Srinagar: Since they were born, 11-month-old Salman and six-month-old Burhan have been living in a ward at GB Pant Hospital, abandoned by family and society, but kept alive by the hospital staff.
When this reporter entered the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre at GB Pant Hospital, in a small room Salman was being injected medicines with the help of intravenous drip. A nurse, sitting close to him, was feeding him milk.
At first sight, he looked normal. I gestured, and he responded with a smile.
“This room has been his house. And we have been his parents. He will complete his one year here on February 24,” Mehnaz Begum, one of the four nurses who are the caretakers of Salman, said. “I am his mother. I change his diapers. I feed him milk. I bring him clothes,” she said.
“When he was brought to the hospital, I named him Salman. I and my children like the actor Salman for his jolly roles. He makes you laugh. So does this baby. He brings happiness,” Mehnaz said.
The hospital authorities said that Salman was found by police on the stairs of Makhdoom Sahib shrine.
“Since then he is here,” Mehnaz said. “At the time of his birth, the baby boy had neurological problems. Maybe that was the reason his parents left him on the stairs of the shrine.”
In the same ward, six-month-old Burhan peacefully sleeps under the warmer. Officials said that Burhan was brought to the hospital on August 11.
“He was brought here by two men. We explained to them his abnormal conditions before taking him for treatment in the ICU. We told them that we cannot say whether he will grow normal or not. After a few hours both men fled from the hospital, taking along the patient file which had their addresses. From then on, he is here,” said Dr Rihana, Resident Medical Officer. “We take care of him. One of our nurses brought him pheran (Kashmiri gown) and other clothes. The nurses treat him like their child, but it is shocking how society has condemned them.”
Both the infants are suffering from neurological problems.
“Salman has congenital neurological disorder. His condition has improved after two surgeries. He is behaving normal now. He will have to undergo couple of more surgeries,” Dr Rihana said, informing that his disorder can be surgically corrected.
“Burhan has hypoxemia brain injury. It happens because of lack of oxygen during time of birth. His case is a bit more complex,” Dr Rihana said.
The hospital authorities said that as Salman is growing normally and is ready to crawl, he needs a family who will adopt him.
“He can’t live here forever. He needs proper care and affection,” Dr Rihana said. “Nobody has come to claim him; neither him nor Burhan.”
The medical officer said that a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) working for children with special needs came to see Salman. “They click pictures, promise they will take Salman, but never show up again,” Dr Rihana said.
She said that as the two boys stay in hospital, they often contract infections from other ill children. She said that apart from NGOs, nobody has come to see the two kids, not even the “conscientious people of society”.
Mehnaz said, “I treat them like my children. I am a mother, how can I see them not being cared and treated well? I will continue to raise them. Rest is up to their fate. How can society be so callous towards them?”
KK Pandita, Medical Superintendent of GB Pant Hospital, said that in the past seven months, eight abandoned babies have arrived in the hospital.
“They were brought by the police or by people who spotted them at some place,” Pandita said.
“We are providing them every facility, like food and care. However, beyond a point, I think they need the care of a family,” he said. “Of the eight babies, six have been adopted by various couples.”
Pandita said that Burhan was adopted by a couple, but was returned to the hospital a day after because of his abnormal conditions.
“Salman is here for the past 11 months. People come and go, but nobody has adopted him so far,” Pandita said.
Giving details of some of the abandoned babies received by the hospital, officials said that one of the babies was found near the stairs of the hospital’s main lobby.
“Another one was kept outside the hospital on the ramp. One baby was shifted to hospital after he was found in Sopore by police. In one incident, a baby was found in the urinal of Sonawar shrine,” an official said.
“One couple from Rajouri brought their baby girl. When they kept her on the bed, they fled. They had told other patients that they already have many girls. They took away the hospital file which keeps the records. We could not trace them,” an official said.