| Pavement children at a foreign-funded literacy camp in the city
A conflict has broken out between the civic authorities and the state social welfare department over which of them will implement the Japanese-funded welfare project, drawn up for improving the quality of life of sex workers and destitute children in the city. Japan’s Fund for Poverty Reduction has granted Rs 20 crore for the project.The money is to be channelised through the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Since the Japanese grant is meant for the Calcutta area and the ADB is already in agreement to provide a fund package of Rs 1,245 crore for Calcutta’s environment improvement, mayor Subrata Mukherjee requested the ADB team on Monday to take up the poverty-reduction scheme as part of the environment project through the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).
State social welfare officials, on the other hand, insisted that the welfare scheme be taken up by their department, as they had already been working for the uplift of sex workers and destitute children.
The department held a meeting on Monday with the ADB team in the chief minister's conference room, to which representatives from NGOs, like the All Bengal Women's Union, Sanlaap, Care and Calcutta Samaritans were invited. The ADB’s visiting team was taken on a tour of some red-light areas on Tuesday. They also visited a home for destitute girls at Liluah, run by the state government and Sneha, and another at Narendrapur, run by NGO Sanlaap.
Meanwhile, the CMC is set to conduct a survey on sex workers and destitute children for the first time in the city. The survey will determine the living conditions of the sex workers and the destitute children and their access to basic civic amenities.
Earlier, the civic authorities had decided to ask the NGOs dealing with sex workers and destitute children to supply the data, as it had no data of its own to draw up a plan of action. The civic assessment records do not highlight the red-light areas in the CMC area.
According to Sanlaap secretary Indrani Sinha, the five major red-light areas in the city are at Sonagachhi, Kidderpore, Kalighat, Bowbazar and Tollygunge.
A number of NGOs and the Indian Institute of Hygiene and Public Health had already conducted several surveys on the sex workers here and their number could add up to about 13,000, Sinha added.
But the actual number could be thrice or four times more, as the survey reports were made on the basis of a room count only.
“We should make an effort to determine the actual figure, since it is for the first time that the CMC is going to undertake special development schemes for the red-light areas of the city,” asserted mayor Subrata Mukherjee.