Alirajpur: Most villages in this part of Madhya Pradesh are situated in difficult terrain, thus making it hard for the tribal population to get even basic amenities like food, water and other essential commodities.
However, the introduction of three boat ambulances in November 2012, under the National Rural Health Mission in this area on the mighty Narmada River has made life easier for tribals here who are mainly fishermen or daily wagers.
Despite the initial resistance, this boat ambulance service is now popular among villagers.
"Initially there was resistance by the villagers. They used to run away from us and even threw stones at the boat ambulance but gradually we convinced them and now they understand that we are here to help them," said Dr Prakash Dhoke, Civil Surgeon in Alirajpur.
In 2012, under the National Rural Health Mission, the three boats also known as Janani Express, were launched with the intention of providing transportation to pregnant women from 16 villages of the state, but due to lack of health services in remote villages, they later started treating sick people.
These ambulances now serve more than 40 villages in the state as well as some parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra which are on the banks of Narmada.
Thanks to the boat ambulance, 27-year-old Azma's son was able to receive medical treatment on time. "My son was suffering from Diarrhea. I called up the boat ambulance and have come here for his treatment. He is going to be well. The nearest health centre from my village by road would have taken hours to reach," said Azma.
Like Azma, two months ago, Saya Dharasia too called up the boat ambulance in the middle of the night when she was in labour. Within hours, a boat had reached her village Bhitada and rushed her to hospital.
"In the middle of the night, I called on their helpline number for help and they came. Had it not been for them, I would not have lived," recalled Saya Dharasia.
So far, more than 1000 people living in remote villages have benefited from this service. Seeing the good response, the authorities are planning to expand this service to other villages as well.
The Janani Express is a scheme of the Central government prelevant across India. It is a motorboat with a capacity of 15 people and has two beds with first aid kit, medicines and oxygen cylinder.