Incredible Orissa

Odisha NGO wins hearts with low-cost ambulance, hearse van

In the country’s poorest district of Nabarangpur, a group of local youths have been touching lives in various ways, sometimes ferrying patients in an ambulance to hospitals in places as far as 500 km away.

Govindalaya is an NGO that rents out its hearse van and ambulance, runs a computer education centre, trains farmers and runs a blood bank helpline in a district where blood is always in short supply.

“Our mission is to bring about developmental changes that will help people in KBK [Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput] live healthier, more productive lives,” said founder chairman Shanmuga Patro, a lawyer who has practised in the Supreme Court and high courts.

More than anything else, it is the ambulance and hearse services that have won it the goodwill of locals. It charges just Rs 500. The hearse van in the district headquarters hospital is defunct while the ambulance there does not move out in the evening. “Transporting bodies is a big headache here. Govindalaya is a huge help,” said Ramesh Bisoi, inspector with Nabarangpur police.

“Even if it’s raining and we get a call in the dead of night, we go,” said ambulance driver Nityanand Das. Till date, the trust has transported over 500 patients and 300 bodies to and from various hospitals and accident sites.

With 12 full-time employees, 52 local volunteers and more than 30 professionals in various parts of the world, the trust has been surviving on individual donations and the philanthropy of IT majors such as Infosys, which donated computer hardware for a 20-seat computer centre in Nabarangpur town.

The NGO’s biggest dream is, however, still taking shape. It is in the process of setting up an old-age home for 100 on a 31-acre patch of land in Soruguda village.

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