New Delhi: Critically ill cancer patients from across the country are among the hundreds of people who are forced to take shelter outside the premises of the AIIMS in Delhi's bone-chilling cold, as the minimum temperature in the national capital on Saturday plunged to 4.8 degrees Celsius, the second lowest temperature of the season.
45-year-old Ramesh Yadav from Bihar, a throat cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy sessions, has been staying outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Metro station gate for the last two months.
"I came here two months ago. Initially it was manageable but now my life has become a nightmare. But I can't even go back," Yadav says with his feeble hands trembling as he takes out a bunch of medical documents from a tattered plastic bag.
In fact, a large number of families, from neighbouring as well as distant states like West Bengal have also been forced to make the open space outside the AIIMS metro station, their temporary accommodation, owing to inadequate space in the night shelters and 'dharamshalas'.
Overhearing Yadav's fate, Kundan Lal from Moradabad, who had reached the previous night with his cancer-patient wife, mulls going back to his place everyday instead of staying back overnight.
"I thought I would stay back instead of going back all the way daily which would be really tiring. But I think I should rather go back at least till her chemotherapy sessions start," he says, adding that not everyone is as fortunate pointing towards Baby Devi.
Devi, whose father is admitted in the Neurology department, was busy gathering pieces of plywood scattered all around to light a fire to keep her children warm.
"Now I am lighting a fire but I won't be allowed inside even to sit through the night. They should understand that the cold is punishing. Kyun bhaga dete hai? (Why do they drive us away?)" she asks.
According to the AIIMS authority, the premier hospital has provision for about 700 people at 'dharamshalas' and other shelters in and around the hospital.
Recently, in collaboration with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the hospital has set up a temporary 40-bed night shelter outside its dental centre.
AIIMS is also building a new 200-bed permanent night shelter that would be ready by 2015 with a grant of Rs 29 crore from the Power Grid Corporation.
On any given day, around 8,000 people visit the AIIMS Out Patient Department (OPD) of which around 55 per cent are outstation patients.