Premananda Saha, a retired Tripura police havildar, has taken it upon himself to drive critical patients to hospitals for free throughout the night when ambulances are scarce.
Earlier, Premananda Saha would transport his injured comrades to far-flung hospitals in Kolkata, Chennai, and Delhi, and occasionally return their dead to their families in remote districts.
Before his retirement in May 2021, the 61-year-old retired Tripura Police havildar, who transports patients in his ancient Maruti van, said it all began with a phone call from a patient who was having breathing problems during the Covid pandemic.
“A friend called me and I went straight ahead. I had previous experience helping people in health emergencies. But Covid was new to me. So I donned a PPE Kit, went there, came back to three days of self-imposed quarantine at my home and then got myself tested at a hospital,” Saha said.
In addition, he said, “I used to do this task during duty hours while I was in the military. However, near the end of my job, the pandemic struck, and people were frequently unable to locate automobiles at night. At first, drivers were also terrified.”
Though Saha had always desired to help others, he claimed it wasn’t until he retired that he “realised it was time for me to devote my complete efforts to social work.”
During the day, ambulances run by clubs and social organisations are active, but at nighttime are important for dangerous patients, according to Saha.
Moreover, since launching his free ambulance service in April 2020, Saha has taken over 20-25 patients to hospitals, including two with Covid.
Furthermore, he keeps his phone on all the time and devotes at least Rs 4,000-5,000 of his monthly pension to social activity. Over the last two years, Saha claims to have spent more than Rs 1 lakh on social services.
Saha, who joined the Tripura police’s border wings battalion in 1985, at the height of the state’s armed insurgency, was awarded the prestigious president’s medal in 2014, as well as other prestigious honours such as the director-general of police’s commendation disc in 2011 and the governor’s commendation card in 2014.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he served in insurgency-affected districts such as Anandabazar, Mohanbari, Mungiyakami, and Panisagar.
Premananda Saha recognised by Tripura Police Department
Even after he retired, his social work was recognised by the Tripura police department.
“A police officer, whether in service or retired, is always in service of people,” the state Tripura police tweeted earlier this month.
Moreover, Tripura Police honour retired Havildar Shri Premananda Saha for his Nobel Service.”
Saha replied with a smile when asked about the Tripura police tweet, “We have senior police officials living in the vicinity. Some of them must have seen the free ambulance service board at my gate.”
Saha’s humanitarian work is admired by his wife, Jhulan Roy Saha, a retired assistant sub-inspector, and daughter, Priya Saha, a law graduate, as well as his son. “I was extremely scared when he put on his PPE and went to transport Covid patients during the pandemic,” she said. But now that I think about it, I’m really proud of him,” Priya added.
However, Jhulan, a former Crime Investigation Department investigator, has been battling a brain tumour for several years.
Saha stated that as long as he was alive and well, he wanted to do yeoman’s service with his and his wife’s pensions.
After joining the “police movement” against the then-Congress-Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti administration, Saha was fired in 1992.
Moreover, Saha’s work, according to Dr Achintya Paul of the Indira Gandhi Memorial (IGM) Hospital’s medicine department, is a rare example of how ordinary people can step forward to help patients in need of immediate medical attention. Fortunately, when the CPM-led Left Front government took office in 1993, he was reinstated.
Further, he added, “The state government has introduced a slew of ambulances recently and people are getting services. But Premananda Saha’s works are really praiseworthy. It’s astounding to see a senior citizen taking it on himself to push that extra mile for helping people in the dead of the night.”