With shelters packed to the hilt, patients coming to AIIMS forced to sleep on streets
New Delhi: The hole in four-year-old Aashirvaad Kumar's heart may have been fixed by doctors at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). But who is to fix the hole over his head inside the makeshift shelter, to protect him from the biting cold?
Four months after his surgery, Aashirvaad is back in Delhi for consultation. However, the boy's family has been unable to find space at a night shelter near the hospital, which are fully packed.
Finally, the boy's grandfather Mahendra found a space for Aashirvaad and his mother near the gate of AIIMS Metro station gate – where scores of other patients and their attendants are huddled.
Covering his face with a blanket and pointing at Aashirvaad, Mahedra said, "We came here some days ago for a medical check-ups. But we have not been able to find a shelter to protect ourselves from the winter. So we have to spend the night here."
Dimshri Mukhiya, a resident of Darbhanga, Bihar, is suffering from a nervous disorder and is unable to even stand.
"I have been getting treatment at AIIMS for over the last two years. And because of me, my husband Pradeep, who was a good farmer, has become a labourer. In our village, we never slept on the streets. But for the last two years, we had to brave all this," she says.
Now, the streets outside the hospital have become the couple's abode for the time being, sleeping under the sky with plastic sheets over their blankets for added protection.
Asked why she was using plastic sheets, Dimshri replies, "Due to the dew and the rain, the blanket gets wet. But the plastic sheet saves it from that."
Several patients, along with their attendants, are often found sleeping at the bus stop near the hospital's gate.
Sources said that the Delhi government has opened four night shelters near AIIMS, one even in the subway connecting AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital across the road.
Even mobile toilets have been stationed outside the night shelters.
However, enquiries reveal that all these night shelters become jam-packed as early as 9 pm.
The AAP government's Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), while announcing its Winter Action Plan on December 15, 2017, said it is running 251 shelters, 83 of which are housed in permanent buildings and 113 operating out of porta-cabins.
Fifty-five temporary shelters in tents have also been put up for the winter season.
"Although the Board claims that night shelters can accommodate close to 20,000 people, only about 10,000 homeless people are using them," sources claimed.