52-year-old Hiralal Lodhi, who lives in a village in Madhya Pradesh, is a tea-seller who earns ₹700 a month. For the last two years he’s had a tumour in his mouth that has grown sizeably to make his jaws and cheeks appear bloated. After a series of visits to doctors in hospitals and spending about ₹20,000 on treatments, he was asked to pay up additional sums of money for surgery. Although Lodhi owns some land, he doesn’t make a living from it, so he had nearly given up hope until he was informed by a neighbour about Lifeline Express.
A project initiated in 1991, this mobile hospital on railway tracks first set out from the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai to travel to remote parts of rural India with a team of volunteer doctors. A collaboration between Indian Railways, Impact India Foundation and Tata Memorial Hospital, it is aimed at giving citizens in the so-called ‘mofussil’ areas access to decent healthcare services.
So far, over 1.3 lakh procedures and surgeries have been conducted on the train by various medical teams, curing deformities like cleft lip and clubbed foot. Women required ante-natal care have been attended to.
Initially, running with only three coaches, the number has grown to seven now. The train is equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipments and WiFi services, so that reports can be sent to doctors in the urban areas and consultations carried out on the best way ahead.
In its latest phase, the seven-coach Lifeline Express commenced its project in Satna in Madhya Pradesh, where it treated Lodhi, from 15 December 2016 to 5 January 2017. Next year, it will travel to parts of Telangana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Gujarat, reports media.
Apart from the restorative surgeries conducted for correcting sight, hearing, clefts, burns, orthopaedic impairment, epilepsy and dental problems, the medical teams on Lifeline Express will focus on the detection and control of oral, breast and cervical cancers, prevention of stroke and on providing family planning and health services to the people. All of these will be given free of cost.