The tight security isn’t just for the CM’s safety, but also to control the flow of information.

news Jayalalithaa's health Saturday, October 01, 2016 - 18:52

Greams Lane, where Apollo Hospitals is located, is now a restricted area. Unless you are a patient who cannot walk, or a staffer at this famous hospital in Chennai, your four-wheeler cannot enter the street. About 500 meters from the entrance to the hospital, at least 10 men and women from the police stand guard. The entire section has been barricaded, vehicular and human traffic strictly regulated. This is the hospital where Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa is currently undergoing treatment.

A few meters into the street, and you see the commotion, uncharacteristic of a hospital. There are several police vehicles parked on the lane leading up to the entrance. Security personnel in khaki uniforms and safari suits are swarming everywhere. Only patients and staff are allowed entry into the hospital, after showing identity proof.

For the hospital staff working at the Sindoori block and main block, separate IDs have been given by the police. “We are doing ‘pakka’ screening,” said a police officer stationed at the hospital.

A house on Greams Lane has become a temporary parking lot and security base camp. A tent has been erected for resting police personnel.

According to sources in the police department, between 500-1000 police personnel are deployed in and around Apollo at any given time. At least one additional commissioner of the city police, two joint commissioners and four deputy commissioners are stationed around the clock.

The tight security isn’t just for the CM’s safety, but also to control the flow of information. The Chief Minister is being treated on the second floor, according to sources in the hospital. The entire second floor has been cordoned off for her, and only Sasikala and her family member Sivakumar, have access to her. Several ministers, IPS officers and IAS officers are inside the hospital. Not all of them, however, are allowed to go inside her room.

"Most ministers and MLAs keep coming to the hospital, but they are only allowed limited access. Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, Thambidurai, is the one who has been there the most, helping Amma's team. O Paneerselvam (Minister of Finance) and P Thangamani (Minister of Industries) also take turns to provide any help needed," a source in the AIADMK said. The ministers walk into the hospital alone, without their usual entourage. They spend several hours inside everyday, and step out only at night.

No visitors are allowed to meet Jayalalithaa except her aide Sasikala, however her staff members like Poongundran and Perumalsamy have access to her floor. 

Patients seem to have been inconvenienced to some extent by the extra security measures, but the hospital has streamlined the process in the past few days.

Navraj Thapa has come all the way from Assam with his cousin Bishnu, who is suffering from a liver ailment. They arrived on Friday, and said that they could simply walk in for an appointment on Saturday. “We faced no problems. They checked our IDs and allowed us. We met the doctor who has ordered tests, we will come back on Monday,” says Thapa.

Battery-powered vehicles shuttle between the entrance of Greams Lane and the hospital, ferrying old or immobile patients. The steady stream of visitors from different parts of India and the world continues.

There are scores of AIADMK cadre who have assembled outside the hospital and have permanently stationed themselves there. From ministers to party members, everyone has set up camp.

Journalists, however, are having a tough time.

Pulling 12-14 hours shifts, and sometimes more, reporters and camera persons are waiting outside by the road, keeping a close eye on every single person going in and out of the hospital. They have their meals right there, on the roadside. The government and Apollo have been kind enough to arrange timely meals for them.

The small shops on the lanes behind the hospital are doing brisk business. There is a regular demand for tea, cigarettes and cool drinks from the party cadre and media, and the shops have all stocked up.

But living off the roadside also means a lot of garbage accumulating near the hospital. Surely, when this is all over, a lot of cleaning up will be required

With inputs from Dhanya Rajendran