Health & Medicine

Watch: Karimul Haque’s Medical Motorcycle Diaries

A tea garden worker in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal runs a unique ‘bike ambulance’ free of cost for villagers. He was recently awarded the Padma Shri.

Karimul Haque works in a tea garden in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal – and uses his motorbike to take people from Dhalabari and other nearby villages to hospitals and clinics, free of cost. There is a primary health centre at Kranti, about 6 km from Dhalabari, but it has limited facilities. The area does not have a regular four-wheel ambulance service.

Haque’s unique ‘bike ambulance’ and mobile number (for calls from people in need of medical help) have become very popular in the villages, and his service is known even among local doctors, police personnel and block officials.

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Karimul at work, taking a phone call.

From his tea estate job, Haque earns Rs 4,000 every month. He keeps aside 25% of his salary for fuel and other costs of running the bike, and another 25% is spent in repaying a bank loan. Haque does not hanker for more money; he believes that Allah will reward him for his work.

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Karimul renders an invaluable service to the residents of Jalpaiguri.

Students of the Centre for Journalism and Mass Communication at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, first shot this film, their very first effort, in their very first semester, in early 2016. Others have worked on almost identical themes since then around Haque, including one version that is essentially an advertisement for an auto major. In January this year, Haque was awarded the Padma Shri.

This article was originally published in the People’s Archive of Rural India on February 10, 2017.