Chuadanga Sadar upazila administration launched "palli (rural) ambulance" services in seven unions in January 2018, but a few months later the ambulances broke down due to negligence and lack of proper maintenance.
Local people and drivers say the ambulances were of poor quality and they often broke down.
The union parishad chairmen in the upazila said the upazila nirbahi officer's plan to provide ambulance services failed as he did it without consulting them.
Washimul Bari, then upazila nirbahi officer of Chuadanga Sadar, took the initiative to buy seven ambulances for Tk14 lakh. The ambulances were actually easybikes converted into vehicles suitable for carrying patients, mothers and children of the upazila.
Upon Washimul Bari's directives, the ambulances were bought with money deposited by union parishads levied as property registration taxes. Each ambulance cost Tk2 lakh. Washimul Bari also prepared a policy to run the service and handed over the ambulances to the union parishads.
The upazila administration bought the ambulances from Nahar Auto, a shop in the Alokar Mor area of Rajshahi. There was no date of purchase on the cash memo given by Nahar Auto.
The union parishad were supposed to rent the ambulances to drivers for Tk150 per day, but the drivers apparently did not deposit any rent, saying they needed the money to repair the vehicles. Some of the drivers even said they often had to repair the vehicles with their own money.
A driver in Shankar Chandra union of the upazila tried to replace the battery-run engine with a fuel engine, but he failed. Batteries on several of the other ambulances went down as no one was running them.
Many local people said they were reluctant to ride those ambulances as they shook heavily on the roads. Despite all these problems, the ambulances were indispensable for ensuring medical services for the rural populace.
Harun Master, of Boalia village in Chuadanga Sadar Upazila, said, "When one night my great grandson fell ill, I called the village ambulance driver and he took him to the Sadar Hospital. I was so happy and relieved that I gave the driver a fare that made him happy too."
Shobha Khatun, of Manikdihi village in Shankar Chandra Union, was also grateful, saying, "Suddenly one morning my husband fell ill. My neighbour called an ambulance that took my husband to the hospital."
However, according to Abu Taher Biswas, chairman of Padmabila union in Chuadanga Sadar upazila, "The drivers complained about many things regarding the palli ambulances, so we could not continue the service."
Kutubpur union parishad chairman Ali Ahmed Hasanuzzaman Manik says it was not possible to appoint a designated driver to operate and maintain the ambulance for a salary of Tk12,000.
According to Golam Faruk Joarddar, chairman of Mominpur union parishad-2, "The bad situation rose due to the purchase of low-quality ambulances and huge sums of money have been embezzled. The upazila nirbahi officer did as he pleased without consulting any chairman. Then he gave us those ambulances at a ceremony, but they broke down in a few days."
Chuadanga Sadar Upazila Chairman Ashadul Haque Biswas said, "I was not informed about the purchase of the ambulance. I do not know what condition they are in."
Contacted for comment regarding the matter, Chuadanga Deputy Commissioner Md Nazrul Islam Sarker also said he did not know anything about it.