Once outside AIIMS, pavement their only refuge
NEW DELHI: Hari Prakash (37) and his wife Ramvati Devi (34) have spent almost seven days shivering under a shared blanket on the pavement outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here.
Just like them, around 300 poor patients and their relatives come to Capital from other states, and are forced to stay on pavements for want of free accommodation.
Braving chilly winds, these patients are more worried about getting robbed by drunkards and drug addicts, who occasionally stalk the streets in search of easy pickings.
"We cannot stay inside the hospital at night. So we sleep on the footpath. It is not safe, the local goons get drunk at times and threaten to beat us, so we just keep moving to hide from them," said Prakash, a farmer from Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh, who is in city to get his wife treated for uterus disorder.
"There are some men who regularly get drunk and create a ruckus here. Once, they were teasing a girl and I stepped in. So, in the night, when I was sleeping, they drenched me. It was already so cold, I was shivering under the two blankets I had brought from home," said Rama Verma, 42, from Bhagalpur, who comes to Delhi for eight to 10 days each month for chemotherapy.
Shockingly, "these addicts used to stay near hospital round the year and during the winters they hoard the blanket that people usually donate to help the needy. Then, at night they sell the blankets between Rs 40 and 100 to poor patients and drink and smoke up using the money," says a tea stall owner at AIIMS.
Some, however, manage to dodge hospital guards to spend the night on the hospital campus.
"When the guards asked us to leave the waiting hall at 9.00 pm, we hid behind the building and stay the night," said Roshan Khatun, 22, who came to Delhi two days ago to get a neck tumour treated.
"My mother developed fever in the cold, but we are in Delhi for at least 20 more days and though we have relatives here, we cannot overstay our welcome," Khatun said.
Though the hospital has night shelters for relatives of patients who have been admitted, they do not have enough room for the families of 2,000 patients, who occupy the premier hospital at any given time.