Twelve children between 8 and 14 years of age were found languishing in a centre for HIV orphans, which is run by NGO Asha Samajik Pratishthan in a building in Kothrud. The case, which came to light recently, has once again triggered a debate on the state of children in institutional care and about who should be held accountable. Many cases of sexual harassment and illegal adoptions through such centres have come to light in the last few years. Former director of Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra and adoption counsellor, Lata Joshi, spoke to Bhagyashree Kulthe. The octogenarian said it is high time that the elected representatives realise their responsibility towards the deprived children.
Q: The laxity of orphanages has once again come to light with the case of Asha Samajik Pratishthan. How can this be curbed?
A: The women and child development department is responsible for orphanages. To ensure proper administration, we have bring transparency in the government department, which gives these institutions licences to operate. There are certain prerequisites for opening an orphanage. Apart from the required number of staff, proper infrastructure set-up is also a must. Any malpractice or lack of facilities or violation of any norms about the infrastructure at the orphanages cannot escape the women and child development department, if proper checks are carried out at regular intervals. Also, the respective corporator of the area is accountable.
Q: What role does a corporator play in ensuring the welfare of children in institutional care?
A: The corporator is responsible for his ward. He knows the area well and should be aware of the institutions in his ward. He is morally responsible for the plight of children in the child care institutions in his area. People elect him for development and welfare. But sadly, many corporators are either ignorant about what is going on in their wards or just turn a blind eye.
Most of the time, it is through neighbours or residents of the area that such cases come to light. If people know, how can the corporator be ignorant? He has to take responsibility. He should work in coordination with women and child development department and stop harassment of orphans.
Q: You insist on social awareness to improve institutional care. Why?
A: In all types of institutional care, whether it is ashramshala, day care centres, remand homes or others, social awareness plays an important role. While putting their children in day care centres, mothers should check what type of food is given to the child, is the centre registered, how is the infrastructure and check the background of the people running the centres. Even in residential schools, run by NGOs of private institutions, children live in miserable conditions. It is only through social awareness and vigilance that the plight of children can come to light.