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Friday, May 29, 2020

Delhi: Outside AIIMS, a summer spent in tents for winter

Over 10 white tents dot Shri Aurobindo Road, which has different gates of AIIMS on either side. These are occupied by patients and their attendants who had travelled to Delhi to seek medical attention at the premier public hospital, but are now stranded due to the lockdown.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi | Updated: April 22, 2020 1:55:42 am
Renu Devi and her son in the tent outside AIIMS. (Express photo by Sukrita Baruah)

A group of women squatted under the shade of a tree outside AIIMS on Sunday afternoon. They had made their calculations carefully — police had patrolled the area a little while ago and would not be back for another two hours. They could use this time to get away from the oppressive heat of the tent, which has been their home for over a month now.

Over 10 white tents dot Shri Aurobindo Road, which has different gates of AIIMS on either side. These are occupied by patients and their attendants who had travelled to Delhi to seek medical attention at the premier public hospital, but are now stranded due to the lockdown.

The tents had been erected by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) in December to provide shelter to the attendants of outstation patients during the winter, and were due to be removed in March. Being winter shelters, they have no fans despite the soaring heat.

“The patients are sick anyway. They will get worse and those of us who are here with them will also fall sick. If we try to step out for some air or to find a cool corner, we are chased away by police,” said Kewal Krishan (40), who came to Delhi from Kishtwar, Kashmir, for the treatment of his 22-year old son, whose left arm was paralysed after an accident. Krishan has been in Delhi for the last two months.

“We had gotten three check-ups done but the OPD was closed before we got medicines for him. The work we came to Delhi for remains incomplete, and we’re living in this indignity instead, in a place where we don’t know anyone. It’s better for us to go back where we can get help from family and friends and get treated at a private hospital,” he said.

In another tent, Renu Devi (42) fanned her son Pintu (16) with a square piece of cardboard as he lay prone on a bed. Various tubes are attached to his throat connected to containers and bags by his side. He has been suffering neurological problems after an accident three years ago, and was recently operated in March.

“We came here to get him operated under Ayushman Bharat scheme. Shouldn’t the public health scheme have included us completing his treatment and reaching home where we can take care of him?” said his father Jai Pratap Singh, who has come from a village in Gorakhpur, Bihar.

In another tent, Rekha Devi (32), a cancer patient, lay on a cot. “I worked as a barber and would earn for and feed my family. I never thought I would have to live like this, waiting for food. Our two children, aged 10 and 11, are alone at our home in Pilibhit, UP. We thought we would just be here for a week. Now they are calling us everyday and asking about food, and we are explaining to them how to make chawal,” said Rekha Devi’s husband Surjeet Kumar.

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