‘Medicine Baba’

75 year old Omkar Nath walks the streets calling out for people to donate their leftover medicines

Faced with India’s seemingly all-pervading endemic corruption one could be forgiven for beginning to lose faith in human nature. So it was really refreshing recently to cover an inspiring story of bona-fide philanthopism right here in Delhi, not from a well-heeled do-gooder but a 75 year old disabled man, Omkar Nath, who lives in a slum.  Three years ago rather than taking it easy in his retirement Nath took it upon himself to begin collecting unwanted medicines from Deliites to give to the poor. Omkar Nath pounds Delhi’s pavements and roads 5 days a week gathering pills and capsules in plastic carrier bags mainly from middle and lower middle-class neighbourhoods. These are the best areas, – he rarely receives donations from wealthy areas he says. On the remaining two days he catalogues his haul and passes it onto several clinics with whom he has built up a relationship. These clinics then distribute the medicine free of cost to impoverished patients. One clinic says Mr Nath supplies up to 10 percent of the medicine they prescribe. The inspiration for Mr Nath’s mission was witnessing a construction accident in 2008 and seeing that injured patients were being discharged from a government hospital without medicine, due to a supply shortfall, ‘ It struck me then that if I could obtain medicine, it could be distributed free of charge’ he says. Initially, Omkar Nath’s family were unhappy with him apparently turning into a beggar but have now come to accept it. ‘Medicine Baba‘ as the Indian media have dubbed him has even become a minor celebrity in Delhi and been featured on television news bulletins. Unfazed by the attention,  Mr Nath in a bright orange smock emblazoned with his contact numbers continues his gruelling 5 mile a day marches with quiet, dignified determination paying no heed to the difficulties his legs – skewed by the impact of a car at 12 years of age – must cause him. Truly humbling.

For Andrew Buncombe‘s full report in the Independent today see here and below.

Mrs Roshni Devi gives some unwanted medicine to Omkar Nath in Lakshmibai Colony in Delhi
Omkar Nath sorts his mornings take of medicines that he'd collected in Delhi
Page 31 of The Independent, 27th February 2012 featuring Andrew Buncombe's report and my pictures

Method: natural light except for the shot of Omkar Nath sorting the medicines. This featured some fill flash courtesy of my SB900 held off to camera right by a VAL (thanks Dev!), connected to my Nikon D3s via an SC29 flash extension cord. Aperture Priority with +1.3 exposure, F5.6, 1/800th, ISO 320.


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