Ambulances meant to ferry critical patients to places of safety are themselves running unsafely on the roads as almost all such vehicles of the state health department in the Jammu province are plying without vehicle insurance and registration number plates.
The entire responsibility lay on the driver of the ambulance in case of an accident. Even there is no personal insurance cover for drivers and they will be solely held responsible if anything untoward happens. One can well imagine the fate of the patients in case an ambulance gets involved in an accident.
The health department in the Jammu province has a fleet of more than 350 ambulances and none have
Even other vehicles of state health department in the province, including cars, do not have insurance certificates and number plates. Few vehicles, including the one being used by director, health services, Jammu, have proper insurance and number plate.
"We feel unsafe. We have no other alternative to drive ambulances without proper insurance. The ambulances have to be driven in case of emergency. We do not have to wait for clear roads or whether it is day or night and have to drive in the most extreme conditions. We have highlighted our concerns many a time to the higher authorities, but to no avail," said Anoop Singh, president, Driver and Cleaners Union, state health transport, Jammu province.
"Though government has exempted some vehicles from getting the insurance, but driving vehicles without number plates is completely illegal," said Kuldeep Singh, assistant road transport officer, Jammu.
Even the condition of these 350 ambulances is in a shambles, as many of the vehicles are more than 20-year-old.
"We are driving very old vehicles. The department provides us no funds for repair and maintenance of ambulances. We get one tyre when we had given the requisition for four. We are forced to ply on resoled tyres in the hilly terrain of the Jammu province," added Anoop Singh.
"The departmental workshop, which has strength of 30 mechanics, has now only four employees as the rest have retired over the years. The department has not bothered to fill the vacancies," he added.