NUAPADA: In the midst of the gloom that has prevailed due to the second wave of Covid-19, an auto driver of Nuapada district has turned saviour for patients by ferrying them to hospitals and testing facilities in his auto-rickshaw free of cost.
The driver Kumar Tandi, in his late 50s, is a resident of Colonypada under Bilenjar gram panchayat of Komna block. An HIV patient himself, Kumar says he is doing so not only as a moral duty but also because he empathises with the plight of patients.
“Since I am a patient myself, I can relate to what others might be going through. When I was diagnosed to be HIV positive, I had also faced difficulties on many fronts, mainly stigma. I don’t want to see other patients undergo similar situation and try to help them in every possible manner”, says Kumar.
He bought the autorickshaw two years back with the purpose of helping others, especially patients and the road accident victims.
“After seeking treatment for years and growing old with the disease, I realised it is high time to do something for others and bought the auto with an objective to help patients get medical help on time”, he says.
Prior to driving the auto-rickshaw, Kumar was a trader of Andhra chillies.
However, he left the business a few years back and bought an auto in 2019. While he ferried school children during the morning, he spent the rest of the day looking for patients near hospitals who were in need of medical help.
Initially, he had to inform people about his service but as they came to know about it, Kumar started getting calls from people looking for conveyance to hospitals or clinics.
On average, he gets 10 to 15 calls of patients every day. His service has proved to be valuable during the Covid times.
Kumar said ambulances do not usually arrive at his village on time and in the current situation, the auto drivers hesitate to take patients fearing infection.
“I never refrain from ferrying patients as I know how stigma feels. I take all the preventive measures to ferry the patients to hospital and testing facilities. After dropping the patients, I sanitise my auto completely”, he said.
Since the second wave hit, Kumar has so far carried at least 20 to 30 Covid patients besides patients who had flu like symptoms and later tested positive, to hospitals.
He had made similar arrangements last year too. To ensure that the services are not affected in his absence, he has also hired another driver to run the auto-rickshaw when he is not around.
He said not all patients avail the service for free, many pay him whatever amount they can. And how does he fund his social service activities and manage his family?
“I also have a small grocery shop that helps me to bear the expenses of my nine-member family and run the autorickshaw”, he says.
(With inputs from Danis Roy)