In Panihati municipal area, about 12 km from Kolkata, a group of youths led by 59-year-old CPI(M) councillor Sudip Roy has been helping Covid-19 patients and their families round the clock.
Roy, the Ward 5 councillor popularly known as “Bacchu da”, and his team help hospitalise people who have contracted the virus, and conduct the cremation of patients who succumb to the disease. They also support patients’ families by supplying them ration and other essential items.
Since May last week, this group has already helped hospitalise more than 35 people, and cremated at least 80 people. When Panihati Municipality Chairperson Swapan Ghosh died of Covid-19 in August, his cremation was conducted by Roy and his team.
“All in the team are young and are willing to do any work. Every day, they cremate two to three bodies late at night, and during the day they hospitalise patients and look after their families and send them food and rations,” said the councillor.
The other members of his team are Abhijit Bhattacharya (30), Somnath Roy (30), Bholanath Patra (40) and ambulance driver Supriya Pal (25). Abhijit and Somnath have been sanitation workers for the municipality since their teenage years, while Bholanath is an electrician at Panihati crematorium.
Now, the civic body also depends a lot on the CPI(M) leader and his team. “In this pandemic, we are doing a lot of work through Sudip Roy. He is doing a great job and he has saved us from many crises,” said Panihati Municipality Executive Officer Prabir Basu.
Local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Samrat Chakraborty said, “He is doing a very good job, and our municipality is also helping him all the way.”
On the day The Sunday Express visited Roy, he received a call from a patient’s family in Panihati HB Town around 10.30 am. With Abhijit, Somnath and Bholanath, the CPI(M) leader went to the municipality office to check if the civic body’s only ambulance was available.
At the time, it was out on an assignment. When it did not return even after half an hour, an e-rickshaw was hired to go to HB Town and transport the patient to Sagar Dutta Medical College and Hospital. But knee-deep water in the area impeded the team. The e-rickshaw drove through the inundated roads and made it there. But in front of patient Bandana Majumder’s house, a short circuit caused the vehicle to move on its own. It collided with a nearby transformer and got damaged.
Roy then had to call another ambulance, which arrived an hour later, delayed by a mechanical failure. The councillor then took 68-year-old Majumder to the hospital.
“Bachchu da is doing a fabulous job for the people of Panihati. Our municipality also is helping him. Through his efforts, the municipality has provided this ambulance to Covid patients,” said 57-year-old ambulance driver Subimal Chakraborty.
The patient’s son, Dijit Majumder (49), said the family had been trying to get an ambulance for hours. He added, “We informed the Health Department’s helpline number. But all was in vain. Then, one neighbour advised me to inform Bachchu da. I called him. He not only hospitalised my mother, after that I was feeling unwell and informed him. In the evening, he again came and hospitalised me too.”
The councillor said he was not prepared for this work when the pandemic began. “Health-related matters have always interested me. So, from the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I started reading all the literature and news published on Covid. I was thinking I should do something for the helpless and the needy people. One day, at midnight, a close friend of mine called from Salt Lake. He and a few others were with a patient who died in the ambulance. They were in the dark about what to do. They sought my help. I talked to the municipality and the police, and that night the body was cremated at Nathupal Ghat here,” said Roy.
The CPI(M) leader, who is the party’s lone councilor in the municipality, said he realised that day that people were panicking, and feeling helpless due to the pandemic.
“I had to do something for them. I started reading. Then, I had an inspirational conversation with a doctor who said Covid gets transmitted through droplets. I also came to know that Covid bodies never transmit the disease to others. I also talked with some doctors. Then I decided to form the team to help Covid patients,” he added.
Abhijit, who is part of Roy’s team, said, “Somnath and I are TMC supporters but we have no problem working with Bachchu da. We realised that there is no point in being afraid of corona. We have to befriend corona.”
The first two months were not easy. “For the two months, most of our neighbours did not talk with us. All were maintaining distance from us. The situation changed since the day we picked up the chairman’s [Swapan Ghosh] body,” he added.
Roy’s wife Shrabani Mukherjee, who is a mathematics teacher in the local Bhola Bhubaneswari Balika Vidyamandir, said after marriage she had tried stopping her husband, but later realised that helping people was his life. “I feel proud when people say that he helped them. He is maintaining all the precautions and we are maintaining social distance at home also,” she added.
Due to her husband’s work she faced problems in her school. “One of my colleagues once told me that I should not go to school as my husband is doing this sort of work. However, our headmistress encouraged me and told me to come to school,” Shrabani said.
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