After Mumbai Newsline Tuesday printed the photograph of a young boy with multiple disorders tied to a bus stop pole near Mantralaya (The Medieval Mumbai, Vasant Prabhu), police and a number of institutions have come to his aid.
The boy, nine-year-old Lakhan Sawant Kale, belongs to a family of pavement dwellers and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He lives with his grandmother, Sakkubai Shiva Kale, and elder sister Rekha (12), who tie him to the pole when they go to work in order to make sure he does not walk off or gets run over by a vehicle on the busy street.
On Tuesday, a team from the Marine Drive police station went to the spot and brought the child and his grandmother to the police station.
“Lakhan’s father died four years ago and his mother has been missing since a few months after that. The grandmother takes care of him. Within her limited means, she does what she can to ensure he doesn’t come in the harm’s way,” said police sub-inspector SG Phanse, who is in charge of the case.
After the initial questioning, police sub-inspector Santosh Tore took the family to meet Meena Mutha, a social worker who runs an NGO. Mutha is trying to find an institution that takes care of children with cerebral palsy. She believes an NGO with a residential facility will be best since they can provide an environment of development too.
“The family seems to have consulted doctors at KEM, JJ and Nair hospitals in the past. The child has a medical file and the reports say he still has 70 per cent IQ. Currently, his treatment is on at GT Hospital. Help at this stage can do good for his future,” said Mutha.
Sakkubai told The Indian Express she had no choice but to tie him up as she and Rekha needed to work in order for all of them to survive. She sells toys on Girgaum Chowpatty in the evenings and returns around 1 am. “The money we make is inconsistent, sometimes Rs 100 a day, sometimes Rs 200, but we make sure there’s enough to buy Lakhan’s medicines,” she said.
The boy can see and hear but does not speak. When left alone, other street-dwellers around keep an eye on the boy and feed him. In the night, the grandmother ties the other end of the rope to her leg so she is awakened in case he tries to walk away.
“For the time being, a day care facility, where the grandmother can leave the child during the day time, will also do,” Mutha said.
Meanwhile, the boy is back on the street, living with his family as before.