Patna: Former Lok Sabha MP Pappu Yadav has targeted BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy in Bihar’s Saran district after 30 unused ambulances were found parked at a community centre run by Rudy.
The ambulances had Rudy’s name stickered on the vehicles and were purportedly purchased using funds from the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) that was suspended last year.
“It is criminal negligence. People are paying as much as Rs 12,000 to ferry Covid patients to hospitals even though the hospital may be just 1 km away. There is an acute shortage of ambulances and the Saran MP has kept about 100 ambulances. He has distributed some ambulances among his own men. There should be a probe into the matter. The MPLAD fund is public money,” said the Jan Adhikar Party chief in a statement Friday.
A video on social media shows Yadav walking among the parked vehicles, removing the tarpaulin covering them. On some vehicles, the words MPLADS-2019 can be seen.
Yadav has been active in getting Covid patients admitted to hospitals as well as supplying medicine and oxygen cylinders.
However, Rudy accused Yadav of indulging in politics and denied he was hoarding the vehicles. The real issue, he said, was that there was a shortage of drivers.
“Not many drivers volunteer to drive with a Covid patient. I have written to Saran district magistrate to provide me with drivers … Pappu Yadav could have called on the call centre opened by me for medical care for people of my constituency. I have maintained the largest network of ambulances — 80. It is the largest in the country,” he told ThePrint.
“Currently, there are 57 ambulances on roads in Saran. There is not a single case in which anyone calling has not been given an ambulance. If Pappu Yadav wants to do politics he should do it in Madhepura from where he contests and not Saran,” he added.
In a statement Saturday, BJP’s state unit alleged Yadav had illegally entered the community centre premises and terrorised staff. “Pappu Yadav entered politics through crime. He has not run a single free ambulance for the suffering masses and he should be ashamed of trying to gain politically by levelling allegations against Rudy,” the party said.
Rudy, who represents Saran, a stronghold of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), after defeating Rabri Devi in 2014 polls, has also been facing heat over the matter from the opposition. “He could have donated (the ambulances) to a hospital or NGO,” RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwari said.
Shortage of drivers is real, say doctors
Doctors in the district said there is indeed a shortage of ambulance drivers across Bihar. “There is no shortage of ambulances but drivers are not willing to ferry Covid patients. In normal times, the charge to ferry a patient to a hospital would be Rs 500 and with oxygen Rs 1500. But they have to buy the oxygen in black (market) … patients are being fleeced,” said Dr Ajit Pradhan who runs a heart hospital in Patna.
He added that several private hospitals have had to stop using their own ambulances due to no availability of drivers.
Meanwhile, parties said they have been coming under pressure from their constituents as Covid-19 cases climb in Bihar. The state had imposed a lockdown earlier this week, that is to remain in effect till 15 May.
“The people of our constituencies are asking for oxygen cylinders, ambulances and medicines … all of them are in short supply,” said a BJP MLA on the condition of anonymity.
To mitigate the situation, the state is considering bringing in drivers of school buses. “We are going to ask drivers of school buses, who are idle due to closure of schools, to step in for driving ambulances. But I do not think many would volunteer,” a health department official told ThePrint.
Bihar is currently recording about 14,000 to 15,000 new cases daily. As the numbers grow, the state, like many others, is struggling to ensure enough hospital beds and supply of supply of oxygen and medicines.
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