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It’s about 12.50 pm at Pune Railway Station on Monday. The body of a man run over by a train in the morning is brought to the railway police station. The body is kept outside, next to an ambulance, while the railway police complete legal formalities before sending it to hospital. Once they are done with the documentation, two constables are assigned to take the body to Sassoon Hospital for a post-mortem. The constables assemble four homeless men loitering at the station, and get them to carry the body on a makeshift stretcher to Sassoon hospital, around 1 km away. All this despite an ambulance standing at the station. The reason: The GRP doesn’t have a full-time driver.
The ambulance was provided to the GRP by senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar — who is now the Union Environment Minister — in February 2014. In the last five months, the ambulance has remained idle as a driver is yet to be appointed. Hence, the railway officials and railway police either call up a private ambulance or find people who agree to transport those injured or dead to hospital.
Abhay Parmar, Police Inspector (Pune Station), said the GRP could not appoint a full-time driver as the ambulance was not in their “possession”. According to him, the GRP uses the ambulance with the help of a constable who can drive and has a licence if such a need arises.
“Though it was donated to us, the ambulance is registered in the name of the medical officer of Vadgaon Maval. This is posing difficulties in appointing a driver. On Sunday we shifted a dead body from Dapodi in the ambulance with the help of a constable on duty. On Monday afternoon, he wasn’t available hence we had to take the body manually,” said Parmar.
Pune railway station staffers said while accidents were frequent at the station and nearby areas, unavailability of a driver results in waste of time, which is crucial in case of an accident. GRP officials, on the other hand, blamed the railway administration, saying it was their primary responsibility to provide ambulance facility.
“Every now and then, dead bodies are discovered on tracks or in station areas. Except the railway police, nobody else is willing to deal with it. The RPF and the sanitation staffers don’t cooperate. The coolies aren’t willing to touch the body. We have to somehow arrange for the bodies to be picked up and sent to hospital,” said an official with the GRP.