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How safe are our child shelter homes?

Saturday, 19 July 2014 - 7:15am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Government data reveals that children are subjected to gross abuses in the very shelter homes that are made to protect them. There were 932 cases of abuses and violations registered in child care institutions in 2013-14, reveals data furnished by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights. Of these, 532 cases were registered in Uttar Pradesh alone.

There have been 178 registered cases till June this year already. In all, there were 2,333 registered complaints in the last three years, and the first six months of this year.

These details were furnished by the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi at the question hour session at the Lok sabha on Friday, in reply to a question put forward by MP Dushyant Chautala.

Gandhi also added that the government has asked administrations in state and union territories to register all shelter homes under the Juvenile Justice Act (2000), and that they were further directed to install CCTVs in these homes.

The cases that the NCPCR furnished had cases of child labour, missing children, sexual abuse, and displaced children, among other heads. In 2013-14, there were a total of 192 registered cases of abuse and 71 in 2014 alone. Apart from that, there were 481 registered cases against the girl child in 2013-14, and 54 cases in 2014 alone.

In the last few months, gruesome cases of abuse in child care shelters have brought forward the question of safety in these homes. In April, a bunch of minors rang up the child helpline number in Chandigarh to register a complaint of sexual harassment and exploitation against the owner of Bal Niketan Manish Arora, and his aides Manjeet Kaur and Meena Sharma.

In May, Ajit Dabhokar of Chandraprabha Charitable Trust (CCT) in Karjat was arrested after five students of the shelter home approached the police through an NGO, complaining of sexual abuse and child pornography. His assistant Lalita Tonde was also arrested. Last month, the Apna Ghar run by the NGO Bharat Vikas Sangh in Rohtak was exposed to have subjected more than 120 inmates to sexual abuse, physical and mental exploitation, apart from forcing come of them to work as bonded labour.

Former journalist Ajay Setia who is the chairperson of the Uttarakhand Child Commission, said that these homes must function under better facilities. "Many of these homes are not safe, with crumbling structures. The antecedents of the officials who are in charge of these homes must be throughly checked, and all these homes must come under Child Welfare Committees (CWC)," he said. "CWCs must hold erring committee heads responsible, and there must be surprise check from time to time."

Renowned child rights activist RK Chaurasia of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan feels that the lackadaisical attitudes of the management are to blame for the poor states of these homes. "Many of these homes are not even registered. And the appalling conditions of these homes must be taken up seriously by the CWC. Criminal proceedings must be instituted against violating officers," said Chaurasia.

In another answer that Gandhi furnished on the JJ Act in the Lok Sabha on Friday, she revealed that there were a total of 626 CWCs in the country, with 72 CWCs in Uttar Pradesh.

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