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Elderly couple take shelter in hospital

Chinsurah, Aug. 14: They don’t own a house, nor can they pay rent. Nowhere to go, they have admitted themselves to a hospital and will stay there.

An elderly couple are struggling to stay on at Chinsurah district hospital, which they made their home for the past eight months despite not being ill, because they have no other shelter.

It is not as if the hospital authorities are supportive of the extra-legal occupation. But they cannot bring themselves to throw out the old, helpless couple.

Santosh Bhattacharya, 84, and his wife Anjali, 71, are residents of Burrabazar, Chandernagore. They were admitted to the hospital on December 25 last year by their son Rajarshi, who told the doctors that his parents were ill.

“They both complained of weakness. So we admitted them,” said Anup Datta, a physician with the hospital. Santosh was admitted to the male ward and Anjali to the female ward. “But no tests were conducted on them, neither did they have any medicine from the hospital. We discharged Anjali Bhattacharya on December 29 and Santosh Bhattacharya on December 30 as they were deemed fit. But they refused to go,” Datta added.

Santosh is the current occupant of bed No. 3 in the male ward on the second floor of the hospital.

“I feel bad that I am lodged in a hospital despite being in good health. But what can I do? Here I can get two square meals every day,” he said.

A few suitcases, which are all that he can call property, lie by the bedside.

Santosh also admits that after dark, son Rajarshi comes to the hospital and shares his bed. The 36-year-old has nowhere to go as well and has hospital food.

Anjali is found on the same floor, in the female ward. But she does not even have a bed: a few days ago, she was evicted from a bed on to the floor. She has made the foot of a bed her home. Angry, she refused to speak to this correspondent.

The family had seen better days. Santosh recounted those.

“We were part of a joint family living at Entally in Calcutta. After the property was divided, we moved to Chandernagore,” said Santosh, who worked as a chemist in Indian Tropical Laboratory in Liluah. “My son was good in studies. He got a first division in Madhyamik and passed BSc from Chandannagar Duplex College. But he didn’t get a job and tried to earn money by giving private tuitions.”

But that wasn’t enough. “After retirement, we finished our savings and sold all my wife’s jewellery. Yet we couldn’t pay the rent. The landlord turned us out. We spent a few days on the Chinsurah railway platform. Then we were forced to turn ourselves in at the hospital,” Santosh said.

“Do you know, I was very good-looking once,” he says. “This is no life. God knows how my son spends the day. He apparently still gives a few private tuitions,” he adds.

Hospital superintendent Subhas Mondal is sympathetic, but would like to find a solution. “We have informed NGOs so that the couple are counselled. We are human. We can’t turn them out like that,” he said.

Assistant superintendent Ashish Chakraborty said the hospital had informed police and the administration, but has not received any positive response.