The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Out of hell but nowhere to go

Ranaghat, April 16: Rescued from the brothels of Calcutta where their mothers stay, nine children have been left in the lurch after a home run by a non-government organi- sation was shut down by the administration due to lack of funds.

The “abandoned” children, including five girls, are now surviving on local donations collected by sympathetic residents of the neighbour-hood.

Last Saturday, project- coordinator Mausumi Kar “handed over” the children to the security staff of the Johnson-Orsini Home after lodging a complaint with the police that she was being harassed by the 20-odd staff of the establishment.

Run by the NGO, Society for Community Development, Kar said she was unable to pay wages to the home’s staff for the past 10 months.

“After receiving her complaint, we went to the home and found nothing serious. But the coordinator insisted that she was feeling unsafe so we allowed her go to her Calcutta residence,” said Arnab Ghosh, the sub-divi- sional police officer of Ranaghat.

Before leaving, Kar handed over a letter to the staff of the home stating: “I hand over nine children to you for this night for safety and security.”

“More than 48 hours passed and we were left with the children with no one coming forward to take them,” said Rabi Chatterjee, a security staffer of the home.

Ghosh later said the coor- dinator would be held responsible for the well being of the children.

The home had been blacklisted by a Canadian philanthropic organisation, that had sent funds to run the establishment, for financial irregularities.

Since then, 62 children have been returned to their mothers who are sex workers. The remaining nine have nowhere to go as their mothers have refused to take them back to the red light areas of the city.

Yesterday, residents of the area took the children to the sub-divisional officer, Soumendra Pathak, demanding they be taken to a safe place.

“The sub-divisional officer gave us a patient hearing and assured us that he would inquire if the children could be accommodated in a government-run home,” said Suvendu Chatterjee, a lawyer who was among those who approached Pathak.

A member of the board of Society for Community Development, U.K. Bhadra, said social welfare programmes run by the body were funded by foreign agencies.

“The home was being run by funds from a Canadian agency that blacklisted the project due to financial malpractice by a former director of our NGO,” said Bhadra, who is also a doctor of community medicine at SSKM Hospital in Calcutta.

When asked, Ghosh admi-tted that the home was not being run properly.

“A year ago, we initiated an investigation following a government directive but the matter was put on hold as there was a court case on,” he said.

Bhadra, however, said that a case was being contested between the NGO’s director and the former project coord-inator, but it had been “settled out of court”.

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