The rural village of Mammoral in Central Trinidad was shaken up this morning following the brutal murder of a six-year-old girl and her father.
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Single dad appeals for home
Despite being abandoned by a female relative and living in squalor in a house overrun by rats, two-year-old Arti Gajadhar has never lost her innocent smile.
While her father Andy Gajadhar struggles to put food on the table, Arti spends most of her days playing with him inside their ramshackle house at Hilltop Drive, Springvale, Claxton Bay.
The rats sometimes nibble on their toes at nights and Gajadhar said he is very afraid his only daughter will contract leptospirosis.
Oblivious to the dangers, the child plays near the rat holes, which are scattered under the loose, rotted floorboards of the one-bedroom ply-board house.
In several areas where the boards are missing, Gajadhar uses a mat to cover the holes. When it rains the roof leaks and Gajadhar has no choice but to huddle in a corner with the child until the rain subsides.
The house, which has an electricity supply, was built 12 years ago by Gajadhar’s father, Anthony Gajadhar, on the hillsides of a fast developing squatting settlement near the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Claxton Bay. The house is outfitted with a rotted fridge, a dysfunctional deep freeze that works as a storage container, a table, stove and a rickety wooden bed.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Gajadhar, a part time grass cutter, said he wanted nothing more than to have a proper place for his daughter to live.
“This child is my life and I would be very sad if something happened to her,” he said.
He said he became a single parent when Arti was a one-year-old.
“I could not even afford to buy milk or pampers for her. I cut grass for a living, but because I suffer from heart disease and diabetes it is difficult for me to work,” Gajadhar said.
He benefits from a government grant of $1,400 monthly but Gajadhar said this is barely enough to make ends meet.
“I don’t go out and beg because this is setting a bad example for her. I want her to have a chance at experiencing a good life, just as any other child,” Gajadhar added.
Saying he was careful never to leave Arti at home alone, Gajadhar said he places her in a car seat and takes her with him when he has to work. On days when this is impossible to do, Gajadhar says he leaves her with a trusted friend in Couva.
Gajadhar said he had applied to the National Self Help Commission since 2015 to get assistance.
“They came here three times and took photographs, but whenever I check back with them they say they lost my file,” Gajadhar added.
In a letter sent to the Office of the Prime Minister, an official from the Social Welfare Department made a plea for assistance on behalf of the Gajadhars. However, nobody ever responded after that. Gajadhar also said he went for assistance from his Tabaquite MP Suruj Rambachan, but despite promises no help came.
Rambachan could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Contacted yesterday, former manager of the National Poverty Reduction Unit and the Main People Issues Resolution Coordinating Unit of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, Asauph Ghany, said he could offer no assistance because both units were no longer functional.
He asked corporate T&T to help. Anyone wanting to assist Gajadhar can call 276-1942 or 289-4494.