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    Posted on 26 March 2012
    OPINION  
    Piyush Tewari

    In pursuit of change

    A column on people who chucked the easy life to make a difference

    Piyush Tewari
    Founder and President, SaveLIFE Foundation

    A workshop organised for Delhi Police and NSG Commandos

    Photo Courtesy: savelifefoundation.org


    CAN CERTAIN events really change the course of our lives? Can they give us enough strength and perhaps a ‘mission’ to pursue?

    Five years ago I had to make a choice after an event shook me — to curse and blame the system for the death of my cousin or to do something positive to fix it, albeit potentially at the ‘risk’ of changing the course of my life.

    I graduated from Delhi University in 2003, with a four-year degree in IT, but decided that I did not want to sit and code software. I wanted to do something different, something much more relevant. I applied for an internship with an organisation that had just partnered with the Government of India to do ‘nation brand-building’ by promoting India globally as a competitive business and investment destination. Three months into the internship, I got an offer to join them full-time. Things were great, and I went on to do work that I am truly thankful to have had the opportunity to do.

    Three and a half years later, I moved to a private equity fund to head a business unit. On April 5, 2007, six months into my new job, I got a call informing me that my cousin Shivam had met with a serious accident. A few minutes later, another call informed me of his death.

    Today, I work for the Savelife Foundation (SLF), a non-governmental organisation committed to ensuring that road accident victims in India do not die merely because no one comes forward to help. Shivam, all of 16 at the time, lay injured on the road for 45 minutes in broad daylight, and not one person came forward to help him. He bled to death by the roadside. This angered me. What I couldn’t understand was why the public was so numb about another human being lying bleeding to death. I soon realised that Shivam was not alone.

    SLF follows a three-tier system to help road accident victims

    Road accident victims in India do not get rapid care, and many die by the roadside just waiting for help. There are no emergency medical services, and even if there were, they would never make it in time due to massive traffic congestion that follows a road accident. This makes quick action by bystanders and the local police even more imperative. Also, it’s not that easy to implement. Police, though usually the first and only official agency on site, is completely untrained to even provide basic care to victims, and public choose to stay away for fear of legal hassles and harassment. SLF was born to deal with this need.

    Over the past few years, SLF has trained over 3,000 police responders in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra in basic trauma care skills (all ongoing), and is now developing India’s first-ever community-driven emergency medical response system. This system brings together trained community volunteers, mobile technology and better police response to ensure care for road accident victims within minutes of an accident.

    The technology, developed for us by one of our partners, alerts and coordinates each caregiver in the chain of survival. A three-tier system of emergency care is thus created — beginning with the community volunteer who first reaches a victim on the road, continuing with police providing trauma care en route to the hospital, and ending in an emergency room prepared to receive the victim. This programme is currently under development in Delhi and a rural stretch in Maharashtra.

    We are also advocating for a Good Samaritan Law that explicitly protects members of the public from legal hassles or harassment, in case they help the injured. Such persons deserve to be recognised and rewarded rather than be subjected to legal formalities. Areas where SLF is operational are already supportive of bystanders helping injured victims.

    There’s still a lot to be done, and we have only achieved a small part of our mission by ensuring that many victims who would have otherwise died in a police car during transportation survived their injuries due to basic but urgent care provided by police personnel trained by us.

    We need much more public support to ensure that many other cities, towns and villages have this program. We need public spirited citizens to come forward and start SLF in their areas. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” It’s time for us to play our part now.

    In 2010, Piyush Tewari won the prestigious Rolex Award for Enterprise for breakthrough innovation in the area of rapid care for road accident victims.
    piyush@savelifefoundation.org


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    Posted on 26 March 2012
 

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