In August 2016, India's conscience was briefly awakened after visuals of an impoverished man, Dana Majhi in Odisha, carrying his wife's body for 12 km, flashed on TV screens. The hospital where his wife had died refused ambulance service to Majhi to take the body back to his village. Even more heartbreaking was to see his 12-year-old daughter accompanying the father, occasionally wiping her tears on her shirt sleeve.
The Odisha government intervened and gave Majhi a paltry sum of Rs 2,000 to finish the cremation. The social media outrage lasted less than a week, and many such incidents in a span of two years found space in our primetime debates, but failed to generate public sympathy.
However, Mohammed Shahzore Khan of Hyderabad refused to stay apathetic. After the news of a beggar Ramulu carrying his wifeâ€™s dead body in Telangana broke, Shahroze decided to help all those who were denied ambulance service for the lack of money.
In June 2017, Shahzore, owner of the Deccan Motorcycle and Scooter Garage in Nampally, designed a bike ambulance by customising a Hero HF Deluxe motorbike. He did this by attaching a sidecar equipped with a fully functional ambulance unit to the vehicle.
â€śIt was disheartening to see authorities denying dignity to the dead for the poorâ€™s lack of money. Since we have been in the business for a while, I thought why not build an ambulance on a bike,â€ť Shahzore tells TNM.
â€śOften one can see an ambulance stuck in heavy traffic, trying to reach the hospital on time. Bike ambulance will be very useful in congested areas with heavy traffic as they will be able to zip through the traffic during crucial emergencies, whereas a heavy vehicle can never reach on time,â€ť Shahzore says.
Deccan Motorcycle was opened in 1972 by Mohammed Shahrozeâ€™s father and since then, the father-son duo was instrumental in designing vehicles for people with disabilities in the area. â€śEven though my father is not alive now, he inspired us to work for the needy and the lesson will remain with me forever,â€ť Shahzore adds.
Shahzore took less than 35 days to finish designing the ambulance that is equipped with a bed/stretcher, saline stand, mattresses and pillows, emergency medical kit, a minor operating system, oxygen cylinder and other necessary equipment. Shahzore till date has built around 50 ambulances which have been purchased by a number of NGOs at a much lower price to provide services in rural areas.
â€śI began my work in April last year and the bike ambulances were made available by June. It costed around 1.1 lakh for a single vehicle, but I am looking for ways to reduce the cost so that more people can afford the service in rural areas,â€ť Shahzore says.
The ambulances, which made news last year, were purchased by the Lodha group of companies in Mumbai and a couple of other NGOs in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh at a minimal price. Speaking to TNM, Saathi Samaj Seva Sansthan in Chhattisgarh says that the innovation has been instrumental in saving the lives of pregnant women in Bastar where the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is at an all-time high.
Bhupesh Tiwari, the founder of Saathi Samaj, is all praise for Shahzoreâ€™s biker ambulance which has helped in ferrying over 250 pregnant women to hospitals in the district in the past one year. â€śWe purchased three biker ambulances from Shahzore. With a dedicated team of drivers who are trained in basic first-aid, we have reached out to women in Bastar for whom ambulance services have been a luxury,â€ť Tiwari says.
While their contact numbers have been put up in most parts of the district, for villages cut off from even basic amenities, Saathi Samaj drivers tour around in the biker ambulances to spread awareness amongst the villagers.
â€śIn a place like Bastar, which has one of the largest infant mortality rates in India, Shahzoreâ€™s invention has been a boon. Especially for women who have had 3-4 deliveries at their home, the chances of complications the next time are high. The biker ambulance has helped many women have deliveries in hospitals which until then was unheard of in these areas of Chhattisgarh,â€ť Tiwari shares.
But much to his dismay, Shahzore has not yet been able to persuade the Telangana government to purchase his invention.
â€śThe government last year introduced a fleet of first responder-bikers who ride into medical emergencies. But these bikes do not have stretchers or oxygen cylinders that can carry a patient till the hospital on time. Since the government is not keen, I have not been able to push services into rural areas in Telangana,â€ť Shahzore sighs.