Giving hope and then breaking promises can be the greatest betrayal and it is even crueler when lives depend entirely on these promises. In this case, rescued sex workers have been waiting in vain for the government to make good their promise of rehabilitation funds.
Orders Ms No 1 and 3 state that the government must provide the rescued women with an immediate relief package within the period of one week. This package, the value of which is Rs 10,000 is to pay for medical and travel expenses. In addition to this, a further rehabilitation funding of Rs 25,000 has also been allocated.
But the packages are usually delayed and many either never receive the funds or get them as late as three to four years after their rescue. Banuja who works at the Redh NGO in Anantapur says, “Eighty girls were rescued from Anantapur in 2007. According to the government order, rehabilitation package and immediate relief package were to be given to them. Immediate relief package must reach the rescued girl within a week. Yet among the 80 girls who applied for it in 2007, 62 girls received the immediate relief fund in 2009 and another 18 got it in 2010. The remaining 15 died of AIDS before they could receive the money.”
One of the rescued girls, 20-year-old Sridevi (name changed on request) elaborates on how the failure to receive the funds impacts her life, “For me money is everything. It is the dearth of it that pushed me to sell my body. The government has not been able to help. My father died when I was 6 and my mother too died soon after. My younger sister and I stayed with my aunt. I felt we were a burden to her and that is why I decided to enter this profession. In 2007, the police caught me and sent me to a rescue home. They treated me well and I learnt embroidery work. I moved out because I wanted to live with my sister. But because I haven’t received a single penny from the government I have started to live with my aunt again. I wish I could make use of the training I received but I am waiting for the money to arrive so that I can start a small business.”
More than 90 per cent of the girls never receive the aid. “In the three districts Anantapur, Chittoor and Kadappa, there were 220 people who were rescued in 2007. But till now only a negligible few have been provided with the rehabilitation package,” Banuja says. Whatever investment the government makes in the girls’ training goes in vain as women are not provided with money to start an establishment. There’s a high risk of the girl returning to prostitution .
“I have been trained in baking but it is of no use as I am working at a cotton mill to support my family. My mother, younger sister and brother all depend upon me. I was rescued in 2007 but haven’t received any money. I am desperately waiting for it,” says 19-year-old Amrita (name changed on request).
When asked, the acting Director of AP Women’s Co-operative Finance Corporation, D. Venkateswarlu says, “I have been in charge of the department for only a month. I am unaware of the repercussions. I will surely look into the matter and make sure that the girls receive the money at the earliest. It is sad that many died and couldn’t receive the money.”