Jacintha Felix
Jacintha Felix

1292 Days In A School Shelter And Counting

Since 2016, frail Jacintha has been denied a government home, after she lost everything to the sea

Rejimon Kuttappan

Rejimon Kuttappan

On Thursday, at around 11 am, when The Lede met 63-year-old Jacintha Felix at a temporary shelter in Valiyathura UP School, which is called as a refugee camp by locals, in Thiruvananthapuram coast, she was getting ready to go to Thiruvananthapuram Corporation to plead again for a permanent house from the government.

For the last 1292 days, Jacintha, her son Christopher Felix, her daughter-in-law and a four-year-old grandson are pushing the days ahead with great hope that very soon their name also will be included in the list of free housing scheme from the government.

However, to date, caught in red-tapism, Jacintha is still unlucky.

Jacintha, her physically challenged husband and other family members had moved to the school shelter on 16 May 2016, when their hut on the seashore near Carmel Matha Kurisadi in Valiyathura was hit by killer waves.

“It was an election day. It was raining heavily from the afternoon. And by evening, the water started to enter our hut. And by 7 pm in the evening, the house was almost inundated. Two houses on the same row got damaged too. We picked up whatever we could and ran out of the house,” Jacintha told The Lede.

“We came to the street. Many were there like us. Luckily, a priest from the Valiyathura Church had come for rescue operations there. He saw our helplessness. And he moved us to this school and told us that we can stay here,” Jacintha added.

In the school, classrooms were turned into temporary camps, where fishermen families from the Valiyathura coast come and go. When the sea is violent and it is raining heavily, many fishermen families leave their homes and take shelter in the camps.

While a few return to their homes when normalcy returns, many who have lost their houses due to seashore erosion during heavy rains will continue in the shelter till they get a permanent housing system from the government.

In a bid to provide housing for all homeless people in Kerala, the current Kerala government is running a mission named LIFE Mission.

The LIFE (Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission is a comprehensive housing scheme for all the landless and homeless people and the target of the mission is to provide housing to nearly 4.3 lakh homeless in the next five years.

Under the programme, the homeless will be provided with modern housing complexes with provision for pursuing their livelihoods, converging social services including primary health care, geriatric supports, skill development and provision for financial services inclusion.

Many in the Thiruvananthapuram coastal area have got a better housing facility through Life Mission.

But many like Jacintha are still waiting in the school shelter, adjusting with limited food and facilities, with great hope that they will also get a house one day.

“Since I came here, I have been knocking the doors of government offices and minister’s cabin to get a house. Everyone responds positively. But I have not got a house yet. And living here has become a pain too,” Jacintha added.

When Jacintha and her family came to the shelter camp, they were housed in a classroom.However, when Cyclone Ockhi had hit the shore in 2017 November and when cyclones repeated many had come in.Now, there are around 13 people from three families, including Jacintha’s, in the classroom.

“We have to adjust. There is no option,” Jacintha added.Unfortunately, her husband had also died in the same shelter camp on 24 November 2017, at the age of 72 due to lack of timely medical attention.

“He was unwell. His left side was paralyzed. Since 45, he was bedridden. We were staying in Kollam. I had to sell off the house there because I had to take care of my husband’s medication. And then only, we moved to Thiruvananthapuram in 2009. And took care of my family by selling fish,” Jacintha added.

Jacintha currently has a Public Distribution System ration card with Valiyathura address and had also voted during the last general elections too.

However, reportedly, she has been denied a free house by the government. Beemapally Rashid, the Thiruvananthapuram councillor representing the area where Jacintha lives, told The Lede that he has tried his best and continues to try to get help for Jacintha.“Unfortunately, citing some technical reasons, government offices are denying a free house for Jacintha. Not only the free house, Jacintha and her family are not also getting other benefits, which others in the camp are getting,” Rashid said adding that he will continue his efforts to get help for Jacintha and her family.

Jacintha looks pale and fragile. She is struggling with respiratory uneasiness. However, due to lack of money, she has not been able to take proper medication.

“I am becoming weak, day by day. However, at this age, with great hope that I will get a permanent house from the government, I am running from pillar to post. I am not sure whether I will get one or not. But I don’t want to give up,” she added.

The Lede