The septuagenarian retired blood-bank technician has been collecting unused prescription drugs from the affluent for the past eight years and distributing whatever hasn't expired to patients who need medicines they cannot afford.

Omkarnath, who like many Indians uses only one name, is not a trained pharmacist, and must see a doctor's prescription before he'll help supply any drug. He doesn't charge, though he says the value of what he gives away each month is more than Rs 5 lakhs.

"Medicine Baba" walks more than 7 km, stopping door-to-door to ask for unused medicines. On one such trip on Sunday, he had collected a huge bagful of donated prescriptions in just an hour and a half.

Omkarnath began his mission after seeing some construction workers get badly injured in New Delhi. He says he followed the men to government hospitals where they were not given treatment and told to find the drugs they needed elsewhere.



He says he has built up a stock of drugs and medical equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars from weekend trips to wealthy neighborhoods and more than a dozen collection boxes set up in private clinics around the city.

He stores his cache in a small rented room next to his home in the fetid slums of Manglapuri in Southwest New Delhi. The room is filled with boxes of common flu tablets, insulin injections and cancer medications. Omkarnath also arranges donations of equipment including hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, nebulizers, wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen machines.

One of Omkarnath's regular recipients is 52-year-old Dhulichand, who has been suffering from emphysema for several years. The former shoemaker cannot afford the Rs 6,300 it costs for 20 oxygen cylinders he needs to breathe each month.

"I can't move around or even shower without these cylinders," a bedridden Dhulichand says, as a clear tube delivers a steady flow of oxygen to his nostrils from a cylinder against the wall in his tiny concrete room.



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