KANNUR: Though they are making drastically fewer trips than before due to the spread of Covid, autorickshaw drivers are still reluctant to offer a ride to a passenger exhibiting Covid symptoms, especially when the latter asks them to go to a hospital. Not K Premachandran, though.
The 51-year-old autorickshaw driver from Vellur near Payyannur offers help to such people, despite knowing full well the risks. Thanks to his deeds, his autorickshaw with the number KL-59 K3957 has come to be known in Payyannur and nearby areas as the “common man's ambulance.”
It started when a pregnant woman who returned to Payyannur from the Gulf, got into his autorickshaw in March 2020. For the past 15 months, he has been carrying passengers with Covid symptoms to hospitals in and around Payyannur.
“That woman tested positive,” said Premachandran. “Most of my passengers had tested positive. Both they and I know that this might happen. Many tested negative too. However, I usually don't bother about whether they are positive or negative,” he said.
What made him want to do it? “Many such people who hire an autorickshaw are always poor, common people. They call us as they don't have any other option. However, with Covid cases going up, many autorickshaw drivers stopped giving rides to them. I felt it was not fair,” he said.
He said it doesn't mean every autorickshaw driver is like this. “There are many drivers like me who are willing to take such people to hospitals,” said Premachandran.
“In the early days, autorickshaw drivers kept away from passengers when they say they are going to hospital with Covid symptoms. Nobody could blame them too as everyone was afraid. It was quite common in remote areas like Vellur,” he said.
The drivers feared that they would be vulnerable to the infection if they carry a passenger with Covid symptoms. “It can happen to anybody now. How can we be sure that a passenger has Covid when he or she enters our vehicle?” he asked.
On his part, Premachandran disinfects his vehicle after each trip and sanitises his hands regularly. “So far, I have undertaken over 500 trips to hospitals, taking passengers for Covid tests,” he said, adding that health department officials too have asked him to be careful while undertaking such trips.