Lucknow’s Sheroes cafe, run by acid attack survivors, faces shutdown after UP govt’s order

New Delhi: After the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power in 2014, it came up with lot of schemes and promises to uplift the women in India, sadly, that’s not what’s happening in chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh.

A cafe run by acid attack survivors, Sheroes Hangout, an initiative by Chhanv Foundation in partnership with Uttar Pradesh Mahila Kalyan Nigam, faces closure after the nigam sent a notice to the foundation on September 22 asking it to vacate the premises by September 29. The notice stated that the nigam does not want to continue the project, since the project is not fulfilling the purpose, but the “purpose” is not clearly mentioned by UP MK Nigam.

Aashish Shukla, director of Chhanv Foundation, said, “The nigam has also accused the foundation of financial irregularity. This is false as they have not even provided proper funds to us. They just issued the notice without even discussing the matter with us.”

“While the government was transferring money directly into the accounts of the acid attack survivors, salaries of the support staff were often delayed because of a mismanagement of the corpus,” he told DailyO.

The letter further says that the survivors, who were working at the unit, would be provided training in cooperation with the National Skill Development Corporation and the State Resource Centre for Women and Child to ensure they keep earning a living.

Sheroes Hangout was opened in Lucknow after a successful run in Agra. The then-chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, was reportedly struck by the idea of how acid attack survivors were living a life of dignity because of the unique cafe. He promised to open more such outlets across UP.

As per the notice, the cafe, which has been operating for the past 30 months, had to be shut down by September 29. After Chaanv foundation moved the Allahabad High Court, it got time till October 24 to vacate the premises.

With 20 employees – 12 full-time and eight part-time workers – the cafe had a turnover of Rs 70 lakh in 2017-2018. “Since the state government doesn’t have any scheme or policy to rehabilitate the acid attack survivors, Sheroes cafe was started to create jobs for the acid attack victims. Now, these brave women are on the verge of losing their livelihood,” Shukla said.

The Agra branch of the cafe is independently managed by Chhanv foundation in Tajganj. Social activism in aid of women’s rights is the driving force behind this cafe and community hub.

Rupa, a survivor of acid attack who was awarded with Nari Shakti Award in year 2016 for rehabilitation of acid attack survivors through her project Sheroes Hangout cafe in Agra, has moved a petition on change.org and has appealed to the Prime Minister to stop the closure of the cafe in Lucknow. She has alleged that the UP government has ordered the shutdown of the cafe due to road-widening.

Aseem Trivedi, a political cartoonist, raised his voice against the UP government’s move to shutdown the cafe.

(Story by Shaihzad Abid)