Nina Merchant who is fighting with the US govt to get Kulsum Hussain social security benefits, says donations have more than doubled after the actress’ appeal
Nina Merchant shows her nanny, Kulsum Hussain’s picture on her mobile. (right) Juhi Chawla also donated Rs 25,000 to the fund
Actress Juhi Chawla has come forward to help Nina Merchant, a US citizen, who is collecting money for the treatment of her nanny, after mid-day first reported on it. Chawla tweeted about Kulsum Hussain so her followers could donate money to help the 88-year-old nanny. Following this, the donations have more than doubled. Chawla also made a personal donation.
Merchant, a US citizen now staying in Mumbai has been fighting to get her nanny, benefits under social security by the US government. Kulsum Hussain joined the family as a nanny in the US, when Merchant was a newborn and became her Maaji. Hussain was with them for 20 years. In 2000, Hussain came back to Mumbai but still has US citizenship. A widow who has no child, she lives alone in a chawl in Mazgaon. It is only under the care of Merchant that she is surviving.
In October, Hussain sustained a spinal injury (an acute compression of the vertebrae) when she fell down in her room. It left part of the spine paralytic and she requires treatment and physiotherapy.
Merchant has been fighting with the Consulate General in Mumbai and the US Embassy in New Delhi, to provide aid to Hussain, also an American citizen, under the US’ Social Security programme. But due to lack in credit numbers, the US consulate refuses to help her. Due to Hussain’s advanced age, her health condition is deteriorating and she needs money for her treatment. Last year, she underwent an intestinal surgery when she couldn’t pass stool for a month and developed haemorrhoids. She had to push back that surgery owing to funds shortage.
With no option, Merchant started an online crowd-funding petition on Ketto.org to raise Rs 3,00,000 for the treatment of her nanny. It didn’t get a positive response until the actress came forward to help her out.
“Juhi Chawla might have been informed about the report in mid-day. Later, she donated Rs 25,000. She tweeted about the fund raising campaign asking people to help,” said Merchant. The tweet has so far received 187 retweets and 400 likes.
Funds more than doubled
Following this, the fund increased from Rs 70,000 to approximately Rs 1,80,000 in a day.
“I have been struggling to raise money for months after the US consulate didn’t respond. In two months, I could raise only Rs 70,000. But as soon as Chawla tweeted, the donations surged to Rs 1,80,000,” said Merchant. The target to collect Rs 3,00,000 will get over in the next four days. “Chawla wanted to make the donation anonymously. She tweeted about the cause without revealing anything. Later when people started asking her to donate first before asking them to donate, I revealed to them that she had already donated,” said Merchant.
I did it out of gratitude: Juhi
When mid-day spoke to Chawla, she said when she got to know about this lonely lady with no child or husband to take care of her, out of gratitude, she helped her out. “We keep complaining about our life despite having everything. So when I heard about her, I was really surprised and wanted to help her. I tweeted but charity begins at home so I donated first,” said Chawla.
“I am really glad that people donated. I have asked Nina to give me the names of the people who donated so that I can thank them for their gesture. We should always accept what we have in life because people like her nanny need more blessings from god,” she said.
US consulate called Hussain
Following the report, the US consulate in Mumbai contacted Hussain to sort out the issue. But so far, it hasn’t borne any result. “They had called Maaji twice but the communication was fruitless as the connection wasn’t clear and she couldn’t talk properly. Later, we tried to call them back but there is no development,” Merchant said.
Anyone born in the US after 1929 and who has worked for at least 10 years can become eligible for Social Security. The catch is the system of credits — based on the amount of income tax payments and criminal records, among others — that determines eligibility. One earns up to four credits for every year worked; 40 credits are needed to qualify for Social Security. Non-citizens, who are “lawfully in the US and meet all eligibility requirements”, too, can receive the benefits. Hussain managed to rack up a credit of only nine points. Merchant wants the US government to allow her leeway on humanitarian grounds. She says she had enquired with the government why Hussain had been able to accrue only nine credits through all her years of service.