Many people would detest the mere thought of lizards in their food, but boys at the government-run Balamandira, Siddapur, are used to seeing worse stuff in their eatables. Stones and worms are routinely served along with rice and sambar.
As many as 103 boys at the observation home took ill after eating dinner on Sunday. One of them had found a lizard in ‘anna sambar’.
One of the boys admitted to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH) said on Tuesday that he had been eating bad food for the past three months and that Sunday’s dinner was the worst he had eaten.
Shankar (name changed) was the first to find a lizard’s tail in the food and immediately felt like throwing up. “Rice served to us is often laced with worms and stones. The cooks don’t care to remove them before cooking,” he told DH. “Most of the boys do not eat properly because of the poor quality. I just don’t want to stay here any more.”
Bad food isn’t the boys’ only concern. They are routinely harassed by those in charge of the orphanage over petty issues. Take the case of Mannu, a runaway boy from Bihar. He said he was beaten for such frivolous reasons as using too much soap or not eating. “My parents are in Bihar but they do not have a phone. I was brought here from the railway station. I just want to go back home,” he added.
Surya, from Chennai, said he, too, was beaten up in the observation home. A boy from Andhra Pradesh said he was beaten up with a cane that was usually used by the police.
Sudharani, the superintendent of the observation home, dismissed the boys’ claims, saying “most of it is not true”. “Most of these boys come from disturbed backgrounds and tell different stories. The food served here is of good quality. I myself taste it every day before it is served to the boys,” she added.
Lakshmikanthamma, from the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Department of Women and Child Development, however, said she needed to talk to the boys to determine the quality of food and whether they were abused or beaten up.