- Ravi Agarwal, a final year B.com student rides auto-rickshaw after classes
- Free auto rides can be accessed by both COVID and non-COVID patients
- Often people offer me money but it’s a free ‘sewa’: Ravi Agarwal
New Delhi: On April 15, on a regular afternoon, 21-year-old Ravi Agarwal, an auto driver was waiting for passengers at Lalpur Chowk in Ranchi. At the same time, two women wishing to go to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) were having a hard time finding an auto-rickshaw. “One of the two women was really sick but because of the fear of the COVID-19, no one was ready to ferry them. I offered to take them to RIMS. At the end of the ride, they gave me Rs. 200 but I declined and instead asked for their blessings. I don’t know what pushed me to offer a free ride. Looking at them, I felt they need to be taken to a hospital urgently and I just extended a helping hand”, said Mr Agarwal while talking to NDTV.
Though Mr Agarwal had dropped the two ladies at the hospital, he could not stop thinking about them. On the way back, he thought of other COVID and non-COVID patients who need medical assistance but it often gets delayed due to lack of transport facilities. He said,
Auto drivers are hesitant in ferrying anyone – be it COVID patient or non-COVID patient to the hospital. Either there is a shortage of ambulances or they are charging a hefty amount. So, how will a common man access healthcare services if he/she doesn’t have enough means?
That one incident and an unanswered question led Mr Agarwal to initiate free auto ride service for people facing a medical emergency in Ranchi. He immediately circulated his contact number (8404949269) in his circle and also shared it with locals, NGOs, transporters and other people working on the ground. Mr Agarwal who lives in Kokar, Chuna Bhatta, Ranchi offers emergency service within a 20km radius but he also said,
In the case of emergency, I will try to save a life rather than looking at the distance.
When asked how he manages the fuel cost, Mr Agarwal said, “I also ferry regular passengers and deliver drinking water cans. Together, they bring some money and help me cover the fuel cost. Also, I remind myself that during COVID-19, all businesses are shut. I am not alone who is facing a financial crisis. Together we will navigate through it.”
Mr Agarwal has ferried 49 patients so far. Often people offer him money for his service but he says,
Jaha paisa le liya waha sewa kis baat ka (If I’ll take money from people then it won’t be a service to humanity).
Talking more about his service, Mr Agarwal who is a final year B.com student said,
Since college is closed due to the coronavirus, I drive all day. COVID-19 patients in home isolation call me to take them to the hospital for CT-scan and then drop them back. In such cases, I wait outside the hospital as they get tested. Meanwhile, if I get a call from a nearby area and for a short ride, I take it up else I simply wait. Often people call me to deliver medicines at their home. I use a regular keypad phone so that the battery lasts all day and no one has to hear ‘the number is switched off’ if in case they call me.
Regarding fear of contracting the virus and transmitting it to his family – parents and an elder brother, Mr Agarwal goes home only at the end of the day, takes a shower and only then sees his family from a distance. He added,
I don’t meet my family because I don’t want to infect them in anyway. My parents are always scared but despite that, they never stopped me from helping anyone.
Mr Agarwal has savings of around Rs. 8,000. He is trying to save some more money and then use it for the benefit of COVID-19 patients. Elaborating his plans, Mr Agarwal said,
I’ll either distribute fruits in COVID wards or get more auto drivers on board to ferry patients and I’ll pay them. There is nothing greater than serving humanity and I am just trying to help people in whatever capacity I can.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.