India’s Satya Sai Baba in critical condition: doctors

HYDERABAD, April 5, 2011 (AFP) – One of India’s best-known spiritual leaders, known for his apparent miracles and long list of influential followers, is on life support in hospital, doctors said Tuesday. Satya Sai Baba, 85, who has devotees in more than 100 countries, was admitted to a hospital funded by his organisation in the southern town of Puttaparthi with lung and chest congestion on March 28.

His condition has since deteriorated and he was now on a ventilator and receiving kidney dialysis, the most recent health bulletin from the hospital said on Tuesday.

He remained “critical,” although his “level of consciousness has considerably improved” and his vital systems are “stable”, said the update from the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.

Thousands of followers have begun arriving in Puttaparthi, home to Sai Baba’s ashram in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, with many agitated by conflicting information given out by local authorities.

Government officials have sought to play down the seriousness of his condition, while police are preventing groups from gathering in the town and well-wishers from assembling outside the hospital, local reports said.