BARUIPUR: In his dull grey uniform, Saidul Laskar looks no different from any other taxi driver criss-crossing the city in a rusty Ambassador. But unlike his colleagues, Laskar is a man with a mission. For the last 12 years, he has been raising funds to build a hospital at Punri village — a small hamlet nearly 55km from Kolkata, where he lives.
The 55-year-old, who has been painstakingly collecting funds, often in the form of donations from his passengers, finally realized his dream on Saturday: Marufa Smriti Welfare Foundation — the hospital named after his late sister who had died without treatment — was thrown open. It will serve people from at least 100 neighbouring villages.
The hospital was inaugurated by Shrishti Ghosh, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer from Kalikapur who donated her first month’s salary for this noble mission.
“One day, she and her mother boarded my cab from South City and I asked for a don-ation from her like I do from all my passengers. She gave Rs 100 and took my number. In June last year, she came to my hospital and gave me Rs 25,000 — her first month’s salary. In Srishti I find my sister,” Laskar said.
“I joined an MNC in Chennai in February last year. So I couldn’t come but I kept my salary for the hospital. In June, when I was transferred to Kolkata, I went to him and gave him the money. When he can do such a big thing it is our responsibility to support him,” Srishti said.
The hospital’s outdoor department started functioning from Saturday with six beds. It will have 30 beds within the next six months, said Laskar. “There is no hospital in the area and this will be of great help to the the people here. They have donated money and I have started constructing the third floor which will have 20 beds. The first floor will be for the outdoor patients and the second floor will have pathological labs. An organisation has donated an X-Ray machine and an ECG machine,” said Laskar who has so far spent Rs 36 lakh to build the three-storied hospital.
It was the death of his 17-year-old sister in 2004 that made him pledge to build a hospital. Laskar couldn’t afford to get her treated for a chest infection that led to her death. Laskar vowed to make sure that none in his village would die like his sister.
"I wanted to build a hospital which will provide treatment at an affordable cost," Saidul said. But building a hospital was not easy and Saidul had to work hard to gather enough funds to begin construction work.
“Initially, I needed R s 3 lakh to buy the 2 bigha land I had chosen for building the hospital. But I had no money and my wife gave me all her ornaments which I sold to collect the money for the land,” Saidul said.
“He told me that he wanted to build a hospital and asked for my ornaments. We had a long discussion and he patiently convinced me. For nine long years, he has been saving every penny and I knew that he will be successful,” Saidul's wife Shamima said.
Saidul is negotiating with a nursing training school that has promised to train local girls who will work as nurses at the hospital. “Saidul’s effort is a huge one and we want to help him,” said optometrist Joy Chowdhury who will handle the eye department of the hospital said.
“Building a hospital is a huge task and it needs at least 2 to 3 crore to fulfil the basic requirement of a hospital. I am member of an NGO- ‘Banchbo’ and we have come forward to give him support. Intially we have started the Outdoor Patient Departmentand we will start the indoor soon. If we work together I think this is possible,” said Dhiresh Chowdhury who is in charge of the orthopaedic department said.