Palakkad, Kerala: A pregnant woman in Kerala was carried by her family in a bedsheet tied to poles for around 4 km in the early hours of Monday. In footage that is in wide circulation on social media, four men walk barefoot on what appears to be a slippery and rock-filled track along a river as they carry the woman.
The 27-year-old woman from tribal village of Attapadi in Palakkad was in pain as she was carried for what seemed like hours on the makeshift "stretcher". Two more family members accompanied her.
The group even crossed a stream in that manner. They walked till they came to a point where they had arranged a private jeep to complete the rest of the journey to the hospital.
According to villagers, they called for an ambulance under a government scheme but it was not available. "The ambulance had not finished its fitness check after insurance, and therefore could not be moved. By the time another vehicle under the national health mission could be arranged, the woman was already being taken to the hospital. I am told that the location is in the interiors, and requires considerable walking, since vehicles can't go inside. I have asked for a detailed report," Dr KP Reetha, the the District medical officer for Palakkad told NDTV.
The woman delivered a baby girl barely moments after she reached the government tribal hospital at Kottathara.
The hospital claims that it was trying to arrange an ambulance but the family had already made its own arrangement.
Attapadi, which has a large number of tribal families, has been in the news in the past over infant deaths. Because of the absence of roads in what is among the most remote parts of Kerala, villagers often can't access hospitals on time. Instead of roads, there are mud tracks where only jeeps can be driven.
Villagers complain that despite an assurance from the Congress government at the centre in 2013, when it emerged that infant mortality in the region was 66 to 1,000 births, there are still no motorable roads connecting many villages to health centres. Flooding makes it worse during the monsoon.