Piyush Tewari MC/MPA 2017 is empowering citizens in India to help each other without fear of repercussions.

By Rebecca Wickel
May 30, 2017


For many people in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine walking away from the scene of an automobile accident without offering help. Whatever the action—calling emergency services or holding a victim’s hand—there are means of support that seem impossible to withhold.

But in India, would-be good Samaritans have for years been hesitant to help those injured in car accidents, for fear of significant legal and procedural hassles: sometimes even accusations of causing the incident. This widespread hesitance costs lives—one million people in the last decade have died in road crashes on Indian streets. What’s worse? Fifty percent of them could have survived if they had arrived at a hospital sooner.

Piyush Tewari MC/MPA 2017 is all too familiar with this phenomenon. After graduating with a computer science degree from Delhi University, he began his career as an intern at the India Brand Equity Fund, an initiative of India’s Prime Minister to position the country as a globally competitive investment destination. After writing a paper that caught the PM’s attention, Tewari was recruited to the initiative full-time. This exposed him to the multifaceted world of public service and helped build skills in diplomacy, strategic communication and program management.

These skills became newly useful to Tewari in 2007, when his cousin was killed in a car crash in India. “He bled to death on the side of the road without any assistance from dozens of passersby, many of whom stopped, but were to too afraid to help,” said Tewari. Angered by this preventable loss, Tewari founded the SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF), a non-profit organization committed to improving road safety and emergency medical care across India.

“My goal is to empower common people to help each other without fear of repercussions,” he said. He started by offering training in basic trauma care skills to police officers and community volunteers. Three years and 10,000 trained first responders later, SLF expanded its operations to include advocacy for stronger road safety regulations and emergency care laws.

With support from organizations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and the International Federation of the Red Cross, as well as scores of Indian citizens, Tewari built a strong team at SLF. He led a campaign to pass two major pieces of legislations within four years. The first, a nationwide Good Samaritan Law, which insulates those who assist the injured from legal and procedural hassles, was enacted on March 30, 2016. The second, a comprehensive road safety legislation package that aims to help prevent future crashes, passed the lower house of the Indian Parliament in May 2017.

“The next challenge is implementation of these laws,” Tewari noted. “SaveLIFE needs to evolve to take these new rights and responsibilities to 1.2 billion people, and beyond.” This shift in focus from policy advocacy to policy implementation, and potentially global operations, brought Tewari to the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA) program at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

“HKS was my only choice,” he said. “The entire environment here is built to support you.”

This support has helped Tewari gain a better understanding of policy implementation, urban governance and behavior change. The diversity of leaders, experiences and perspectives in his Mason Fellows cohort helped him ask and answer the right questions. HKS has offered Tewari plentiful opportunities to learn from his peers, and put their personal and professional stories to use in his work.

“There is such a rich pool to get feedback from,” he said. “It’s helped me build cultural sensitivity, and learn how to disagree and still move forward.”

Along with his classmates, the faculty at HKS have left a deep impression on him. “My classes on negotiation and conflict resolution, urban governance, organizing and ethical decision-making have prepared me to make meaningful change back in India,” he said.

“I’m already thinking about how to collaborate with government and other institutions to improve urban governance in India for more effective implementation of laws and policies, and better quality of life.”

That’s good news for SLF, and for India.

It’s a tough road ahead, and Tewari knows it. But thanks to his years of training and his time at HKS, it’s certainly a safer road–for drivers and bystanders alike.