Ambulance driver who took 200 COVID victims for last rites succumbs to virus

Arif Khan ferried COVID patients throughout the day to and from hospitals, staying away from his family for days together

Arif Khan would work for more than 14 hours a day and attend to calls even late at night. Photo: PTI (Representational)

Arif Khan, 48, was a very busy man since March, when the COVID outbreak started. An ambulance driver in Delhi, he ferried COVID patients throughout the day to and from hospitals, and bodies of those who died of the disease for their last rites, staying away from his family for days together. On Saturday, however, he himself fell victim to the coronavirus at the Hindu Rao Hospital after testing positive for COVID on October 3.

Khan worked as a driver for the 24X7 free ambulance service in the national capital provided by the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal. He slept in the parking lot ever since the COVID outbreak started. 

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He wouldn’t visit home for fear of spreading the virus to the family and he would interact with his wife and two sons mostly over phone. They said that he would visit home only occasionally to collect essential items and for change of clothes. 

“We would meet him when he came over to pick up something, like clothes. We were worried about him. But he never bothered about Covid, he just wanted to do his job well,” his younger son Adil, 22, said, reported The Indian Express.

Khan and his family stayed in a rented accommodation. He earned a salary of ₹16,000, of which ₹9,000 would go towards rent. Despite his meagre earnings, he would provide financial help to relatives of COVID victims finding it difficult to meet the expenses for the last rites, his colleagues said. According to them, Khan would have taken at least 200 dead victims since March for their last rates. He wouldn’t care if they were Hindus or Muslims. He would chip in irrespective of their religion, they said. He has helped many Hindu families cremate members who had died of COVID, they said. 

Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal founder Jitender Singh Shunty said Khan was a sincere employee. He would work for more than 14 hours a day and would respond to calls any time of the day, even late at night, he said. 

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Shunty said when he had some of family members contracted the virus, Khan regularly enquired about them and even took care of their needs.

He said Khan was a man of compassion and he cared for others. “On September 30, a hospital refused to release a person’s body because his family couldn’t foot the bill. Khan chipped in,” Shunty said, The Indian Express reported.

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