Skip to main content

New life for disabled Indian boy found tied to a Mumbai bus stop

By Mallika Kapur, CNN
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN met Lakhan Kale on the pavement in Mumbai where he lived with his grandmother
  • She had tied him to a pole to stop the deaf and mute boy from running into traffic
  • People emailed and phoned asking how they could help him
  • Lakhan was taken in by SSPM, a non-governmental organization

Mumbai (CNN) -- Just a few weeks ago, a young boy tied to a bus stop in Mumbai barely received a glance from passersby oblivious to his plight.

Deaf and mute, nine-year-old Lakhan was regularly tied to a pole by his elderly grandmother for fear he would run into traffic on a nearby road while she was away at work.

Now, grandmother and grandson are living in a home for deaf and mute children, the patch of pavement where they both lived swapped for a roof above their heads.

READ: Disabled boy tied to Mumbai bus stop

After reading about Lakhan on CNN in June, people wrote, tweeted, messaged, called and emailed from around the world.

Many wrote to express their concern. Some wrote to ask how they could help. Others sent funds to help rehabilitate Lakhan. One person started a Facebook page to raise awareness about his plight.

Nine-year-old Lakhan Kale smiles at his new home in Satara, where he lives and receives care with other deaf and mute children. Nine-year-old Lakhan Kale smiles at his new home in Satara, where he lives and receives care with other deaf and mute children.
Disabled Indian boy finds new home
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Photos: A new home for Lakhan Photos: A new home for Lakhan
Disabled boy tied to bus stop

The response was overwhelming.

"I was under the impression -- 'who cares for such stories?'" said Meena Mutha, a social worker with the Manav Foundation. She'd been trying to find Lakhan a more suitable home since placing him in a government-run shelter for juveniles in June.

It was better than the street but not suitable for a boy with cerebral palsy who needed dedicated care.

Mutha took on Lakhan's case in late May when a constable called her after seeing the boy's photo in a local newspaper. Lakhan was tied to a pole with rags and his elderly grandmother, Sakubai, was obviously struggling to take care of him as well as herself.

"He is deaf so he would not be able to hear traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he'd get killed," Sakubai told CNN in June. "See, it's a long rope," she said, holding out a piece of frayed cloth. There were many similar pieces of cloth tied to different poles.

A life of struggle

Sakubai told CNN Lakhan's father had passed away four years ago. His mother deserted them and his older sister ran away.

She had done the best she could, selling trinkets on a nearby beach to earn a meager wage to feed them. There was no money for shelter so she stretched out a piece of cloth on the ground behind the bus stop where they both would sleep.

Mutha struggled to find Lakhan a suitable home. Mumbai only has one government-run center for children with special needs and there was no room left for him.

Her exasperation turned to hope when a father and son team, Alok and Parth Polke, stepped in with an offer to take in Lakhan for free. They also offered his grandmother a job in their hostel, in Satara, a scenic hill town not far from Mumbai.

"Lakhan's a special case," said Alok Polke, who runs Samata Shikshan Prasarak Mandal (SSPM), a non-governmental organization that caters to deaf and mute children.

His father died, his mother and sister abandoned him. He's left alone. What happens after his grandmother?
Alok Polke, SSPM

"His father died, his mother and sister abandoned him. He's left alone. What happens after his grandmother?"

Hostel offers new hope

CNN accompanied Lakhan, his grandmother and Mutha to Satara. He's the first mentally-challenged student to live in the SSPM hostel, which until now has only been for children who can't hear or speak.

Polke said there were "thousands of Lakhans in India" who desperately need a roof over their heads.

He said there are some homes for children who are deaf and dumb because they are comparatively easier to look after.

However, children who are mentally-challenged need dedicated help: more staff, attention outside of school hours, funding, and infrastructure. "That's lacking everywhere in India," Polke said.

Lakhan appeared to settle in quickly into his new surroundings. Within an hour of reaching the hostel, he was running around in the yard, playing with the other children, each one a child of special needs, each one quickly engaged in a game of tag.

They are some of the more fortunate ones.

Lack of care in India

According to the last census conducted in 2011, around 26.8 million people are in living with disabilities in India.

That's 2.2% of the population of more than 1.2 billion. Other bodies, including the World Bank, say the figure is much higher.

Many of them are children whose needs aren't being met by government shelters.

Even the government admits the lack of facilities for disabled children in India is a serious problem.

"There should be lots more institutions for these kinds of children," said Vijaya Murthy, a member of the government-run Child Welfare Committee in the state of Maharashtra.

When asked why the state had not established more institutions, she said the responsibility did not lie with the government alone.

"Society and government should come forward and have some rehabilitation plans for special needs children," she said.

She was unable to provide details of any specific plans the government has to rehabilitate thousands of other children like Lakhan in India, many of whom remain invisible and ignored.

For more information on how to directly help Lakhan, and people like him, go to manavfoundation.org.in.

READ: Disability in India

Part of complete coverage on
India
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A few weeks ago, a young boy tied to a Mumbai bus stop barely received a glance from passersby. Now, he has a home, thanks to a local NGO.
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
When a 14-year-old girl was pulled from her home and raped, police revealed the assault was ordered by the head of her village council.
updated 6:49 PM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
If you believe the mood here, India is going to be the next China, the new frontier of global growth.
updated 3:58 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Decrepit constructions that don't conform to safety codes are a big problem in cities and towns across India.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
When Raju the elephant was rescued after being shackled and abused for five decades, the story and picture of him "crying" went viral.
updated 12:09 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
The tall cylindrical concrete structures hold solar powered machines that look and function like an ATM. Instead of cash, they dispense water.
updated 8:27 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
Despite not having a national team in the tournament, many Indians have caught World Cup fever. Mallika Kapur reports.
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
An Indian grandmother tells CNN's Mallika Kapur why she tied her grandson to a bus stop.
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
India has a rape crisis -- but it will take a broad effort to change it.
updated 8:04 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Could certain spices help you live longer? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from Delhi, India.
updated 3:25 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Mallika Kapur takes a look at the push for change in India after another brutal rape has shocked the nation.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
Is there a historic opportunity for peace and understanding between the two nations?
updated 11:10 PM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
What will Narendra Modi's India look like? Likely less inclusive and less secular, say analysts.
updated 10:50 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
India's new leader is considered a wildcard. Will he be aggressive, or a dove? What is his foreign policy? Does he have a vision?
updated 12:00 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
For incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, securing India's energy needs over the next decade ranks among his greatest challenges.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
Narenda Modi's track record leaves some worried about the future, writes Sunny Hundal.
Varanasi was a battleground in the elections. It's also holy ground for Hindus, a last stop for the dying.
updated 3:57 AM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
CNN's Ravi Agrawal says China gets things done; India invents ways not to.
Decades ago, she was attacked at a rural police station, and her landmark case awakened India. What happened to her?
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
The spread of polio constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared Monday.
updated 6:03 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Air quality in most cities that monitor their pollution levels exceed what the World Health Organization deems as safe.
updated 11:07 PM EDT, Sun April 6, 2014
In India, many see George W. Bush as a better friend than U.S. President Barack Obama, says Ravi Agrawal.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Sitting cross-legged at her office desk, Abhina Aher expounds on what it means to be trapped in the wrong body.
ADVERTISEMENT