Taxi driver Saidul Laskar’s sister was only 17 when she died of a chest infection. Just because he couldn’t afford her treatment.
Her death in 2004 left a major impact on the now 55-year-old man, who vowed that he wouldn’t let anybody else in his village die like his sister – simply because they couldn’t afford treatment in a hospital.
Thus began Saidul’s journey to collect funds and set up a hospital in his village, Punri, on the outskirts of Kolkata.
After struggling for 12 long years, the humble taxi driver finally inaugurated his dream hospital, Marufa Smriti Welfare Foundation hospital, named after his late sister on Saturday, reported the Times of India.
Saidul says his hospital will provide affordable treatment to over 100 villages. It began its outdoor department operations from Saturday with six beds but is expected to have another 30 beds in the next six months.
His road to building a hospital was not easy. Saidul still remembers gingerly walking up to his wife when he wanted to Rs 3 lakhs to buy a two bigha plot for setting up the hospital.
He had no money left. And so Shamima, his wife, handed over all her jewellery to him so that he could sell it and raise money for the land.
“He told me that he wanted to build a hospital and asked for my ornaments. We had a long discussion, and he patiently convinced me. For nine long years, he has been saving every penny, and I knew that he would be successful,” Saidul’s wife Shamima told TOI.
Saidul then began raising funds by requesting donations from his passengers. One such donor who gave up her entire first-month salary for the cause was specially invited by Saidul to inaugurate the hospital. This young girl was 23-year-old mechanical engineer Shrishti Ghosh.
Saidul recalls the day when Shrishti and her mother, residents of Kalikapur, boarded his cab from South City. When he asked them for a donation, Shrishti not only handed over a Rs 100 note but took down his number too.
“In June last year, she came to my hospital and gave me Rs 25,000 — her first month’s salary. In Srishti I find my sister,” Saidul told TOI.
The hospital will make affordable treatment accessible to hundreds of villagers since the area has no adequate medical facilities in the vicinity. Many of the locals have also come forward to help with donations to construct an additional third floor for the hospital with 20 beds.
Saidul has spent over Rs 36 lakh to construct the hospital to date. While he plans to dedicate the first floor to outdoor patients, the second floor will have pathological labs. He has also received help in kind from an organisation, which donated an X-Ray machine and an ECG machine.
The next step for Saidul is to work with a nursing school and help train local girls to work as nurses at the hospital.
Joy Chowdhury, an optometrist who has taken up the responsibility of handling the hospital’s eye department said, “Saidul’s effort is a huge one, and we want to help him.”
Shiresh Chowdhury who is set to take charge of the hospital’s orthopaedic department lauded Saidul’s effort. “Building a hospital is a huge task and it needs at least Rs 2 to 3 crore to fulfil the basic requirement of a hospital. I am a member of an NGO – ‘Banchbo’ and we have come forward to give him support. Initially, we have started the Outdoor Patient Department, and we will start the indoor soon. If we work together I think this is possible,” he told TOI.
We hope more and more people come forward to support Saidul and promote his vision of affordable healthcare in his village!