Kolkata: Kolkata, the City of Joy, is also the city that houses the sick, the starved and the homeless. But they aren't the only ones scouring the slums and shanties of this metropolis.
At least twice a week you might just bump into D Ashish and his troupe of volunteers walking through the streets collecting medicines which they make sure reach those who need it the most but can't afford it.
Ashish had a pampered childhood, but that didn't blind him to the other side of life. His neighbourhood was ringed by some of the city's biggest slums. And by the time he turned 14, he had seen that while many in the slums died without any treatment, there were others who were throwing away unused medicines
It was then that Ashish and 15 of his friends began a door-to-door collection drive, picking up unused medicines from neighbours, and distributing them among those who couldn’t afford any. And thus began the Medical Bank in 1980.
“People throw away unused medicine. If we collect them lot of poor people can use them,” says Ashish.
Today the Medical Bank is not just about medicines. It gets patients treated by reputed doctors either free of cost or at a discounted fee. It also distributes spectacles and pacemakers among the poor.
Its latest initiative is called the Footpath Hospital where 25 doctors treat about 100 patients twice a week.
Public donations have kept the crusade going, though medicine collections have halved in the past few years after drug companies cut down on free sample supplies to doctors. But Ashish da, as he is fondly called is not giving up. Twenty seven years of service have taught him the man that like disease every adversity has also a cure.
(D Ashish can be contacted at 09831062157)