Tamil Nadu

When many drivers dithered, Sakthivel drove with a purpose

TNSTC driver Sakthivel volunteered to drive bus for doctors, nurses and paramedical staff of Government Rajaji hospital in Madurai. Photo: S.Krishnamoorthy

TNSTC driver Sakthivel volunteered to drive bus for doctors, nurses and paramedical staff of Government Rajaji hospital in Madurai. Photo: S.Krishnamoorthy  

The TNSTC driver plied special bus for healthcare workers for 50 days amid COVID-19 fears

When the lockdown was announced following the outbreak of COVID-19, not many bus drivers were willing to turn up for special duty. But there were quite some who volunteered to drive, including TNSTC driver A. Sakthivel, 44, for the benefit of doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff of Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.

The fear during the initial days of the lockdown was so much so that TNSTC officials were unable to find drivers for special services. Many buses missed the scheduled timings.

“I took it up not as a challenge, but as my contribution to overcome an unprecedented crisis,” says Mr. Sakthivel.

After having driven the buses for 50 days, the officials forced him to go on leave for a week.

He operated the special services between Alagarkoil and GRH at Goripalayam. From setting out the vehicle early in the morning till bringing back the vehicle to the depot late in night, Mr. Sakthivel took every challenge from personal safety to stiff opposition from family members in his stride.

“The fear among people was very high. All my family members were against my work as they panicked about by safety,” he recalls.

“When I saw the plight of huge crowd of patients at the GRH seeking medical intervention, I thought what will happen to the poor people if the doctors and nurses do not reach the hospital on time. This kept me going for work for 35 successive days,” says Mr. Sakthivel, a father of two children.

Till then, the buses were driven without a conductor.

After the second lockdown, crew members came forward to operate the buses. It was then, the officials, forced him to take a one-day break, as it would be against all labour norms to continue the work without mandatory breaks.

But, Sakthivel, again turned up at the K.Pudur depot after a day’s break.

The bus being the only mode of transport for many of the GRH staff, Mr. Sakthivel very soon became very close to the staff members.

“They all shared their numbers with me. They would call me to check about the location of the bus. On many occasions, the bus would wait till the staff members managed to board the bus,” he said.

They would also inform him about their day off so that the bus would not unnecessarily wait for them.

The driver, who was regular on Madurai-Tirunelveli by-pass rider service, chose to drive the city bus service.

“These 50 days gave me immense satisfaction. I did not work expecting any incentive from the government. Even if the government comes up with any incentive, I will give it back to the CM Public Relief Fund,” he said.

Did the long-hour work and all precautionary measures during the peak summer not bother him? Pat comes the reply: Doctors and nurses working in Corona ward for seven long days had to tolerate the sweat for wearing personal protective equipment.

“After a week of isolation at hotel, they return home after being away at work for 14 days. My work is nothing when compared to their dedication,” he says.

Mr. Sakthivel will join duty on Monday after one week rest now.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 7:51:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-many-drivers-dithered-sakthivel-drove-with-a-purpose/article31715545.ece

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