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Indian Ambulance Corps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mahatma Gandhi in the uniform of a warrant officer in 1899
Mahatma Gandhi in the uniform of a warrant officer in 1899

The Natal Indian Ambulance Corps was created by Mahatma Gandhi for use by the British as stretcher bearers during the Second Boer War, with expenses met by the local Indian community. Gandhi and the corps served at the Battle of Spion Kop. It consisted of 300 free Indians and 800 indentured labourers. Gandhi was bestowed with a title of 'kaiser-i-Hind' by British for his work in Boer war. This title was given up by Gandhi after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919.

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In 2005, I was visited by the CEO of a new organization called EMRI. And at that time, he came to visit my office at Stanford and, uh, was talking about this grand scheme for a national ambulance service for India. And I remember hearing his story and thinking, "This is great, but it's doubtful that anything like this could ever happen in India." [music] In the year 2004, we got this idea of, you know, starting emergency service. And a group of, you know, uh, philanthropists joined together. On 15th August, 2005, we inaugurated here with 14 ambulances. Whenever there is an emergency, they'll dial 108, and within 15 minutes, our ambulance service goes to them, pick them up. And they give the medical aid, take them to the hospital. We found that there is a strong need and a gap to understand the global best practices in terms, in terms of emergency medical care. Then we did some networking, and most of the people have recommended Stanford school of Medicine. There were few individuals also, like Doctor Mahadevan. To begin with, we served as unofficial advisers. So, we would visit their campus, we would observe their practices, we would give them guidance. And then, uh, over time, we discussed developing, uh, a training institute to train paramedics. And that, from that point forward, we've been working hand in hand with EMRI, with now, GVK EMRI, to develop training programs, guidelines for emergency care, uh, physician training programs. So, advanced EMT program, what we started with Stanford, has come out with a big magic because they were able to really contribute in not only the training, but in services, in research, as well as in capacity building also. The problems associated with providing emergency care, uh, to people in very, uh, crowded, uh, urban environments, and then to people in dispersed rural environments, those problems are the type of problems that have historically attracted Stanford faculty and Stanford students. This initiative provides a great example of how the inspired leadership of a group of Stanford faculty, coupled with extraordinarily dedicated people here, uh, in India, um, how together, they've been able to have remarkable impact on the lives of the citizens of India. We partnered with GVK EMRI, and they're solely responsible for, you know, building the ambulances and the architecture to develop the ambulance service. Leveraging the, the industry that, that had already grown, the call center industry in India, they decided to, to change it up and develop their own call center. In the area of two basketball courts, they're able to provide EMS dispatch for 80 plus million people, which is incredible. We don't see cobra bites in the US. We don't generally see pesticide poisonings. It's not OK just to say, "Here's the US system. Let's copy that." We decided that we really need to develop our educational curricula and guidelines around those entities that you see here on a daily basis so that they could be effective in caring for patients. Many of these paramedics who have graduated from the Stanford GVK EMRI, two-year advanced programs. They are manning many of the hospitals. They are manning many of our advanced life support ambulances. They are in great demand in other countries also. They are able to be part of our research activities. They are able to be part of our training work activities. They are able to be part of some mid-level and supervisory staff at the operation cells. It's hard to fathom in 10 years, what this program, what this system has done. It went from a program in 2005, that didn't even exist, and now today, has grown to, uh, an emergency medical system that covers most of India and takes care of over 750 million patients, which makes it the largest ambulance service in the entire world. [music] In many ways, this could be regarded as one of the most important advances in global medicine in the past 10 years, just by virtue of the fact that it takes care of so many people. And that so many citizens of the country that had no access to emergency care, especially those living in rural areas, now can dial 108 and have access to an ambulance within minutes, and get expert medical care and transportation to a hospital that's close to them. The amount of trust we create, the amount of confidence we create in the people that in dire sequences, we are there help. What we call, "Main hoon na" in India. "I am there in times of distress." [music]


With the Boer attack in Natal in October 1892 leading to the siege of Ladysmith, the British authorities recruited the Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps (NVAC) of about 1,100 local White men.[1] At the same time Gandhi pressed for his Indian stretcher bearers to be allowed to serve. At the Battle of Colenso on 15 December, the NVAC removed the wounded from the front line and the Indians then transported them to the railhead.[2] At the Battle of Spion Kop on 23–24 January, the Indians moved into the frontline.

Following the relief of Ladysmith at the end of February 1900, the war moved away from Natal and both corps were immediately disbanded. 34 of the Indian leaders were awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal: Gandhi's is held by the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in New Delhi.[3]

Natal Vodka Rebellion, 1906

After the outbreak of the Bambatha Rebellion in Natal in 1906, the Natal Indian Congress raised the Indian Stretcher Bearer Corps, Mahatma Gandhi acting as its sergeant major. Twenty members of the Corps, including Gandhi, later received the Natal Native Rebellion Medal.[4]


  1. ^ "South African units, Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps,".
  2. ^ "India and the Anglo-Boer War,".
  3. ^ "South African units, Natal Volunteer Indian Ambulance Corps,".
  4. ^ Joslin, Litherland and Simpkin (1988). British Battles and Medals. Spink, London. pp. 218–9.
This page was last edited on 27 February 2020, at 22:10
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