Kerala is home to about 1,100 government-recognised orphanages or children’s homes. They run on funds raised independently by the orphanage and aid provided by the state government. In 2013-14, monthly grant-in-aid given by the government per inmate was `700. In 2014-15, the amount has been raised to `1,000. On an average, the state government shells out approximately `30 crore, going up to `50 crore a year as grants-in-aid for the orphanages. However, it is mandatory for those orphanages receiving donations from abroad to come clean, even if such a move were to result in the automatic suspension of grants-in-aid by the state government.
Following an Express investigation, it has come to light that 99 per cent of the orphanages in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad and Malappuram have been concealing records regarding aid from foreign sources since 2010-11. The story in the other nine districts, though not yet made public, is expected to be no different. In other words, the scam involving fraudulent funds raised by orphanages in Kerala could figure in the `100 crore-150 crore bracket. Yet, the state government seems least bothered by all this and is more pre-occupied with scams such as those of the solar variety where the declared damage is well below `10 crore. All this is coming to pass when the government is struggling to provide aid to hapless endosulphan victims in Kasargod or to undernourished tribals in Attappadi.
The alleged child trafficking busted in Kerala and the disclosures of fraudulent fund-raising are turning out to be a fit case for a central agency probe. The scam, in the name of giving succour to destitute children, is taking on alarming proportions. The government has a foolproof opportunity to crack down on erring orphanage managements, something that successive governments have been reluctant to do as they never wanted to hurt the minority vote bank—most orphanages being run by Muslim and Christian outfits. It is high time the state government stopped being bothered by sectarian considerations.