53-year old Rajeevi Nayak, a licensed auto-driver, didn’t think twice about escorting Shreelatha around 3.30 am in Udupi district.

Karnataka ASHA worker ferries pregnant woman in her auto to hospital 20 km away
news Health Saturday, July 25, 2020 - 17:05

An ASHA worker ferried a pregnant woman 20-kilometers to a hospital in her auto in the early hours of the morning after the latter developed labour pain. Despite her day-long duty working as a COVID-19 frontline healthcare worker, 53-year old Rajeevi Nayak, a licensed auto-driver, didn’t think twice about escorting Shreelatha around 3.30 am, who safely delivered a baby girl on Thursday.

For close to a decade, residents recall that ‘Rajeevi Akka’ has continued to remain a beacon-of-hope to the people of Pernankila village in Udupi.  On any ordinary day, this mother of two can be found moonlighting between two jobs. While from 9 am to 2 pm, she serves as an ASHA worker, post-lunch, she dons the khaki coat and drives her autorickshaw in the bylanes of the city.

At 3.30 am on Thursday, she received a call from a woman named Shreelatha, who developed labour pains. Rajeevi Nayak then drove the expecting mother and her family around 20 kilometers to Koosamma Shambhu Shetty Memorial Haji Abdullah Mother and Child Hospital. Around noon, Shreelatha safely delivered a baby girl.

However, this is not the first time she has helped a pregnant woman in her twenty-year profession as a rickshaw driver, says Rajeevi. She is known for dropping pregnant women free of charge to the hospital and has ferried close to 16 women under labour.

“Once, a woman developed labour pains prematurely. When I called 108, they said it will take some time for them to reach. So I told the drivers that I will ferry the expecting mother and meet them at the midpoint. I thought she would deliver the baby in the rickshaw but we managed to shift her into the ambulance. Five minutes later, she delivered her baby in the ambulance,” she tells The News Minute.

Her efforts were lauded by Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India, in a social media post.

One of the first women auto-rickshaw drivers of Udupi district, the 53-year-old says two decades ago, she stepped into the profession, considered to be a male bastion, only to provide the last mile connectivity for the people in her village.

Pernankila, Rajeevi says, is the last stop for many buses. However, most drivers took a u-turn and never made it to the village. Most of the villagers had to walk close to four kilometers to reach home. Rajeevi says that she decided to ply an auto from the bus-stop to her village to help people and also earn a livelihood.

“I had completed only SSLC and had two small children at home. I could not go for a full-time job, however, I always wanted to earn. When I discussed my interest with my husband, he encouraged me to pursue and I purchased a rickshaw on loan,” she says.

At the age of 33, Rajeevi joined a driving school and managed to get a license as an auto-rickshaw driver. However, she credits her husband Raghuchandran, who worked as a bus driver for perfecting her driving skills. “He was the one who gave me the confidence to take my tuk-tuk on the road and then there was no looking back,” she says.

Ten years ago, one of the local doctors known to Rajeevi’s family asked her to enroll as an ASHA worker. “I was hesitant, but I liked the job profile as social service is close to my heart.” With her children grown-up, she decided to take two jobs.

Rajeevi and Raghuchandran educated their children. Her daughter Rashmi is a nurse, while son Ravikiran manages a car-wash business. Sadly, Raghuchandran passed away five years ago.

However, the COVID-19 has drastically changed her life, says Rajeevi. “Now as an ASHA worker, I have a lot of work. Meanwhile, with lockdown and no passengers, the rickshaw business has taken a hit. My daughter who works as a nurse in Mumbai is also on COVID-19 duty. Meanwhile, my son's car-wash business has taken a hit. I am eagerly awaiting the Rs 3000 incentive promised by Karnataka Chief Minister for ASHA workers,” she said.

Story by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP.)

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