District administration offers support, spreads awareness on the ‘Civic Wheels’ group of six, including two women
Almost a year after using his SUV (sports utility vehicle) as an ambulance to ferry non-COVID-19 patients to and from hospitals, Nagaland’s H.K. Hongnao Konyak is back with his free drive for a cause.
He is not alone this time. Five other vehicle owners, including two women, have joined him in ferrying 45-plus people to and from COVID-19 vaccination camps in Mon, the headquarters of Mon district bordering Myanmar.
Perched 655 metres above sea level, Mon is about 355 km northeast of Nagaland capital Kohima.
“COVID-19 vaccination among the 45-plus slowed down considerably after the initial enthusiasm. We found out people were reluctant to take the jab at the hospitals in the district, also serving as COVID Care Centres,” Mon’s Deputy Commissioner Thavaseelan Karunanidhy said.
More than a week ago, the district authorities decided to organise a vaccination camp at the Mon playground. But it was easier said than done; very few in the hill town had vehicles for people aged 45 years and above to travel to and from the camp.
On May 30, about 80 people — many above 60 years — turned up to get the jab. Some of them came in the vehicles of the six “free-wheelers” who call their impromptu group Civic Wheels.
“They fetched the senior citizens to the camp, waited for 30 minutes to observe for any reaction and dropped them back home. We offered to bear their fuel expenses but they declined,” Mr. Karunanidhy said.
The district administration had used various modes of communication, including social media, to let the town of some 17,000 people know about the six-member Civic Wheels and how to avail a free ride to and from the camp.
“I have been offering a ride to elderly people on normal days. I saw the vaccination camp as an opportunity to help them out and, in a way underline the importance of the inoculation,” said Phelem Naam, the only female pastor among the Konyaks, the Naga community that dominates Mon district.
Apart from Mr. Konyak, her “partners in drive” are a cancer survivor and social worker Affe Winkangshu, school teacher Tingmei Wangshu, government employee Shongwang, and Sashi, who runs an NGO.
The six have two SUVs and four hatchbacks.
“We ferried two persons per trip because of COVID-19 restrictions. We intend to carry on providing the free service in Mon town and beyond for the poor and needy whenever the vaccination drive takes place,” Mr. Konyak told The Hindu.
The district authorities want the camp to be a weekly feature.
“We want to run an ambulance service but our resources are very limited. We hope some organisation or corporate house would provide us one,” he said.
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