The shutting down of a rehabilitation centre in Gurap in Hooghly district,where a destitute woman was suspected to have been raped and murdered a fortnight ago,has come as a blessing in disguise for hapless inmates of the horror home.
Now shifted to a shelter home at Narendrapur,off Kolkata,the women say they have got a fresh lease of life.
We too would have died there due to malnutrition or neglected healthcare. We are lucky to have escaped from there. Almost every month a woman used to die there, 25-year-old Teesta Khatun (name changed) alleged.
Trafficked at the age of five,she was staying at the welfare home run by local NGO Dulal Smriti Samsad in a village,60 km from here.
Following allegations of sexual exploitation and unnatural deaths,the home was closed down by the state government while CID officials are already investigating how many of the inmates had died in the last few months and why were they buried secretly. Skeleton and human bones have already been dug up from the banks of river Damodar.
Anti-trafficking activist Indrani Basu,who runs shelter home Sanlaap,points out that the inmates were traumatised and need psychological counselling to get rid of the shock.
Besides sexual and physical exploitation,they are malnourished also. Now we are trying to rehabilitate them mentally and physically with regular counselling and medical treatment, she says.
Basu complained that government funding has dried up for shelter homes.
For how long can we run these homes without government support? We are forced to seek help from oversees donors, Basu says.
Khatun shudders when asked about her 20-year-long stay in the horror home.
Recalling the inhuman treatment meted out to them,she alleges,In the name of lunch and breakfast,we were given only rice in the morning at 10 am. Then at night we were served again with rice and vegetables.
The police has already arrested secretary of the home,Udaychand Kumar,and his aide Shyamal Ghosh,the prime accused in the case,which came to light after the mysterious death of 32-year-old Guriya was reported from the home premises early this month.
Inmates have alleged that Ghosh used to molest and rape many of the inmates.
He was given a free run inside the rooms. Two young mute girls were sexually harassed by him regularly. Those who opposed were beaten up, alleges 19-year-old Paromita Dutta.
When asked for extra food or even for salt we were beaten up with a thick wooden stick, she says recalling how many inmates died because of lack of medical attention and malnourishment.
Banwari Devi,31,says along with Khatun they used to cook food for all inmates of the house. We were promised some money in return but never paid anything, she says,adding that even medical facilities were not available for them.
But for now she is happy on getting a new life in this rehab centre.