In October 2020, Arif Khan, a 48-year-old ambulance driver in New Delhi died after battling Covid-19 for a day.
For over six months before that, he had spent much of his time in his ambulance or the parking area, ferrying over 200 dead bodies in the National Capital Region. Khan was employed with Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal, a non-profit that provides free emergency services in New Delhi.
“It’s very sad that we lost him,” says Jitender Singh Shunty, founder of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal. “He worked tirelessly during those times, staying in touch with his family mostly through just the phone.” The organisation ferried over 850 dead bodies and cremated them between April and December, according to Shunty.
“It’s exhausting, mentally and physically,” says Govinda Raju, an ambulance driver at the Fortis Hospital in Bannerghatta in Bengaluru. “In the initial days, there weren’t any protocols in place. People were scared, and our families were also very worried.” Raju continues to work all seven days a week.
“For over two months, I had not spoken to my family, after being confined to a separate room in the house,” he says. “I have old parents, and while I have a hot water shower and wash my clothes before going into the house, there is always the fear of spreading the disease.”
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