Taxi driver offers hospital built in sister’s memory for Covid-19

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BY SIRSHENDU PANTH
Kolkata, April 10 (IANS)
Two years back, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was moved by the way taxi driver Saidul Lashkar single-handedly turned his grief for a sister – who died as he failed to hospitalise her because of monetary problems – into a hospital in her name.
Now, with his heart bleeding at the daily scenes of pain, death and sufferings across the globe due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saidul has come forward with an offer to turn the two-storied health facility into a quarantine centre for the virus affected.
The 55-bed ‘Marufa Memorial Hospital’ – named after Saidul’s sister at Punri village in Baruipur, South 24 Parganas, nearly 40 km from Kolkata – now treats around 300 outdoor patients daily. It also has an emergency ward.
Saidul recently went to the Block Development Officer and made the request.
“I had gone to him to donate Rs 5,000 to the Chief Minister’s emergency relief fund. There, I told him the government could use my hospital as a qarantine centre for those detected with the virus. I also told him they could train the 12 paramedical staff to treat Covid 19 patients.
“He told me that my request will be forwarded to the appropriate authorities. Later the BDO came with his officials and went round the hospital,” he said.
The district administration said the hospital has the basic facilities and it could be converted into a quarantine centre by making some modifications.
“However, the final decision has to come from the top,” an official said.
Saidul said over the past two years, he has been engaged in efforts to covert the present basic hospital into a full-fledged one with indoor facilities.
“For this I need lot of machines, medical equipment, which I am trying to get. But in the current situation caused by the coronavirus infection, the primary target should be treatment and recovery of those down with the disease. We also need to take up measures to free the earth from the malady,” he said.
Saidul set out on what then seemed a near impossible journey in 2004 after his 17-year-old sister Marufa died of chest infection.
Though shattered and inconsolable, Saidul took a pledge not to let anyone else in his neighbourhood die without treatment.
Twelve years were spent chasing the dream, as the cabbie criss-crossed the streets of Kolkata, never veering for a moment from his single-minded pursuit to make the project happen. It was not at all a walk in the park, he recalled.
Saidul would talk at length about his mission to the passengers while driving and show them the documents and receipts of the donations he had received so far. But a majority refused to lend him a helping hand.
However, some did oblige.
As strangers came in ones and twos, helping him gradually raise the funds for the hospital, back home, Saidul’s wife Shamima stood by her husband like a rock. She even gave him all her ornaments to procure the money for the land.
Saidul, meanshile, sold off his four taxis.
Finally, Saidul’s dream came true on February 17 as the hospital started functioning, albeit partially, by opening its outdoor unit to patients.
Saidul’s courage to dream big indeed impressed lots of people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who praised his efforts in his radio address to the nation, “Mann ki Baat”.

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