By Mewanshwa Kharshiing
SHILLONG: The women taxi service launched by the State Government last year with much fanfare failed to draw favourable response from women, but the taxi service has now been put to good use, albeit on a small scale.
The State Government recently launched a scheme to provide free transportation to all expectant mothers who are admitted at Ganesh Das Hospital in the city for delivery, which has come as a boon to many women from the underprivileged background especially those hailing from remote areas of the State.
An MOU in this regard had been signed by the State Government with the owners of 6 taxis sometime last years to initiate this scheme.
A senior official of the Health department informed that this new scheme – Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) – was first launched in Haryana on June 1, 2011 for reducing maternal and mortality rate and has been subsequently initiated in other states of the country including Meghalaya.
“The State Government decided to implement the same in the State by providing six women-only taxis to Ganesh Das Hospital,” the official said, while adding that this concept has in fact helped to increase the number of institutional delivery at the hospital.
The official also informed that under the initiative, a pregnant woman is entitled to free transportation from home to the government health facility and in-between facilities in case she is referred elsewhere on account of complications, and also transportation back home after 48 hours of delivery.
“Many women especially those coming from the rural areas have come forward to avail this initiative. We are very happy with the progress so far despite the fact that the initiative was launched only in August last year,” the official added.
She also observed that this scheme will go a long way in ensuring the safety of the expectant mother and at the same time prevent them from incurring high expenses on transportation from home to hospital and back.
The Health official also informed that emergency kits are being made available in the taxis operated by women drivers, besides training and orientation programme for handling the patients and their attendants on awareness on the scheme and spacing of birth for providing healthy lifestyles among the children.
The official also said that the six taxis on an average go on two trips each day to whichever destination they are told to and are paid accordingly by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) at the end of every month.
“This concept has also provided the six women taxi drivers with a decent mean of earning their livelihood,” the official said.
Speaking on the initiative, a woman from Markasa village in West Khasi Hills, who was admitted at Ganesh Das Hospital, said, “This initiative has helped us greatly because it has eased commuting from the villages which are far off from Shillong.”