#GoodNews: Meet the Doctors Who Treat Old Delhi’s Poor

In India, the reality of homeless and daily-wage labourers has been overwhelmingly heart-wrenching. They are left to fend for their family and their own safety and survival, from dawn to dusk with little to no institutional attention.

The situation is especially bad in Delhi. Thousands of labourers from neighbouring states move here everyday in hopes of a better life, increasing the competition for already-scant resources.

These labourers live in harsh conditions with family – often on pavements, walkways and road dividers, and work in even harsher ones, often falling sick and getting injured. Access to prompt and cheap healthcare being far from reality, they end up standing for hours on end for a basic consultation with a doctor, many a times to no avail.

Good samaritans of the Walled City of Shahjahanabad, or Old Delhi, have noticed their plight and have taken it upon themselves to set up daily camps on pavements near Red Fort for these labourers.

A volunteer gives medical aid to an injured labourer. 

A volunteer group consisting of senior citizens, including retired army officials, doctors, and teachers, have undertaken this initiative since 1992, and offer free medical care, medication and even disaster relief to the underprivileged. Charitable Trust Bhai Daya Singh provides free food and cremation services to the homeless as a part of these camps.

The number of labourers who come seeking aid often reaches 100 in the first few hours of these camps opening for the day. Many travel from considerable distances to seek aid on the streets of New Delhi.

Labourers waiting in queue to receive free medicines.
Hundreds of homeless people wait for breakfast to be serves in the wee hours of the morning. 
Bali, a 52-year-old labourer, came to the camp to seek aid after he lost his thumb in a tussle with his robbers. 
Dr Tahir Hussain has been serving here since 2005. 

" We treat all people equally whether he’s Hindu or Muslim. It gives us peace to serve the homeless. " - Dr Tahir Hussain, Volunteer

Mathura-born 75-year-old Dr DC Agarwal has been volunteering here for the last 15 years.

"I feel content after doing social work. My father also used to volunteer at such camps across Delhi. Money just can’t buy you peace. " - Dr D C Agarwal, Volunteer

Fifty-six-year-old businessman NJ Singh has been providing monetary support to the camps. 
Differently-abled Manminder Singh from Punjab is solely dependent on this volunteer group at the age of 56.
22-year-old Sachin came to know about the camp through word-of-mouth and promptly went to seek treatment for his eye injury from an iron rod.
Harbans Kaur, a 65-year-old volunteer, washes a labourers’s wound and then bandages it with care. She has been serving at these camps since 2000. 
A showroom owner in West Delhi, Jitender Pal Singh, 51, has been serving the poor here since 2002, daily.
MCD worker Vishan, bread-earner to a family of four, pays a visit to the camp daily for having perennially swollen feet.
60-year-old Raj Kumar has dreams of giving back to the community the way these free camps do. 

"Agar yeh camp nahin hota, toh hum jaise logo ko koi puchne wala hi nahin tha. Kaash main accha hota, mera bhu mann tha logon ki khidmat karna. (Had this camp not been set up here, no one would have cared for people like us. I wish I was good enough; I too wanted to serve the people.)" - Raj Kumar, Patient

When asked, the volunteers, led by a very dedicated Dr DK Singh, said that the reason for their perseverance to serve their fellow countrymen for over two decades comes from an urgent need to give back to society.

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(Nasir Kachroo is a freelance photojournalist based in New Delhi. He tweets @nasirkachroo.)

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