A probationary Assistant Social Welfare Officer kept a close watch on inmates in dormitory No. 4 of the Beggars' Rehabilitation Centre. “Ensure they wash their hands before sitting for lunch. You have to be here till they finish,” he told the staff serving the lunch.

This man is among the 15 probationary officers posted by the Social Welfare Department to look after the inmates. They not only ensure hygiene and the health of the inmates but also help the Central Relief Committee (CRC) categorise the inmates depending on the condition of their health.

Dormitory No. 4 is where inmates with various skin and other ailments have been housed. “This dormitory is near the Primary Health Centre, which makes it easier to attend to their problems faster,” said the officer, who was not willing to be identified.

It's a new experience for these officers of the 2008 batch. “We were in the districts. We got a call from the head office and have been working here since Monday,” the officer said. Two officers have been posted in each of the wards. “We have been observing conditions here and making necessary arrangements.”

Besides preparing the profile of inmates, the officers have been assisting physically fit inmates who want to leave the centre.

Down to a third

The conditions at the centre improved on Wednesday. The centre's eight dormitories now house 750 people. Last week, before the plight of inmates at the beggars' home was reported in the media, there were 2,500 inmates.

Dormitory No.5, where women inmates have been lodged, was stench-free.

“We have been doing our best for the 20 inmates here. There were about 100 inmates here a week ago,” said a warden.

“We are served well-cooked rice and sambar for lunch. We are also given bananas,” said Eshwar, an inmate. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike food inspectors have been testing the fare routinely, a far cry from the Independence Day lunch which resulted in the deaths and hospitalisation of several residents of the home.

Meanwhile, 10 have been referred to various hospitals. “Those in the hospitals are recovering and coming back to the centre,” said CRC Secretary M. Ramaiah. In spite of all these initiatives, hygiene appears to be still an issue in the kitchen. When The Hindu went there on Wednesday, the staff had not covered the cooked rice stored in various buckets. Ditto with the sambar, which was lying open even as the staff continued to sweep the kitchen.

At the new dormitories No.7 and 8, the inmates have to put up with stagnant water near their buildings. “We have been draining the water, but it continues to accumulate and mosquitoes breed,” said Fayaz, an inmate.

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