How 'Kalam uncle' saved HIV affected siblings
For an orphan from Odisha, former President APJ Abdul Kalam was the saviour who gave a fresh lease of life to her HIV-positive siblings a decade ago.
"My younger brother and sister were HIV/AIDS carriers. My infected siblings are alive today, thanks to the timely intervention of Kalam uncle," said the woman who did not want to be named.
She added: "At that time, I was hardly 11 years old while my siblings were six and four years old. As my parents had passed away, I was looking after them. I had learned from media that he was the 'people's President'. He loved children. I wrote a letter to him.
"I was overwhelmed with joy when the postman had brought me a letter signed by the then President and a draft of Rs 20,000 in June 2005. I had written to Kalam uncle highlighting the plight of my siblings," the woman from Olaver village in Kendrapara district recalled.
Kalam intervened and the local administration came the rescue of the family. Help followed from various quarters and the chief minister's office had provided a grant of Rs 20,000.
The former President's gesture also brought about a change of heart of health officials, the woman said. "They had begun to pay added medical attention towards my brother and sister.
"My siblings have successfully fought against AIDS since the past decade. The presidential intervention had given a new lease of life to them. We are deeply sad over his demise. I feel as if I have lost a close member of my family," she said.
A resident of Ramnagar district too remembered Kalam and condoled his death. "We are bonafide citizens of this country. But the administration had branded us Bangladeshis and had been served notice to leave India on January 15, 2005. We dispatched post cards to the then President Kalam," Prafulla Mistry said.
"The President intervened and sought a report. A month later, the deportation drive was put on hold. We believe that the union government suspended the deportation because of the presidential intervention. His death is a personal loss to us," Mistry said.