The area around Bijapur district in Raipur, Chattisgarh, shares its border with Dantewada and adjoins Telangana and Maharashtra. Maoist insurgency is rife in the region, with violence occurring sporadically. However, there is always a shroud of fear over the inhabitants even as they struggle to earn a living.
Life is hard here, due to the lack of facilities, and the prevalent atmosphere of violence. Which has probably prompted the CRPF to start providing essential healthcare, to those living in the jungles in the Bastar region.
This is being done through “bike ambulances” which are a quick and easy way, to get immediate help to a sick or injured person. Well-armed security personnel accompany these medical teams, which ride on motorcycles to help the ill and wounded, in about 70 villages of the Bijapur district.
The rationale behind using two-wheelers is that 4-wheelers are easy targets for the ultras. These bikes, procured for anti-Naxal patrols, have been put to use to help locals who are sick, according to the Commandant of the 85th CRPF battalion Sudhir Kumar, in PTI.
The bike ambulance team on the field consists of a doctor, a paramedic and an assistant. They visit villages, either en-route on patrol or when called in case of an emergency.
The team takes risks, entering villages that flank the 30-km-long Bijapur-Gangloor axis- an area where around 150 security personnel have lost their lives over the years.
According to Kumar, the lack of adequate healthcare facilities necessitated this initiative. There are only two government health centres in the interiors of the district. The bike teams were thus sent to cater to the needy. The teams have been helpful-rushing the critically ill to district headquarters. In one case, they even provided a Jaipur foot to a tribal who had undergone amputation.
The team is always prepared, and even while on operations, carries medicines that are administered for health issues like malaria and typhoid.
The Commandant mentions incidents when the security personnel responded to an SOS call from locals but were ambushed by Naxals. He said the team calculates risks, and every medical team is accompanied by a well-armed security guard.
The CRPF carries out civic action work, to befriend the locals, by providing household items to them using government funds. This new initiative is a part of this work, to earn the trust of the locals. It is already proving useful, as the locals come back with vital intelligence regarding Naxal aggression, and report these to the authorities, thus saving valuable lives.
The CRPF is spreading education on two wheels as well, sending officials on bikes to hold a few school sessions for students that call the interiors of Bijapur home. In fact, this initiative is soon to spread to other areas of the Bastar region, according to a senior official in the command office in Raipur.