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Search for homes for 'Slumdog' children picks up

THE search for new homes for two impoverished child stars from the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire" has intensified, as one child fell sick days after city authorities demolished the shanty where she lived, family members said.

Nine-year-old Rubina Ali came down with a fever Friday and spent a few hours in a local hospital, they said.

"I'm fine now, but I feel tired," Rubina said yesterday as she lay in bed, resting at her uncle's house.

Rubina's block was razed Wednesday to make way for a planned pedestrian overpass at a commuter train station in Mumbai. Last week, co-star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail's home was demolished, part of a pre-monsoon slum clearance drive.

Rubina and her parents have been staying with relatives. Azhar, 10, and his family have tied tarpaulins and blankets around a thin wood frame for shelter in the Garib Nagar - "city of the poor" - slum where both families live.

After the runaway success of their film, "Slumdog" director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson set up the Jai Ho trust to ensure the children receive proper homes, a decent education and a nest egg when they finish high school. They have also donated US$747,500 to a charity to help slum children in Mumbai.

The filmmakers have agreed to raise the amount of money they will spend on new apartments for each family from US$30,000 to US$50,000, a Jai Ho trustee and Rubina's father, Rafiq Qureshi, both told The Associated Press yesterday.

Family members had worried that US$30,000 would not be enough to secure decent housing in Mumbai's pricey real estate market.

In addition, the filmmakers have agreed to give each family a stipend of US$130 a month and a lump sum of US$3,000 a year to support the children while they are in school, the trustee and Qureshi said.

That is substantially more than any of their neighbors in Garib Nagar make, where many bring home US$4 a day as auto rickshaw drivers and maids.

"We are trying our best to finalize things as soon as possible," Jai Ho trustee Nirja Mattoo said yesterday. She said representatives of the trust took Azhar's family to look at a few nearby apartments earlier this week.

City authorities have also promised the children and some of their neighbors new homes.

The state's top politician, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, told the Mumbai Mirror that he would expedite the process now that national elections are over.

"The elections delayed the process, but very soon we will allot them flats," he was quoted as saying.


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