Four migrant women give birth on the street


Seven-day-old infant suffers from scabies; lawyer and friends step in to help as another baby is on its way

The hard footpath as a bed, cotton sari draping the makeshift room, a Rs 3-blade and a Re 1-thread as medical equipment, and two elderly women as ‘specialists’. Unable to get beds at municipal hospitals, four homeless labourers have been forced to deliver on a pavement outside Koparkhairne Railway Station in the past one month.

The first of the four deliveries happened after a gruelling 14-hour wait for institutional delivery. For the other three births, the families were already resigned to their fate. Another woman is nearing full term and her baby will also become part of 30 families who have nothing to go back to in their villages in Nanded and Parbhani. They have been living on the pavement for the past 20 years.

Twenty-three children from this community are under five years of age and most of them suffer from scabies, including one of the new-born babies. Their parents said, even if on pavement, living in Navi Mumbai at least ensures they get one square meal a day.

The plight of the community came to light after a young lawyer, while feeding the poor during the coronavirus pandemic, found a seven-day-infant suffering from scabies, another contagious disease that spreads through contact. Lawyer Kiran Burma now regularly comes to Koparkhairane station to feed the families and check on their children. Born to a single mother who left her at a Catholic orphanage, Burma studied to be a lawyer and is also a social worker.

With baby powder in one hand and medicines in the other, she said she has also sought help from friend and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Faiz Ansari, and her guardian Dr Abraham Mathai, who is the chairman of Harmony Foundation.

Ansari said, “It’s a disease where a mite infests your skin and lays eggs in the night. It can ruin your sleep in the heat.” He said the children also suffer from diarrhoea and need two-fold treatment, one for skin and the other for severe malnourishment. “It is sad that those who literally labour and toil for the development of our city are being treated like scum,” Mathai said.

Meanwhile, Gangubai Kale, 44, who conducted the deliveries looks invincible. Explaining how she cut the umbilical cord, she said, “This is how babies are born in the village. When I saw the state of that poor girl I said don’t worry, just lie down here and we will do it for you.”

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