Last week, I came across a sick puppy outside my home in Chennai. She was wailing in pain and unable to move. Her condition was such that when I put out water and milk for her to drink, she couldn’t even raise her head. A few minutes later, she started experiencing seizures. Almost immediately, I dialled animal rescue shelters across the city.
But it was a Sunday, so I received no response from most shelters. However, one directed me towards a man named N Baskar, an autorickshaw driver.
After I dialled Baskar’s number, he arrived at the spot within a few hours. And so the little puppy found a way to reach a vet.
In the last three years, several like me have dialled distress calls to Baskar. The 42-year-old, a resident of Mandaveli in Chennai, has been rescuing injured dogs, cats, and sometimes birds across the city.
“I have been an auto driver for the last six years, but in 2018, I converted the vehicle into an ambulance for injured strays, who are otherwise denied help from cabs and other rickshaws in the city,” Baskar tells The Better India.
An animal’s best friend
Before 2018, apart from being an auto driver, Baskar used to work as an on-call car driver to earn additional income. This led him to meet Vinodhini and Manjula Ganesh, Chennai-based volunteers who feed stray dogs regularly.
“Every evening, one of them would need a driver to take them from one area to another to feed stray dogs. Inspired by this, I started feeding 75 dogs in my area. I would set aside some money every week from my income to purchase rice and meat. My wife, who works as a cook, would prepare the food and I would distribute it across various streets surrounding my home,” says Baskar.
One day, Vinodhini received a distress call from one of her friends about a dog who was hit by a vehicle. But cabs and autos refused to help, because the dog was bleeding. So Vinodhini asked Baskar for help.
“Without thinking twice, I left from my auto stand and went to pick up the injured dog, who was given timely help and rescued,” says Baskar, adding that this led to more calls from rescue volunteers who needed transportation for injured animals.
However, at that time, Baskar was driving a rented auto, and his owner was against him taking injured animals in the vehicle.
“I gave the auto back to him and decided to purchase my own. Seeing an injured puppy being denied help ignited a spark in me, and I wanted to dedicate my life to helping these voiceless beings. So, I applied for financial assistance to purchase an auto. I received only partial assistance, and invested Rs 40,000 from my savings and by borrowing money from some friends,” says Bhaskar.
Helping the voiceless
In early 2019, once Baskar received his auto, he named it ‘Help Voiceless’. Inside, he set up a cage for big dogs, a basket for puppies, and a carrier for cats. He carries some kibble along with water bowls to feed the rescues.
His passenger auto now serves as an exclusive ambulance for animals.
Soon, word about his services spread on social media. Within a week, he started receiving distress calls from all over the city. Every day, he would make at least four or five trips to the veterinarian with a sick or injured animal.
In the last three years, Baskar says he has rescued over 200 animals in and around the city. Sometimes, if he notices a litter of newborn puppies, he takes them to veterinary facilities that provide free vaccinations for stray animals.
“After working closely with stray animals, I have developed a special place in my heart for them and consider them my family. One time, I travelled more than 50 kilometers from the city to rescue a puppy who was very sick. He was infested with worms, did not have any bladder control, and was covered in dirt as he had been unable to move for days. But I knew he needed the same care as any human does, and rescued him without flinching. Finally, he was admitted to a hospital in the city,” says Baskar.
Apart from dogs and cats, Baskar also rescues injured birds including crows and pigeons. Sometimes, if he finds dead animals, he takes them to a burial ground and performs their last rites.
“Since I had spent all my savings to purchase the auto, to earn a livelihood, I would request rescuers to pay for transportation charges. I would take the animals to well-known rescue centres in the city that treat the animal for free,” says Baskar.
That year, Baskar says he earned up to Rs 20,000 every month from rescuing animals. The money would be used to pay house rent, his two sons’ education, groceries, auto maintenance, and repayment of his loan.
However, owing to multiple lockdowns due to COVID-19, Baskar’s income has been nil on most days. Even if he received distress calls, he was forced to refuse.
“To make ends meet, we had to shift my younger son, a student of Class 11, from a private school to a government one. But, after the lockdown eased, I restarted my services. Nowadays, I earn only Rs 700 per week, and this money is not sufficient to make ends meet,” Baskar notes.
If you wish to help Baskar and support his ambulance service, you can make a donation to his bank account –
GPay Number: 7010765506
Bank Name: Canara Bank
Account Number: 60632010002374
IFSC Code: CNRB0016063
If you come across an injured animal in Chennai, you can call Baskar on – 9445159587