Srinagar, July 20: At a time when Kashmir has been witnessing bloodbath and people struggle to rush the wounded to hospitals, the government is using a fleet of its ambulances to ferry VIP guests for picnicking.
For the past few days, frequent complaints were pouring in that some brand new ambulances, which yet to be commissioned for patient-care, were being used to ferry VIP guests to health resorts, including Pahalgam and Sonamarg, which are equally the base camps for the ongoing Amarnath pilgrimage.
Insiders said the VIP guests from outside, allegedly being hosted by some ministers and senior bureaucrats, were feeling suffocated indoors and wanted to go out for picnic.
However, given the ongoing unrest in Kashmir, which has claimed over 40 lives and 3000 more are wounded in the past 12 days of chronic curfew, the officials had observed that the movement of their guests would not be feasible in armored vehicles as it could only aggravate the situation.
Insiders said it was finally resolved that let the guests be offered joyride in ambulances. It was however reliably learnt that the classy guests had a precondition that they would travel only in brand new ambulances than the ones already into use for patients.
They had a precondition that they would only travel in new ambulances as travelling in old ambulances could bring in misfortune So finally our bosses got some of the brand new ambulances rolled out for the guests, said a lower rung staffer in the Health Department.
On July 19, a number of ambulances of Directorate of Health Services Kashmir were seen ferrying guests to the picturesque Pari Mahal on the Zaberwan Hills for picnicking.
Citizen Journalist Hashim Hamid who clicked the pictures, said he was puzzled to see that the ambulances were doing at this picnic spot when Kashmir is burning. But he I couldnt get any replies, he said.
The pictures show ambulances including those from PHC Preng Block Kangan, waiting for the guests at the Pari Mahal parking.
Some ambulance drivers said initially they resisted to ferry guests for joyride when Kashmir is burning but that they were forced to keep quite or face termination of services. At the end we are government servants and thus our voices get muzzled by our masters, the drivers said.
Faiz Dijoo a social media activist who has launched a campaign over misuse of ambulances said it was unfortunate that the government was making misuse of its own resources in the hour of crises when people need to be given such facilities.
Despite repeated attempts, Director Health, Dr Saleem Ur Rehman and Commissioner Secretary, Health, could not be contacted for comments.
But the Minister for Health, Bali Bhagat declined to comment on the issue. His assistant who picked up the phone asked about the issue before handing over the phone to his boss. On being informed that there were allegations of misuse of ambulances to please guests of ministers and bureaucrats, he said: Sahib is busy chairing a meeting, will get back to you later.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.