With two sons and her daughter requiring medical care, this mother of five says she did not know what else to do.

A woman and two of her children are at a public place with a white board next to them
news Poverty Monday, September 21, 2020 - 17:56

Santhi is back in the rented house from which she was evicted – a two room apartment in Varapuzha, near Edappally in Kochi. It has been an eventful 24 hours in her life, from the time she decided to stand on the Container Road in Mulavukadu, drenched in the heavy rain, with her four sons and daughter. Next to them, was a message in clear block letters written on a long white sheet: Mother’s organs for sale, to help provide for her children’s medical care and pay off debts.

People gathered around her. Police officials tried to make them leave, but the family stood their ground – there was, Santhi would say later, no other way. In the end, Ernakulam District Collector Suhas had to intervene and make peace with the owner of their house to settle the dues and let them stay on.

“So I am back here with a searing headache, but I still need to fight for my family,” Santhi tells TNM in a tired voice.

Things were going well when her eldest son – 25-year-old Rajesh – was taking care of the expenses with the money he made out of DJ-ing in Kochi. But a few months earlier, he had a bike accident and became bedridden for a while, unable to go out and earn a living. Santhi’s second son – 23-year-old Renjith – was born with a tumour in his stomach. He has had surgeries but has always been a sick child.

The third son – 21-year-old Sajith – worked as a movie theatre operator, but with the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19, the theatres have been closed and he has had no work or income. The fourth son, Sajeev, is in school. So is the youngest – Santhi’s only girl, Jessica – aged 11. She too has had health issues ever since a road accident brought on a head injury.

The father of the children abandoned the family many years ago.

“With three of my children being unwell, and the two others unable to work, I have been struggling to make ends meet. I used to work as a driving teacher but after my daughter became unwell, I stopped going to work to be with her. Now the family has no means of income and we are under a lot of debt. I had to borrow to meet the medical expenses of the children,” Santhi says.

Health Minister KK Shailaja has said that she will look into the hospital expenses, Santhi says, but she doesn’t know what the future holds. For now, there is a home to stay in and the mother is temporarily relieved that the family has a place where they can rest.

The Collector has reached an agreement with Santhi about the rented house and offered some financial help. "They will remain in the same rented house for five more months. Rent will be given by the Lions Club, Paravoor branch. The Scheduled Castes department will check if the family is eligible to be considered for a housing scheme under the government's LIFE mission," Collector Suhas said.

Also read: Nine stories where trial by media wreaked havoc on people's lives

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