Lying under a tree at the entrance of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 30-year-old Makhan Lal from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh holds a water bottle and mumbles something incomprehensible.
Filth is strewn all around him, from cigarette butts and paan masala packets to half eaten food from the nearby eatery.
At first glance you could miss him as one of the 6,000-odd patients who is awaiting his turn at the premier hospital’s OPD. But, a closer look reveals that Makhan is chained to the tree.
“Three years ago Makhan had high fever and lost consciousness. We immediately took him to the hospital and the doctors there treated him for fever. But he hasn’t been the same after that,” said Ram Kishore, Makhan’s brother-in-law.
Ram said they have to keep Makhan chained as they fear he might wander off without their knowledge. “What if someone kidnaps him and pushes him into begging?”
Makhan has also become very aggressive and abusive, the brother-in-law said. “He gets easily perturbed by loud noise and crowd. When we realised that he wasn’t getting any better, the doctors at the village referred him to AIIMS,” Ram said.
Five of Makhan’s family members have accompanied him to AIIMS. “Makhan has not been able to earn anything in the past three years. We have come to Delhi in the hope of helping him get better. So far we are still doing the rounds of the hospital and looking for some work to sustain ourselves here,” Ram said.
“We are poor farmers, we don’t know any other way of taking care of him. In Delhi there is no one to look after him and we aren’t sure when we will be able to get him admitted to AIIMS. So till he is in safe hands we have to keep him chained,” he said.
With the sun beating down on another muggy day and flies hovering over him, Makhan is clearly in discomfort.
“I have been chained because I am not well. Sometimes I forget things and my family members tell me that I get too aggressive,” is all that Makhan was able to say as his voice trailed off.
Ram said their only plea is that Makhan gets proper treatment. “All we want is some government hospital to admit him. A poor man cannot hope for more.”