Mentally ill and tethered to a bus stop: 9-year-old Indian's plight

In this photograph taken on May 20, 2014, nine-year-old Indian boy Lakhan Kale is tied with a cloth rope around his ankle, to a bus-stop pole in Mumbai. The nine-year-old boy dressed in blue lay listlessly on the pavement in the scorching Mumbai summer afternoon, his ankle tethered with rope to a bus stop, unheeded by pedestrians strolling past. PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

The image startled many in the world's second-largest nation: A ragged 9-year-old boy, lying on his side, listlessly staring off, tethered to a bus stop in Mumbai.

The plight of Lakhan Kale has been seen around the world now, and has shined a bright light on the desperate lack of adequate services for the many millions of poor people in India, which just swore in its 15th prime minister, Narendra Modi, who ran on a campaign of good governance, job creation and fighting corruption.

The boy's grandmother, Sakhubai Kale, 66, told the AFP she was desperate. She'd raised Lakhan and his sister on the streets, and it was the best thing should could think of to prevent him from hurting himself.

"What else can I do? He can't talk, so how will he tell anyone if he gets lost?" Sakhubai said.

Lakhan's father died several years ago and his mother walked out on the family, his grandmother told AFP.

Sakhubai told the Times of India suffers that Lakhan suffers from cerebral palsy and seizure disorder, and that she tried to get him admitted to a few shelters, "but they refused to entertain me."

After Lakhan's picture ran in a local paper, the police and a social worker helped get Lakhan admitted to The Children's Aid Society, a shelter for destitute, orphaned and victimized kids near Mumbai, the Times of India reported.

"I am a single old woman. Nobody paid attention to me until the newspaper report," Sakhubai told the AFP.

Across India, the 40 to 60 million people with disabilities often face similar struggles to get the help they need, activists say.

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Lakhan Kale sits with his grandmother on the pavement in Mumbai.
PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

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