CHENNAI: It has been four years since the shelter for homeless girls of the Chennai Corporation — located in New Washermenpet — received any funds from the civic body. Yet, it managed to stay afloat. It also gave the city a budding sports star — 18-year-old Nagalakshmi, who was part of the team that won the Street Children’s Cricket World Cup at the Lords Stadium in London last year. Now, hit by the lockdown, the shelter home maintained by Karunalaya, an NGO, is struggling to provide one square meal to the children.
“We are unable to give them one meal a day, or any essentials promised by the Corporation,” says Paul Sunder Singh, secretary of Karunalaya. “Starting from April 1, 2016, bills submitted for one meal a day have not been reimbursed by the Corporation. Salaries of staff members have not been paid for around the same duration, barring a few months, despite repeated requests.” Bearing the brunt of this neglect are the children in the home, who do not get the basic nutrition that kids their age should.
“Previously, they used to get at least one vegetable daily, or an egg,” says a staff member. “We used to give them fruits for snacks and chicken or fish occasionally. Now, all they get is a dal or sambar and rice.” The civic body is supposed to pay `27 per child per day for a meal, apart from salaries and `500 as maintenance. Rest of the money used to come through donations. “Now, that too has stopped due to the lockdown. We currently have only one donor, who provides `50 per child per day.”
That money is being spread thin to meet all expenses —all meals and maintenance. The home currently houses 17 girls, including Nagalakshmi. “I had a balanced diet last year,” she says speaking to Express. “Now all that we get is a sambar without vegetables and rice. I have lost all my energy and interest to play.” Paul says he has been in touch with the Corporation officials, who keep promising to pay up. As a last-ditch effort, he has written to the Chief Minister, hoping that will bring help.When contacted, the corporation official concerned said: “There were a few discrepancies in between and the fund will be disbursed soon.”