The need of the hour is to ensure effective help in accidents and legal protection for Good Samaritans
A few months ago, five-year-old Om Gaikwad and his parents, Aparna and Mangesh, cried for over an hour, pleading with bystanders for help, after being hit by a bus in Delhi. The entire family died because nobody helped them. This sickening state of affairs has to change. Improving road safety is important; but making help available quickly, in an emergency, is an absolute imperative. This is where the NGO SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) comes in.
SLF is an innovative, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, focused on improving road safety and emergency care across India through high-impact and strategic interventions at the policy as well as grassroots level.
With support from organisations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, World Bank, World Health Organisation, Global Road Safety Partnership, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bharti Enterprises, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Religare Healthfore, SLF is creating high-impact solutions that help save hundreds of lives every year. To achieve its objectives, SLF operates in two broad areas: accident prevention and post-accident response. In both areas, SLF’s model includes policy advocacy, strategic public interest litigation and on-ground interventions.
Piyush Tewari, founder-president of SLF, lost his 17-year-old cousin, due to delayed response, after he met with a road accident. This tragic incident led him to realise the critical need for working towards this cause and he founded SaveLIFE Foundation in 2008.
The NGO’s initiatives in accident prevention include: (a) Advocacy for a comprehensive national road safety law and lead agency at the Central and state levels for the required multi-sectoral coordination; (b) Litigating in the Supreme Court of India to address issues of death and injuries caused by trucks carrying protruding iron rods; (c) Expanding the anticipatory driving and accident prevention training (ADAPT) programme targeting high-risk commercial drivers. The programme is conducted over four hours and uses blended learning techniques to reinforce five-six key strategies for accident prevention. This is a travelling programme and can be conducted by SLF anywhere in the country.
SLF’s initiatives in post-accident response include: (a) Advocacy for a Good Samaritan Law for India, to enable bystanders to come forward and assist injured persons without fear of danger, harassment or intimidation; (b) Litigating in the Supreme Court to mandate a comprehensive nationwide framework for trauma-care for injured persons; (c) Training police personnel and citizen volunteers to become medical first-responders to road accident victims.
While setting up SaveLIFE Foundation, Mr Tewari found that while many people have the will and intention to help accident victims on the road, fear of legal hassles hold them back. “Our law failed to protect people who are called Good Samaritans—people who come forward to help an injured after an accident. This is the first big loophole that we discovered which was causing a lot of loss of lives that could otherwise have been saved,” says Mr Tewari.
Things are looking up as, on 12 May 2015, the Central government, after a Supreme Court order, issued guidelines to safeguard Good Samaritans. This was possible only after a PIL (public interest litigation) by SLF in 2014.
Combining community volunteerism with healthcare, technology and law enforcement, SLF is creating a network of first-responders who can reach victims within minutes and start providing trauma care, before an ambulance or the police arrive. You can do your bit by volunteering with SLF or donating for the cause; if you are from the medical field, join SaveLIFE HealthCORPS to train police and community persons on basic life-saving skills.
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