Aizawl, July 6 (IANS): Braving life risk and social stigma, this 46-year-old man in Mizoram has won love and respects of numerous Covid suspect patients as he ferried them home for free after completion of their institutional quarantine period.
Israel Lalremtluanga, a pastor of Baptist church in southern Mizoram's Lunglei district, drives people to their villages and homes in his own car. He has redesigned his small car with a single seat in front for driver, while rear seats for the passengers with polythene and plastic barrier in between the front and back sections for maintaining social distancing as per the COVID-19 protocols.
"I started ferrying people from March after the Mizoram citizens started returning to their homes from different parts of the country. I learnt people were facing great difficulties in returning to their villages and homes even after they completed their 14 or 21-day quarantine period or came out negative for coronavirus.
"Social prejudice came in their way. Even after recovering from the disease or completed quarantine period, they were not getting public transport or were made to pay up Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 to return to their villages and homes in vehicles laden with goods.
Just a few months back there were reports of a asthma patient dying on roadside in a southern state as none around him was brave enough to ferry him to the nearest hospital, fearing Covid infection. This shows how important the pastor is to people who face prejudice everyday.
"Their miseries and inhuman situations stirred my heart," Lalremtluanga told IANS over phone.
He said that his father-in-law Thankunga Chongthu, who died in January last year, had purchased the car, he is now using.
The pastor, who along with his two children and wife lives in Haulawng village (in Lunglei district), 130 km south of state capital Aizawl, said it was his primary duty to give happiness and comforts to the needy and ailing people.
"My work is not for any recognition and publicity. When I am serving others, I am serving as per God's wishes. It gives me immense pleasure, when I am able to help the people during this time of crisis," Lalremtluanga said.
The pastor, however, could not recollect the exact number of people he has ferried so far. "Since services of a large number of churches have been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak and governmental restrictions, I have started serving people outside the church."
Around 18,000 people so far have returned to Mizoram from other states. The Mizoram government made it mandatory for them to remain in 14 or 21-day institutional quarantine immediately after their returned to the state and then a week isolation in their homes.
Public transportation is a big problem in this bordering state like other neighbouring mountainous states of the northeastern region. Out of the eight northeastern states, only Mizoram was a green state until June 1. It had earlier turned Covid-19 free after its lone patient recovered from the disease and was discharged from the Zoram Medical College and Hospital on May 9.
According to the Mizoram health official, the COVID-19 positive cases on Monday rose to 186 with 53 active cases and 133 patients have been discharged after recovery from the infectious virus.