Food van stopped at AIIMS gate

Food van stopped at AIIMS gate

Patients and their family members staying at a night shelter on the premises of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences face troubles in arranging food, especially cheap home-cooked food. But their woes have compounded as free food served by NGOs is being stopped at the gate since last Thursday.

No one in the AIIMS administration is taking responsibility for the decision. The night shelter was opened in AIIMS next to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD following a January 9 order by the Supreme Court. The court stipulated three months for the temporary shelter to save patients and families from Delhi’s biting cold. However, as it became a boon for people visiting from different parts of the country, the tenure kept getting extended after orders from the Delhi High Court.

“Patients visiting the shelter have to submit a photocopy of their OPD card. Three persons can accompany one patient,” said the manager of the shelter.

Then NGOs, Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses and Prerna, started free food service in the evenings for inmates of the shelter. Prepared by ISKCON, food  is served to 500 patients and families everyday. However, last Thursday the vehicle carrying food was stopped from entering the hospital premises. Inmates were served food outside the gate.

“We spoke to officials of the hospital, but everybody said they have not issued any order to stop food from being brought to the shelter. But still our vehicle is not being allowed to come in,” said Nitesh Kumar, coordinator of the programme in SPYM.

Sources said the administration is planning to shut down the shelter and has written to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board for its closure.

“They plan to use the space for storage of medicines. The authorities had said in January that an alternative shelter will be created, but no work has started on that front,” said a hospital staff.

“The next hearing in the High Court is on October 12. We are asking AIIMS authorities to let things be till then. If we get the extension and continue running the shelter, then we will see how to manage things,” said Kumar.

Nearly 350 people avail the facility of night shelter everyday. On September 24, the total number of people in the shelter was 342 — 180 males, 142 females and 20 children. The patients complained of being harassed due to non-availability of food.

“I have come here with my wife and three children. One child has tuberculosis of the bones, while the other two are being treated for lumps. It is costing Rs 200 a day to get food for the five of us since Friday,” said Mumtaz Alam.

Amit Kumar said they are not allowed to cook inside the shelter. “They take away the gas and misbehave if we try to cook. We don’t know how to give warm milk to the child, as advised by the doctor,” he rued.

AIIMS public relations officer Dr Y K Gupta said the authorities are looking into the matter.