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Kashmir Boatman is Helping Covid Patients Fight Stigma with Floating Ambulance Service on Dal Lake

Floating ambulance on Dal Lake | Image credit: ANI

Floating ambulance on Dal Lake | Image credit: ANI

Tariq Ahmad Patloo recovered from Covid-19 last year and said he started the ambulance service to help patients fight the stigma and fear associated with the virus.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth many acts of kindness from strangers across India who have overcome their own hardships in order to help others. Such an act of kindness came from Kashmir’s Srinagar recently where a man who has recently recovered from coronavirus has started his own Covid-19 ambulance service. But the ambulance service started by Tariq Ahmad Patloo is no ordinary service. It is a floating ambulance service, meaning it provides boat ambulances in Srinagar’s Dal Lake.

It was in August last year when Patloo himself tested positive for Covid-19. The apathy and stigma he had to endure during his recovery made him start the water ambulance service so that no one else had to face his plight after testing positive. Earlier in April this year, Patloo, a boatman himself, turned his ‘shikara’ into a water ambulance.

“Considering the situation at hospitals and homes due to rising cases, I’ve set up this facility for people, which has PPE kits, stretchers & wheelchair," Patloo told ANI.

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Last year, Patloo had contracted fever after attending his aunt’s funeral. Patloo told News18 in a previous interview that after his recovery in 2020, his own community had refused to ferry him to hospitals or back to his house boat from the banks of Dal Lake for fear of contracting Covid-19. “I had to quarantine myself for 20 days at home and every time I needed to visit the hospital, many shikjara-wallas (boatmen) turned me down. I was shunned by my own community and neighbours," Patloo had said.

With several spots for tourism being thrown open in the Spring season in the Valley, Srinagar saw a spurt in cases amid the second wave of Covid-19. As many as 131 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the Valley on May 25, the day the Tulip Gardens were opened to public in Srinagar.

On Friday, Kashmir witnessed as many as 5,443 cases of Covid-19, the highest single-day spike in cases in the union territory. The total number of cases of Kashmir are 2,06,954.

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first published:May 11, 2021, 16:42 IST