Living in a war prone area can itself be nerve-wracking but being in charge of nursing injured soldiers/civilians in such a dangerous environment requires true grit and courage. Sarabjit Kaur, a 40-year old widow and pharmacist, has been working 10-hour shifts in Naushera Dhalla village in the Amritsar area, to look after those affected by the ongoing border skirmish between India and Pakistan.
The government dispensary where Sarabjit works is barely 200 metres from the border. The only doctor working at this dispensary has been shifted to a camp; Sarabjit is dealing with patients from three nearby villages, with a population of around 11,500 people, all by herself.
The dedicated pharmacist lives in a village called Attari, which is 45 km from Amritsar, and she travels 17 km on a scooter every day to the dispensary.
Image for representatiom only. Source: Flickr
The village where Sarabjit works was recently put on high alert and all the villagers were requested to evacuate their homes as soon as possible following the terrorist attack in Uri and the surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. This mass evacuation has resulted in a decline in the number of patients visiting the dispensary by almost a third.
Sarabjit told The Hindustan Times “Till last week, we saw 30 patients a day, now it’s 10. I haven’t received any bullet or shelling case so far; if required I’ll call an ambulance on 108 to rush them to a hospital.”
Sarabjit, and her 60-year-old helper Suvindar Kaur, received orders on Wednesday afternoon from the district authorities, who informed them that they now have to work 10-hour shifts instead of the usual six hours, in order to deal with emergencies. The women were also told that they will have to be prepared for night duty at camps (where evacuated villagers are being put up) and their weekly off-day has been cancelled.
Ever since the mass evacuation took place, some families have left behind their elders to guard crops and precious belongings at home. Suvindar Kaur has been staying alone to keep a vigil over her house and safeguard it from thieves, while the rest of her family has shifted to a relative’s house in Amritsar.
The villagers are tense and agitated, but this is not the first time that they’ve been stuck in the middle of a cross-border conflict. Sarabjit says,“I have faced similar tension during the Kargil war. My family refused to vacate the house even though there was military all around.”
Sarabjit, whose husband died 10 years ago, has promised her children that she will rush back home in case she senses some major trouble.