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Messiah of the poor-- Meet Dr. Swapan Roy of Siliguri

29 May, 2021 10:46:13
Messiah of the poor-- Meet Dr. Swapan Roy of Siliguri

Since the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the unpredictable phenomenon increased feelings of uncertainly for people around the world, making the outbreak even more stressful than its predecessors. The full extent of the economic and social impacts of the pandemic on people's lives is still unknown. But one thing is very clear – the year-long worldwide pandemic has scarred and transformed our lives permanently.

Last year, during the initial stage of COVID -19, the veneer of life was still normal for Dr Swapan Roy. Non-vegetarian fare was an integral part of the family’s daily diet. Dr Roy would drive his four-wheeler to remote areas to treat and check on his poverty-stricken patients. But all that is passé now – those are memories of good old times to ruminate about in loneliness. The car is parked in one corner apathetically, covered in grime and dust. Cooking fish at home once or twice a week is a luxury now. This is how homoeopathic physician, Dr Swapan Roy of Baneshwar Mor in Siliguri, adjacent to Iskcon Temple, is trying to make ends meet now. The pandemic has changed everything for Dr Roy. His earnings have dwindled compelling him to adjust his family’s lifestyle accordingly but true to his vow, his financial stress has not deterred him from providing free treatment to the poor and needy citizens. In fact, he is trying to do everything possible within is limited resources to help the poor. 

Dr Roy is renowned as Poor Peoples’ Doctor in the settlements of Belakoba’s Bonbasti, Nodhabari, Aambari, Farabari – all located in Siliguri’s twin town Jalpaiguri. The poverty-stricken people regard him as ‘Messiah’ sent by God to help them. Dr Roy not only treats the destitute free of cost, he also distributes free medicines and organizes health camps at remote areas so that many more people can avail his service. 

Since childhood, Dr Roy’s ambition was to become a physician and treat the sick, but his father was a poor daily wage earner working as a helping hand in pandal (a temporary fabricated structure) making.  Whenever Swapan spoke about his ambition, his neighbours and acquaintances laughed at him. But he was determined to prove them all wrong. Meanwhile, his father suddenly fell critically ill. He was rushed to a well-known city doctor for treatment. But the doctor’s fee was a whooping Rs 1,000 and the medicines he prescribed cost another Rs 2,000 – way beyond Swapan’s family’s means. His father died and his death was a huge blow for young Swapan. The incident strengthened hid resolution to follow his dream of becoming a doctor and treating the hapless poor people free of cost. After high school, he enrolled in homeopathic college and became a doctor after successfully completing his degree course. 

For the past 18 years, Dr Roy has been busy fulfilling his life’s mission. He has been visiting the coolie settlements adjoining Siliguri and providing free treatment and consultation to the labourers and their family members. His zeal and dedication to his cause is exemplary. He sold his wife’s jewelry and even took a bank loan to buy medicines for his patients. He has been distributing free medicines to COVID-19 patients and to those suffering from common cough and cold or respiratory distress, stomach upset or flu. A large number of his patients have recovered from his treatment. Since petrol and diesel prices have sky-rocketed, he has stopped using his car. Instead, he takes out his two-wheeler and travels 100 to 150 kilometers daily to the settlements located in the interiors of Siliguri to check on his patients and give them medicines. This has become a ritual for him and he says, “These poor people cannot afford the public transport fare to come to the city. How will they get treatment if I don’t visit them? I try to reach the medicines to them free of cost.” 

Dr Ghosh lives with his wife, son, daughter and aged mother in a humble corrugated roofed house. But how does he meet his family’s expenses? The 41-year-old popular physician smiles amicably as he says, “Every day I am out of my house at 5 in the morning. Those who can afford and want to consult me on-call, I accept a nominal fee from them and this way I somehow manage to provide a humble four-square meal for my family.” He reiterates his pledge, “I will not let any poor person die without treatment just because he/she does not have money for treatment.”

Dr Roy also conducts free health camp weekly at the hospital at Dooars set up by Padmashri-awardee Karimul Haque (aka Ambulance Dada). He has written letters to the local Member of Parliament, MLA, Union and state government minister, appealing them to sanction funds for an ambulance. Dr Roy believes an ambulance is a necessity especially in the coolie and Adivasi settlements scattered in pockets in the interiors of the towns and villages. If seriously ill patients can be ferried to hospitals on time, many precious lives can be saved. 

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