The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Santa CM to pamper orphans

Hyderabad, Dec. 3: This Christmas, the chief minister is playing Santa Claus. Chandrababu Naidu is throwing open his heart and hearth to five poor schoolchildren who don’t have homes to return to during the winter holidays.

The Telugu Desam chief proposes to entertain a group of orphans, streetchildren and rescued child labourers as his guests for a day or two at his Jubilee Hills house. He will share lunch and dinner with them, spend time with them after work and might even take them out to picnic spots in the city.

Sources in the chief minister’s office said Naidu came up with the idea after several students of the bridge schools — where school dropouts are being taught to take the Class VII public examination — complained that they had nowhere to go once the hostels shut down for holidays.

For the past one year, Naidu has been going around the state addressing rallies as part of the Chaduvula Panduga (Festival of Learning) campaign to contain the problem of students dropping out from schools. There are 75 lakh school dropouts in the 10-12 year age group in the state.

Last week, as he was interacting with students at Mahboobnagar, Adilabad and Kurnool, some of them told him that the authorities running their residential schools had asked where they would go for the holidays as the hostels would shut down. “We have nowhere to go,” one of the students is said to have cried out.

After the weeklong campaign, Naidu took up the issue at the cabinet meeting on Monday and decided to set up an organisation — Mamta — to provide shelter to the students who have nowhere to go during the holidays.

Mamta will organise summer camps and help the children pick up vocational skills during the breaks. The cabinet also decided that it would encourage adoption of the children by individuals and organisations during holidays, not only to give them shelter but also to teach them some skills.

Following Naidu’s example, several ministers, among them finance minister Y. Ramakrishnadu and health minister K. Shiva Prasad Rao, bureaucrats and industrialist houses, the Nagarjuna Fertilisers Group among them, have come forward to provide shelter to the children during Christmas.

“If the project works out well, it may be replicated in the summer and also during the Dussehra festival holidays,” said information minister S. Chandramohan Reddy, who is also keen to adopt some of the students.

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