Compassion can make the world go around, and Karimul Haque from Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal is living proof.
Nearly thirty years ago, when Haque lost his mother to a heart attack who succumbed due to the lack of ambulance facilities in the village, the man swore to never let anyone meet the same fate. Now past 50 years of age, Haque ferries sick villagers to the hospital on his bike, aptly earning him the name “Bike Ambulance Dada”.
“She (his mother) died at home. I tried my best but could not get an ambulance for her. After her death, I thought about the problem that thousands of people in the remote areas of Malbazar, particularly in forest villages and tea estates, face. I realised many people, particularly the poor, often die for lack of proper treatment,” the tea plantation worker explained the idea behind the bike ambulance to The Telegraph.
Four years later when a co-worker fell ill, Haque borrowed his manager’s bike and took him to hospital. “To be able to save a life is heartening,” he told The Hindu. He hasn’t looked back since.
Following the incident, he continued to ferry people to hospitals and clinics on his cycle. In 2007, he borrowed ₹7,000 from his neighbour to get himself a second-hand motorbike to continue his service. He later took a bank loan to finance a TVS110. Over the two decades, Haque has saved more than 5,500 lives across nearly 20 villages of West Bengal. What’s more? The selfless man, who barely earned ₹4,000 a month from his tea estate job, offers his services for free. Haque would simply set aside half his meagre salary for fuel and other bike-related costs, and to repay his bank loan.
For more than 20 years now, Bike Ambulance Dada and his services have been the lifeline for the sick and poor. But Haque hasn’t stopped just there. Besides his regular bike ambulance service, he has also trained himself in first aid to help people in need and also conducts regular health camps in tribal areas.
Clearly, not all heroes wear capes.
People like Karimul Haque restore our faith in humanity, and deserve every support that they can get.
In 2017, Haque was conferred the Padma Shri for supporting villagers through his free ambulance services. A year prior, Haque was also gifted a bike with a sidecar by Bajaj. With the donations that poured in following his selfless service, the Bike Ambulance Dada now also owns two regular four-wheel ambulances, for which patients pay a minimal fare to cover fuel costs. However, the bike which Haque rides himself continues to be free.
One would’ve thought that the Covid-19 crisis would deter his spirits, but Haque was only further motivated to serve the less fortunate in these times. Since the lockdown, Haque along with his sons and relatives has extended his services to providing dry rations to nearly 1,000 people and cooked meals to 200 quarantined migrant workers. He has hired people to cook at his own house for the same.
A humble Haque thanks his generous donors for their support over the years. “It is the donors who are the main force, helping me help thousands of needy people,” he said. “I’m only a foot soldier.”