India needs to invest for its homeless: Narayanan Krishnan

Narayanan Krishnan is a social activist who started a non-profit organisation called "Akshaya Trust" in Madurai, the third largest city of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in 2003. The trust caters to the homeless, mentally ill, elderly and the destitute. Narayanan Krishnan was recognized as one of the top 10 heroes by CNN in 2010. He serves fresh meals to the homeless everyday. Akshaya Trust came up with an initiative called 'Akshaya Home' which was established in 2013 and houses nearly 450 underprivileged people. Here's an exclusive interview with Narayanan Krishnan. Excerpts: 

1. What inspired you to take an initiative to give a new life to the homeless people?

Each of us has a calling and I believe that we are on this earth for a purpose. Just before heading to Switzerland to take up a job as a Chief Chef, I visited my hometown, Madurai to bid good bye to my family. On the way to the Madurai's Meenakshi temple, I happened to see an old man eating his own human waste to satisfy his hunger. The stark difference between his life and mine became very clear to me. I could not get myself to walk away from my country and my people. They needed me, this was my calling. I resigned from my job at a five star hotel chain and decided to start feeding the people on the streets. This then grew into a desire to house them at Akshaya Home. Now I believe that serving those on the streets and taking care of them is my calling.

The residents of Akshaya Home who were homeless earlier have now found their new shelter. These people get freshly-cooked meals at the Akshaya Trust.

2. What food requirements is specially being taken care of while feeding to such people? Is preference given to women and children as their nutritional requirements differ?

The food that is cooked and served is vegetarian. We ensure a good mix of lentils so our residents can get their daily dose of protein. If a resident is diabetic or has blood pressure, we monitor the quantity consumed by them. A lot of our residents are on medication as prescribed by our doctors for their conditions. 

All set to serve the plates for the homeless at the Akshaya Trust.

3. Do you have any plans to extend this initiative to the other parts of India?

It is hard to run a non-profit organisation. The public and the government do not understand the magnitude of such operations. As the recent litigation has proven - rather than helping, there are other non profits that hinder operations. I cannot imagine at least at this point of time extending this cause outside of my home state. Finding good leadership that is reliable is very hard and I do not want to dilute the moral and ethical values with which me and my staff serve by expanding.

Improving the lives of the destitute by training at the Akshaya Trust.

4. As a social activist, how according to you can India solve the problem of the homeless people particularly meeting their food requirements?

Food is just one part of the problem of the homeless. It is important for the government to construct homes like Akshaya in every state and truly go out, rescue and house the mentally disabled.

They can team up with organizations such as Akshaya and help us by asking huge corporations that are in the food industry to donate. Till date, not a single corporation that sells food products has come forward to donate food to Akshaya. I would assume the same is the case with other non-profit organisations as well. Why is this the case? Where is their sense of civic duty?

To change our country for the better, all of us have to join hands. If we want to see India become a developed country, we need to invest in bringing up the down trodden, the illiterate and the homeless.