For people who has nowhere else to go or nobody wants, government sponsored shelters were the last hope for their survival, but as it turns out they cannot rely on such shelters for their basic comfort or consolation.
Advocate Rahul V. I., a lawyer and an activist along with his lawyer friends Vinod Mathew Wilson and Anand Brahmanand, has recently uploaded images and live video of a shelter home in Kollam. They call this place “Agathy Mandhiram” which means shrine, but you won’t find anything that can relate to this word in this place except for 150 souls who reside in this place with nowhere else to go. Those images were quite revealing and unexpected in a time like this.
Rahul says that, “There are over 150 inmates in this place out of which 65 are women from the age of 30 to 85, as of now this shelter just doesn’t have the resources to accommodate and take care of so many people. Almost half of those people are mentally ill and among there are people with infection and other forms of diseases.”
There have been reports of 16 deaths in the past 5 months and he believes that the lack of medical care and cleanliness just might be the reason behind those deaths.
It has also been revealed that, neither the shelter nor the authorities have any kind of records of the people who has been living in the shelter. Whenever the police or social workers find someone in the streets with nowhere to go, they just drop them of here. Rahul says that, “There is no personnel in this shelter that has any kind of medical experience, these deaths were unrecorded and should be evaluated to find whether lack of medical care was the reason behind it.”
Majority of the inmates of this shelter are non Keralites, some of them left by their relatives, some left home due to their mental status and there were even some who were misled and was brought to this state. It is evident from those images that this facility is not equipped to accommodate so many people. They don’t have enough beds, clean bathroom or toilets and even the medical personnel to look after these people.
Rahul came to know of this place through his colleagues and decided to take a closer look at the place after when he heard about the series of death in this place. What he found was shocking, “Toilets filled with human manure, people walking around with infections and the water that looks like sewage, I felt rage when I saw all of this,” says Rahul.
This issue received the massive media and social media support, and that has changed the condition of this shelter in smaller ways for now. Rahul said that, “Now they have improved the living condition of the shelter by providing them a clean atmosphere to live in, bathrooms, toilets and the surrounding were cleaned; and they have even done maintenance work in and around the building.”
Renowned celebrities, social and political figures have come forward in support of this cause to provide these poor people with better living conditions. Youth Congress leader, Shafeek Kilikalloor has visited the area and they said, they are ready to sponsor beds and other cleaning lotions for this shelter home in the coming few days. “The condition of this place is worse than we thought, if authorities are unwilling to help these people, it’s our duty to help these people and we are ready help however we can.”
Yusuffali M. A., Managing Director of Lulu group, has donated 25 lakhs for the shelter home after hearing about its pathetic situation. Member of Parliament and Actor, Suresh Gopi, has also extended his support and has sponsored a new building and 20 toilets. On the other hand, authorities still need to find a way to provide these people with care that they deserve.
Mayor of Kollam has also said that they will relocate the Men and Women into separate sections and provide them with the necessary comforts that they deserve. K.K Shailaja, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Kerala has instructed the Social Welfare Officer to commence a full scale enquiry into the condition of the shelter home.
According to a report from the activists, District Legal Authority will get involved in this case and the sources say that, they are about to conduct a meeting regarding the condition of the shelter home which will be followed by producing a detailed report and that legal action will be taken according to their report.
As of now government allocates Rs. 1000 per person every month, but Rahul believes that government has to increase this amount significantly so that these people could have a normal life in this shelter. “They are not living a life, they are merely surviving. This shelter is severely understaffed with just four employees. They need personnel that specialize in nursing care that can take care of all these people, “ says Rahul.