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Developmentally challenged boy tied to bus stop highlights struggle for disabled Indians

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.

Lakhan Kale cannot hear or speak and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so his grandmother and care-giver tied him up to keep him safe while she went to work selling toys and flower garlands on the city's roadsides.

“What else can I do? He can't talk, so how will he tell anyone if he gets lost?” said homeless Sakhubai Kale, 66, who raised Lakhan on the street by the bus stop shaded by the hanging roots of a banyan tree.

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

A photograph of him tied up appeared in a local newspaper this week, sparking concerns among charities and the police, and he has since been taken into care at a government-run institution.

But activists say his plight on the streets comes as little surprise in India, where those with disabilities face daily stigma and discrimination and a lack of facilities to assist them.

Kale said Lakhan “tends to wander off” and that there was no one else to stop him walking into traffic while she and her 12-year-old granddaughter, Rekha, were out making a living.

At night she would tie him to her own leg as they slept on the pavement so she would know if he tried to walk away.

“I am a single old woman. Nobody paid attention to me until the newspaper report,” she said.

“He was in a special school, but they sent him back.”

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