Many will still remember the heartbreaking scenes that emerged from Kochi a few months ago when a woman, who was evicted from her rented house with her five children, stood on the road holding a placard announcing that her organs were for sale. Santhi’s plight in drawing attention to her homeless family and ailing children had shaken the city, paving the way for the state government and many private associations to come forward to help.
However, the family which had gone back to their rented house following official intervention now lives along National Highway 966A at Mulavukad, the same road on which they stood last September. Speaking to The News Minute (TNM), the family alleges that they are forced to live on the road as they did not receive the promised help.
Santhi, a single mother, had been living with her four sons and a daughter in a rented house in Ernakulam’s Varapuzha. In September 2020, after the family was allegedly evicted from the house, she and her five children, three of who have various physical ailments, stood on NH966A announcing that her organs were for sale to meet the medical expenses of the children and pay off debts.
The issue garnered a lot of media attention and many intervened, including Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas, the then Health Minister KK Shailaja, and several private associations. While the district administration had promised to take care of the family’s accommodation expenses, the Health Minister had promised to bear the medical expenses. But Santhi says none of the promises were kept.
“Scores of people came forward promising to help us. The government said it will take care of all our needs. But we have received nothing. Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, I’m living with my children in this makeshift shed,” Santhi says. According to the family, they allegedly got evicted again a few days after they moved back to their rented house in September.
“A private association had initially paid six months’ rent to our landlord. Later, they took back the money. So, we had to leave the house,” alleges Santhi. She also added that no one, including district authorities, panchayat officials or other groups, who had announced in the media that they would help has approached the family, even though they continue to live on the streets.
Santhi’s 25-year-old son Rajesh, who was the breadwinner of the family, met with an accident leaving him bedridden and unable to work. Her 23-year-old son Renjith was born with a tumour in his stomach, and the youngest – 11-year-old daughter Jessica – also met with an accident and suffered injuries in the head. Presently, she has only partial eyesight. Of the other two sons, one is school going while the other lost his job during the lockdown. The family has again put up the same placards which announced Santhi's organs are for sale, near their makeshift tent.
The family is now managing with the small donations they get from vehicles that pass by the place. But after the lockdown imposed due to the second COVID-19 wave, they are finding it hard to cope.
Meanwhile, officials TNM spoke with deny most of the family’s allegations. “Last September itself, after the Health Minister intervened. We tried to shift the family to a relief centre. As they don’t have land, it will take some time to get a house through the Life Mission scheme. But they were not interested in moving,” says Viji Shajan, former Mulavukad Panchayat president. Shajan also claims that the family was not evicted but left the rented house voluntarily.
(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished here with permission)