The Optimist Citizen

Once left unattended as a patient, Kashmir man turns his Shikara into a boat ambulance for COVID affected people

When Tariq was diagnosed with COVID-19, he had to face complete isolation from his community and neighbours, as they feared that they too would be infected. Once he recovered, he wanted to make sure nobody went through what he did. His boat ambulance gives temporary medical care to COVID patients in his area until the SOS signal gets finally addressed by medics.

Image Courtesy : Bilal Bahadur

During the ongoing pandemic, the second wave of COVID has hit worse than before. People have been running from pillar to post to find medical support for sustaining their lives. Amid this, there have been several humanitarian efforts by citizens to assist others in this crisis. Some heroes had put aside their livelihood to help others. Their commitment to helping their fellow beings without having a concern about the financial strain is nothing short of a wonder. One such person is Tariq Ahmad Patloo, a resident of Srinagar, who owns a ‘shikara’ (boat) in Dal Lake. Before COVID, he used to ferry tourists for a living. But tourism has been affected by the pandemic and it has added to the present condition of the marginalized communities struggling for their livelihood.

Although the awareness about treatment, precautions, and vaccination is increasing among people, thanks to social media. But in August 2020, when Tariq was diagnosed with COVID positive, he shared how he had to face complete isolation from his community and neighbours, as they feared that they too would be infected. So, the only choice left was to quarantine himself for 20 days and be on medications until recovery. Nobody accompanied him for the hospital visits. This broke Tariq’s heart. As he had experienced humiliation, he didn’t want someone to face it again. Despite not having a financial background, he decided to convert his ‘shikara’ into a floating ambulance. This Boat Ambulance is now helping the patients in the area who require urgent assist get temporary medical support.

Tariq started this service in April this year. Considering the situation at hospitals and homes due to rising cases, I have set up this facility for people. The boat is equipped with PPE kits, a stretcher, a wheelchair, and a motor to ferry the patients to the nearby support. He invested over Rs. 7 lakhs to spearhead the initiative. Many people need help in this crisis but there was no one to help. It led him to start the first boat ambulance on Dal Lake. The Shikara gives immediate aid and educates people about the pandemic through a loudspeaker.

Image Courtesy : Twitter via Shahhid Hussain

Tariq plans to upgrade his boat ambulance into a hi-tech ambulance consisting of a ventilator and an oxygen cylinder too. In addition, there would be an SOS signal installed, which would communicate with a nearby hospital for an emergency. He has also requested the administration to provide him with a doctor and paramedic support for his shikara. If the medicos can provide timely help, it is possible to reduce the pain of a patient. Tariq has been receiving several phone calls after the people got to know about his initiative. He is glad to acknowledge that many of them have been kind enough to assist him in his noble work. 

Tariq Patloo and many others stand as a paradigm of the selfless nature of humans. Their contribution to the betterment of the nation and its citizens is appreciable on the grounds of humanity and compassion for others. We need such heroes, we need such extraordinary actions. Now, more than ever!

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