Budgam: Enrolled for pursuing education, a group of underprivileged girls in central district Budgam is constrained to cook food and wash utensils at a government run orphanage that belies its name—markaz-e-falah-e-mastooorat or center for women’s welfare.
A group of girls wearing traditional tweed pherans (cloaks) and headscarves start their day with breakfast of traditional bread and salted tea at Chadoora town. The girls, presently 19 on the rolls, have been admitted from several pockets of Budgam district. They have lost one or both their parents and their financial position is not strong enough to study at their own places. Started two decades before, the orphanage is run under the aegis of social welfare department.
The orphaned girls have been huddled in two-storey rented building, which is itself a commentary on the callousness of the authorities towards the poor girls. The building may offer a rosy picture from a distance but it houses an unhygienic kitchen and unkempt rooms and dwellers.
Worse, the inmates of the orphanage have not been provided new clothes for a long time though the manual says that their dresses must be replaced from time to time. The impoverished girls are deprived of study material and proper scheme for their education.
The Center is acutely under-staffed. The department has deputed three employees to run the affairs and they force the inmates to do most of the chores.
“This orphanage is managed by the people who have no human heart and respect for law. The children are forced to work in the kitchen, which should have been done by a permanent employee,’a local resident who lives in the vicinity of the orphanage told Kashmir Reader.
The girls show no qualms in narrating their woeful tale. “We have been doing all the work by our own. They provide us food material and we cook it ourselves. Even wash our clothes,” an inmate said.
The girls said that the superintendent of the orphanage has prepared a roster to distribute work among the inmates.
Apart from enforced labour, the inmates are deprived of recreational activities. The center lacks playground and electricity supply to the building is often plagued with faults.
Superintendent of the center Nazia Wani conceded that the orphanage was facing a plethora of problems. She admitted that the center was understaffed and lacking facilities.
“There should have been 17 employees including a medical officer and a nurse. But we are only three employees here, a sweeper and a tutor,” Nazia added.
“There are other problems as well. Not a single medical examination has been conducted in this orphanage. Recently few girls got a bout of skin allergy (scabies) and it tranfered to all inmates,” she said.
“In such circumstances we should have our own medical officer to check up the inmates. However, we are constrained to take them to public hospital should they complain of any ailment,” she added.
“The bills of the pharmacists are not cleared in time. They sometimes refuse to provide medicines,” Wani said adding that there was provision to get medicines from private medical outlets.
“It needs urgent attention. The center requires a cook, a doctor, nurse, sports activities and other facilities,” she said.
The students say that they are fed up with the kind of life they are forced to live at the orphanage. “Whenever a student is allowed to leave the orphanage to visit her family, she is reluctant to return. But the circumstances force them to return. Often we see the students in a terrible state of mind after returning from vacations,” Bisma, a student said.
“I want to live like other children in my locality. I want my mother to be with me every time,” another girl Shabnum said.
District social welfare officer Tariq Ahmad Reshi said that they were trying their level best to improve the facilities at the institute. He said that there was no post of cook at the center.
“There has been no post for cook otherwise the problem would have been solved earlier,” he said.
He said that he would visit the center on Saturday to take stock of the situation.