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Traditional Palki becomes Ambulance to carry patients in hilly region of West Bengal

Palkis which were traditionally used to transport brides have donned a new role as ambulances to ferry pregnant women and critically ill patients in the hilly terrain of Alipurduar in West Bengal (Pictures Courtesy Twitter/@SurendraMeena)

Taking a leaf from the old days, Surendra Kumar Meena, the District Magistrate of Alipurduar district in West Bengal, has started a palki ambulance service to serve the people of the area.

Recently a pregnant woman of the Dukpa community was brought down for delivery.

Once used to carry the bride or ferry the rich around, this means of transport has been tweaked and now carries oxygen cylinder, saline solution and other medical equipment to move critically ill patients, pregnant women and senior citizens in this hilly terrain region.

Started a month ago, the palki ambulance service serves nearly 3,000 people who hail from indigenous tribes and reside in 11 villages located in the Kalchini block which is at a height of 4,600 feet above sea level.

As it falls in the heart of the Buxa Tiger Reserve, there is no mobile facility there. Being a part of the reserve, the Environment Ministry does not allow construction of roads or mobile towers.

Talking to the Print, Meena said: “After I was posted here, I saw that pregnant women and sick people were being carried from high altitude villages in sacks. I was thinking of a way to help them. We started speaking to locals, when this idea of having palki as a primary transport came to our minds. The terrain is difficult. The villages are located inside the forested rocky zones.”

With no motorable transportation available, this service is helping the people a great deal. As per Meena, it is funded by the State Government, while the local administration and an NGO are running the operations. Plans are afoot to add six more such ambulances as the administration intends the number to go up to 11.