety and bystander care.

Since its establishment in February 2008, the foundation has trained over 3,000 Delhi Police personnel to become medical first-responders to road accident victims. Additionally over 1,00,000 injured victims have been provided basic trauma care and rushed to hospital by SaveLIFE-trained police personnel in Delhi. Tewari explains, “Changes have taken place at the systemic levels — police are mandated and mobilised to save injured victims. We have also got Bystander Care incorporated as a potent protocol of care in the National Guidelines for Prehospital Trauma Care in India. We have also developed an innovative emergency response system for India which can potentially save thousands of lives every year.”

He adds, “I have come to deeply respect the police officers I work with. Most senior officers I have had a chance to work with have followed through with their commitments and been extremely supportive.” His grievance is our own inability to act when the need beckons. “Unless we come together and create a culture of helping the injured, hundreds of people will continue to suffer avoidable deaths. Blaming the government won’t help; even if our cities get sophisticated emergency medical services, will they be able to reach within the first 10-15 crucial minutes? It is those who are closest to the victim at that point who can save that life.”  

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