Images of India : ‘Medicine Baba’ gets drugs from rich, gives to poor…

‘Medicine Baba’ gets drugs from rich, gives to poor

Omkarnath, the 79-year retired blood-bank technician, has been collecting unused prescription drugs from the affluent for the past eight years, and distributing whatever has not expired to patients who need medicines they cannot afford. He spends his days searching New Delhi for drugs. A call to the phone number printed boldly on his saffron-coloured tunic reveals his alternate identity: “Hello, I am Medicine Baba.” He is not a trained pharmacist, and must see a doctor’s prescription before he’ll help supply any drug. He doesn’t charge, though he says the value of what he gives away each month is more than $9,000. “Every bungalow in Delhi has extra medicines, but they are throwing them in their dustbins”. Walking more than 7 kilometers, stopping door-to-door to ask for unused medicines. He stores his cache in a small rented room next to his home in the fetid slums of Manglapuri in southwest New Delhi. The room is filled with boxes of common flu tablets, insulin injections and cancer medications. Omkarnath also arranges donations of equipment including hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, nebulizers, wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen machines. Eventually, he hopes to build a nationwide network of medicine banks. Some 40% of India’s 1.2 billion people have no access to modern medicines because they are too expensive or simply unavailable in government hospitals where supplies are often scarce.