Rabindranath Ghosh with inmates during his visit to Shahid Bandana Smriti Awas in Cooch Behar on Thursday. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti
Cooch Behar, Jan. 3: Around a hundred girls in a state shelter home in Cooch Behar were served only muri for dinner for a month because the government allegedly did not send money to buy rice.
At Shahid Bandana Smriti Awas, the 101 girls are destitutes from various parts of north Bengal. Generally girls aged between 6 and 18 years are kept there.
Today, Rabindranath Ghosh, the Trinamul MLA of Natabari, visited the home and donated 5 quintals of rice, garments and blankets. He has promised that more food grains would be sent to the home.
“For the past one month, the girls had only one meal. On December 29, when I visited the home with minister Becharam Manna, they (the home authorities) told us about the problem,” Ghosh said today. “I have handed over food grain which should last for a month, along with some garments and blankets.”
Shelter home superintendent Aditi Choudhury said: “There are 101 girls, all of whom study in nearby schools.”
The state social welfare department sends the cash to contractors who supply food grains to the shelter. But if the contractor goes unpaid for too long, he stops supplying food and other essentials.
District administration sources said that for every month, a sum of Rs 1,250 is allotted for each girl by the social welfare department, under which the home functions.
“The sum is meant to cover all expenses of the inmates, meaning food and accommodation, books, garments and medical needs. The food is supplied here by a catering firm that gets the contract. Around Rs 12 lakh was due to the contractor because of non-allocation of funds which is why, the caterer has stopped supplying food grain,” a home official said.
Sudip Mitra, the additional district magistrate, and home superintendent Choudhury were present today when Ghosh visited the facility.
One of the inmates, Pinki Das, said: “For the past one month, we got rice only in the morning. Earlier, we used to get breakfast, lunch and dinner but now it’s only rice at 9am, ruti in the afternoon and muri (puffed rice) at night. When the minister (Manna) came here last month, we told him about our problem. It is good that the MLA intervened and provided us the stock of rice,” she said. “From today, we should get dinner.”
When Ghosh spoke to the girls, they mentioned to him that they lacked adequate number of electric lights. Even huge halls have only one tube light. “We do not get tuitions from teachers because there is no money. Also, the ambulance is lying defunct for the past five years and none of the three computers, provided at the home, work,” one of the girls told the MLA and the officials.
The team of officials with Ghosh assured the inmates, among them several girls against whom cases are pending in court, that their problems would be looked into.
“We have learnt about the problems of the girls. Officials at the state social welfare department have been contacted for necessary help. We expect things would improve soon,” Sudip Mitra, the additional district magistrate, said.