After mother tests positive, Karnataka auto driver offers free rides for Covid patients


Express News Service

MADIKERI: Many citizens have emerged as frontline workers amid the pandemic. Among them is an auto driver from Kodagu. A native of Suntikoppa, BV Prashanth Kumar has turned into a COVID warrior who offers free transport to residents who have tested positive. He has so far helped ferry 55 COVID patients and will continue to do so until the end of the lockdown.

Prashanth’s mother, Parvathy (65), tested positive for COVID-19 over a month ago. Her condition was critical — she was shifted to Madikeri COVID Hospital and was on ventilator facility. She returned home after successful treatment. It was during this time that Prashanth saw the helplessness of many COVID patients.

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“When I admitted my mother to the hospital in Madikeri, I observed that many COVID patients suffered due to the unavailability of transport facilities. Further, a school teacher and her entire family, who stay close to my house, tested COVID positive. No one came forward to take them to the Madikeri COVID Hospital – which is nearly 15 km away. I took a leap of faith and dropped them to the hospital,” Prashanth recalls. Following this, he shared his mobile number across WhatsApp groups and started his service from April 30.

With the help of Suntikoppa panchayat member Sunil and PDO Venugopal, Prashanth has availed himself an ID card and a pass to drive his auto rickshaw during the curfew hours. “One day, at around 11 pm, I saw a man in an unconscious state lying near the Market area in Madikeri. When I took him to the hospital, he tested positive for COVID and was admitted. His name was Haneef. However, he succumbed to the infection. Another patient I dropped, Subbu, also succumbed to the infection,” he shares.

The Suntikoppa Hospital doctor Jeevan provides Prashanth with PPE kits to ensure the latter’s safety. Further, panchayat member Sunil, social worker Rakesh and Suntikoppa Rakshana Vedike members are supporting the initiative as they help arrange money for fuel.

Prashanth, who has also ferried a HIV positive pregnant woman to the Madikeri Hospital, says that his service gives him immense satisfaction. “At the beginning, my family feared for my life. But now, they are proud of my work,” he concludes.

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