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Little hope for HOPE school

Durgapur, Jan. 6: There’s little cheer among the 80 mentally-challenged students of the Handicapped Orientation Programme and Education (HOPE) with the Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation of India Limited asking the institution to vacate its premises.

The HFCL unit here has been declared sick and its assets, which include the property allotted to HOPE, liquidated. The company has also asked its employees to clear out by the yearend.

“I have nothing to say except that I have written to the chairman and managing director of the company in Delhi asking him for more time and praying for an alternative site,” said HOPE founder-president Venkateswar Acharya. He has also requested his brother, CPM MP Basudev Acharya, to take up the matter with the Centre.

HOPE, the only such institution here, started in 1988 from a two-room rented house near the HFCL township. Mother Teresa visited the institution four days after its inauguration. In 1993, it shifted to an abandoned primary school building inside the company’s township.

Minati Sikdar, mother of an 11-year-old boy with behavioural disorders, said the institution was crucial to her child’s treatment. “I am ready to abandon everything for Partha. But if HOPE closes down, I do not know where to go,” Sikdar said.

Saptarshi Kar, 20, a mentally-challenged student for the past 10 years, said: “After my mother, my next love is HOPE, which I cannot afford to lose.”

The evacuation notice comes close on the heels of HOPE’s new computer section, begun with help from a non-resident Indian who donated 20 personal computers on behalf of Heart and Hand for the Handicapped, US.

“I am carrying out the instructions that have been sent from our head office. HOPE has to move out ultimately,” said HFCL deputy general manager K.K. Naik.

Bidhan Sarani heist

Robbers struck at a businessman’s house on Bidhan Sarani in Calcutta late this evening and decamped with cash and jewellery worth Rs 2.5 lakh.

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