This Ramzan is different for 65-year-old Babu Bharti. His wife, Bilkis, isn’’t preparing hot sewai for iftaar and his three children haven’t asked for new clothes. In fact, Bharti, who drives an ambulance in Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal district, hasn’t seen his family in 42 days. Since March 23, the driver has been doing rounds of containment zones and hotspots in the district and has now made the emergency vehicle his home.

“I sleep in the ambulance, I shower when I find a tubewell in a field. Arrangements for my food are made by the district hospital where I work. I have decided to go home only once we win the battle against coronavirus,” Bharti told TOI on Friday.

Dr Neeraj Sharma, incharge of the rapid action team against Covid-19 in Sambhal, said Bharti was part of the team since the outbreak in the district. “We have brought nearly 1,100 suspected Covid-19 patients for tests at the district hospital and at least 700 of them were ferried by Bharti. His dedication is unparalleled. He is ready with his ambulance at any time of the day and night.”

Bharti works on contract with the district hospital for Rs 17,000 a month.

Sharma said Bharti was told to visit his home in Mandi Kishandas Sarai village, located 9km from the hospital, for Ramzan, but he refused to do so until the district is listed under the green zone. At present, Sambhal district is in the orange zone. Containment areas within red and orange zones have the most restrictions. Sambhal has recorded 19 confirmed cases and two deaths. Over 200 people have been put in quarantine shelters.

“I talk to my family every morning to assure them that I’m safe. I can’t go back because I have a duty to do here. With infection rates peaking, ambulance services are required more than ever to carry suspected patients for testing,” said Bharti. He is also aware that older people might be at more risk due to Covid-19, but his age doesn’t scare him.

“I take all precautions. I sanitise the ambulance every time I bring in a suspected patient and make sure the medical staff use sanitiser before boarding the vehicle,” he said.

RISKING LIFE & LIMB: Babu Bharti, who works on contract with the district hospital in Sambhal for Rs 17,000 a month, said he will go home only when the battle against Covid-19 is over