For years, retired school teachers N Kamalasan (77) and C K Sarojini (71) worried about the future of their only daughter, an intellectually challenged person. Who would take care of her once they were gone?
Last Friday, the couple found an answer. They handed over one of their houses to the Kerala government, asking it to convert the property into a centre for challenged women and accommodate their 37-year-old daughter at that facility.
Accepting the demand of Kamalasan, the Kerala Social Welfare Department took over the building and 83 cents of land at Kayila village in Kollam district. The property, with a two-storeyed house, has a market value of Rs 3 crore.
Social Welfare Minister K K Shylaja said the house would soon be converted into a rehabilitation centre for intellectually challenged women. At present, the house can accommodate ten people. It will be furnished with facilities for 50 women.
On the request of Kamalasan and Sarojini, the house will be named after their daughter Priya — Priya Home for Mentally Challenged Women. The house, the minister said, will ensure a homely atmosphere for its residents. They will also get medical care at the house, Shylaja said.
This gesture of the elderly couple did not end there. They wrote a will, saying the government can take over their two other houses and 15 cents of land in Kozhikode which will fetch a market price of Rs 4 crore. They are now living in one of these two houses in Kozhikode. According to the will, these houses will have to be used for the rehabilitation of the intellectually challenged.
Kamalasan said he had worried about the future of their daughter. “If she is handed over to the custody of relatives, there is no guarantee that they will look after her. We have several instances of mentally challenged persons being killed by relatives to seize the property left behind by their parents.’’
He said he had been knocking on the door of the Social Welfare Department to take over his house in Kollam and make it a residential project for the intellectually challenged. “The government action has come as a big relief. The government has promised to make the house ready for challenged women. We will have nothing to worry. Our daughter can be quickly moved to that house. She can live in a homely atmosphere. Otherwise, she may have had to wander after our death,” he said.
He said scores of intellectually challenged persons in Kerala have been left on the streets after the death of their parents. “I wanted to bring their woes to the public sphere. I hope wealthy families come forward to make such homes ready for their intellectually-challenged wards as well as for others from economically weaker sections, ‘’ Kamalasan said.
A survey conducted by the Kerala Social Security Mission in 2015 revealed that 2.21 per cent of the state’s population is challenged, either physically or mentally.
Kerala Mental Health Authority Secretary Dr Jayaprakash said the gesture of Kamalasan and his wife is worth emulating. “Many parents of challenged children die with the pain that there is none to take care of them (the children). This type of voluntary initiative will help address the issue,” he said.