THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Children eating sand to satisfy their hunger. This shocking scene is not from a remote village in a poor north Indian state. It happens right in the middle of Kerala's capital - Thiruvananthapuram, and the society’s consciousness was shaken as news trickled in about the family’s abject poverty. And help started pouring in. Before that, here’s a recap of the plight of the family. A shelter covered by rags and plastic bags.
Living in it are Sreedevi along with her six children, with the eldest being seven years and the youngest three months old. When the child rescue volunteers arrived at their place at Sreekanteswaram ward in Thiruvananthapuram corporation, a pitiable sight and eyewitness accounts awaited them.
Shedding light into the stark reality of starvation, the mother and local residents testified that sometimes, the children had to eat soil to satisfy their hunger. Six children along with their mother and grandmother live in the crammed space with the youngest two members of the family have their cradle near the cooking pit.
After children’s penury hits headlines, govt offers help
According to Thanal state coordinator K Bahuleyan Nair, “It was only on Saturday that the family’s penury was conveyed through Thanal’s toll-free number 1517. Upon that, a team of volunteers arrived at the spot and spoke with the children and gave them food.” “With the help of the district child protection unit, four children were rescued. As the youngest two children had to be breastfed, they were left with the mother.” Kerala State Council for Child Welfare general secretary Deepak S P said, “The sole breadwinner of the family, Kunjumon, is a drunkard.
He is a coconut plucker but doesn’t take care of the family. Local residents say he often beats his wife and children in an inebriated state. Legal action against him will be considered.” According to the District Child Protection Unit, the children aged seven, five, four and three have been rescued. In a late-night development, the mother and the two youngest children were shifted to the Mahila Mandiram.
Upon a directive from District Collector K Gopalakrishnan, the women protection officer and Thiruvananthapuram tahsildar visited the family’s shed and made necessary arrangements to shift them. As the news hogged headlines, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala sought urgent intervention by the state government, terming the incident as a major shame for the entire state. Social Justice Minister KK Shailaja said the protection of the children will be carried out by the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare and it will look after their expenses for food, clothing and education.
When ‘TNIE’ contacted, Sreekanteswaram ward councillor Komalavally said, “The family live in a puramboke land. Though, as a councillor, I visited them a couple of times in connection with the LIFE project, they never revealed their hardships to me. The family will be provided with better living conditions.” Said Mayor K Sreekumar, “The corporation will provide the mother with a temporary job. We will also give them a completed flat which was made as part of our housing projects.”