Ten girls, whose education is funded by a non-governmental organisation, are on the verge of losing their rented apartment in a Mumbai suburb just because they are daughters of sex workers from the city’s red light area, Kamathipura.
Residents of Akurli Om Housing Society in Kandivili have decided not to renew their rent agreement. Of the 10 girls, five — aged between 14 years and 19 years — go to schools in the vicinity of their apartment, and four others are enrolled in long-distance courses and study from home. Three woman staffers of the NGO, Kranti, also stay with them.
“In a recent meeting, the society members said we must vacate the flat by May 1. However, our agreement has been extended till June 10. I cannot imagine a single building in the city where a flat owner will rent space to run an NGO in such a short notice,” said Kranti co-founder Robin Chaurasiya.
The flat owner, who did not wish to be named, said the housing society conveyed to him several complaints from the members about the girls.
“The girls use abusive language. Slumdwellers from the nearby areas have come to know about the background of the girls and they tease them and also the girls from other families,” he told The Indian Express. He, however, said he was willing to sell the flat to the NGO.
When contacted, the housing society’s chairman Vishwanath confirmed about receiving “many complaints” against the girls. “It is his (flat owner’s) decision (to ask the girls to vacate the apartment). There are a lot of complaints against the girls in the society and they are creating a lot of problems. We have just passed on the message to the flat owner,” he said.
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The three-bedroom apartment has been home to the girls for the past three years, said Chaurasiya. On the NGO’s persistence, the flat owner has extended the agreement for a couple of months. “But it is only a temporary relief as finding a new home would be a big hurdle. Finding homes for singles, particularly women, is difficult in this city. Where will we go?” she added.
Bani Das, another staff member of the NGO, alleged discrimination by the society members on occasions such as Holi when children were asked to refrain from playing with the girls. Expressing concern over the prospect of the girls having to leave their schools, tuition classes and dance classes, she said, “The girls are saddened to know that they will have to move out. Our biggest concern is that all their official documents bear the present residential address, changing which entails an elaborate process.”
Disheartened with the idea of changing schools, one of the girls said, “I have been studying in the school for last one year, but I have just made friends and don’t want to change school for my Class 10 Board exam next year.” Two girls, both 13, and scheduled to attend summer camps in the UK and US in June are disappointed. “For two months, I wrote emails asking people to pay my fees and plane ticket. Now, that everything is paid, I might not get a passport because we have to change homes,” one of them explained.
“Earlier, people were vague about the girls’ backgrounds. Things have become much more difficult after they realised that the girls are from Kamathipura,” said Chaurasiya. “We are hoping it’s a blessing in disguise, and someone will give us a free or subsidised flat in the heart of the city.”