Fed up, ambulance drivers say they’ll stay home, stay safe

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us realise the importance of ambulance drivers. However, lack of basic amenities, safety and delayed payment of wages are pushing ambulance drivers assigned for Covid-19 duty to quit and stay at home rather than working in an environment that is hardly conducive.

“I worked for 23 days as a driver for a tempo traveller, which has been converted into an ambulance, to shift covid patients to designated hospitals. I was compelled to work despite lack of amenities but my parents advised me to come home,’’ said Venkatapathi, who hails from Kolar.

He said he was fed up with the apathetic attitude of BBMP authorities in providing basic amenities to ambulance drivers. “I agreed to work as an ambulance driver since it was tough for me to make ends meet. But my parents insisted that I quit the job,’’ he said.

Shantha Kumar from Madanapalli, Andhra Pradesh, said he was working as a driver for six years in Bengaluru. “I lost my job during the lockdown and joined an ambulance service to earn money. However, the delay in wages made me quit. I joined on June 23 but have not received any payment till date,’’ said Kumar.

Ambulances on leash

It’s a telling comment on Bengaluru’s health infrastructure — which is tottering — and the BBMP’s inability to handle the pandemic, nearly five months after coronavirus first reared its ugly head in the city.


Mallikarjun D from Bidar said he was also compelled to quit his job due to delay in receiving wages and lack of safety. “I joined another ambulance service where the management promised me to pay me on time and also ensured a paramedical staff with the ambulance, which is a great help for an ambulance driver,’’ said Mallikarjun.

Mustafa Sharif, an ambulance owner, said he supplied two ambulance vehicles for covid duty. “Four drivers are working round the clock. I have to pay Rs 20,000 to each driver and Rs 20,000-24,000 is spent on each vehicle’s diesel. I am yet to receive money from the BBMP. I had borrowed money to pay their wages,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Laxmi Kumar of Kumar International said she would pay the ambulance vehicle owners after 45 days. “I have nothing to do. It is the responsibility of the ambulance vehicle owners. I have cleared their arrears,’’ said Kumar.

Many ambulance drivers have condemned the attack on their colleague on the MS Ramaiah Hospital premises on Thursday. A complaint has been lodged at Sadashivanagar Police Station. “We have received a complaint of manhandling of an ambulance driver. We are investigating the matter,’’ said Sadashivanagar Police Inspector Manjunath.

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Sagar Biswas

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