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Day labourer Md Belal accompanied by wife Rosy was returning home after 10 days at the Chattogram Medical College Hospital. Between the two of them, they had only Tk 50, but it costs Tk 300 to go home by auto-rickshaw and Tk 200 by rickshaw. They sat in despair, wondering what to do.

Then suddenly Sirajul Islam, an auto-rickshaw driver called out to them. He asked them where they want to go and then introduced them to another auto-rickshaw driver, Nur Islam who would take them home for free. Belal and his wife were a bit hesitant at first but then climbed into the auto-rickshaw. Nur Islam took them home safely, not charging them a single taka.

There are three auto-rickshaws in the port city that every day carry 8 to 10 patients for no charge at all, taking them to hospital or back home. A company, Imam Motors, in Halishahar of Chattogram city, started this service from 18 April. The auto-rickshaws wait outside Chattogram Medical College Hospital, General Hospital and Ma O Shishu Hospital.

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Rosy shed tears of joy and relief at being able to take her husband home for free. She said, “If we didn’t get this ride, we wouldn’t have been able to go home in the lockdown.”

These auto-rickshaws prominently display digitally printed banners “Humanitarian service to carry patients for free,” along with a mobile phone number. The auto-rickshaws also have the mobile numbers of the three drivers. It is written there that if there is any problem, the passengers should call the proprietor.

The three drivers are Nur Islam, Md Abdullah and Abul Bashar. They are quite happy to provide round-the-clock service to patients in need. Abul Bashar was actually an auto-rickshaw mechanic, but as his garage is closed down in the lockdown, he is carrying out this service. He tells Prothom Alo, it is good to be able to do something for the people. He takes whatever the proprietor pays him and makes no demand.

Imam Hossain, the proprietor of Imam Motors, tells Prothom Alo, patients, poor patients in particular, have a hard time to commute in this lockdown. Even if there are vehicles on the streets, they charge astronomical fares. That is why he started this service, he says. He has three vehicles from which he earns Tk 900 each daily, that is Tk 2,700 in a day. Now, instead of renting out his auto-rickshaws, he is using these to provide this service. He pays for the fuel and drivers himself.

He explains why to took this task upon himself. “I learnt from the media how people were struggling to get to hospitals or back home and that is when my father Rafiqul Islam and I decided to start this service. This will continue as long as the lockdown is in place.”

The numbers to contact for this certain are, Nurul Islam 01828571055; Abul Bashar 01832808067; Md Abdullah 01824882760. Any poor person can dial these numbers from anywhere in Chattogram city and be taken to hospital or diagnostic centre are required.

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