The Navjeevan Sudhar Kendra is a living hell. With stinking toilets, abusive staff and lack of supervision by senior officers of the women and child development department, this place can't be called a rehabilitation centre,” reads the first two lines of a report submitted to the Bombay high court by a court-appointed committee on the women's rescue home in Mankhurd.
Committee members Dr Rashmi Karandikar and Dr Harish Shetty said the home was overcrowded and also found evidence to suggest that one inmate got pregnant during her stay there. Two psychologists and a psychiatrist, along with other members, interacted with all the inmates. Most of them showed symptoms of fear –chest pain, palpitations, anger, abnormal behaviour, a deep sense of sadness and despair, hopelessness, lack of sleep, poor appetite, aches and pains, extreme loneliness and suicidal thoughts.
Criticising the abysmal living standards in the state-run institution, which is meant to house 100 women/girls but holds 300, the duo said, “The food served was insufficient, substandard, unpalatable and non-nutritious. It had insects, worms and gravel as the grains and pulses were of poor quality. Only about 30% women received sanitary napkins.”
Most inmates hail from Bangladesh and different parts of India. During their stay, “no serious efforts for their repatriation” had been carried out. “58 girls are from Bangladesh and have been here for 11 months. Nine of them were issued a travel permit, valid for three months, in August, which expired without any intervention. The Centre had no explanation for it,” Shetty said.
The Centre is alleged to have subjected inmates to the ‘scare and subjugate model’. Inmates who dared to protest against their prolonged stay faced ‘threats’ of being held back for an indefinite period.
The committee and the counsel for the petitioner suggested that some girls be shifted to rescue homes in Matunga and Kandivli, after which the committee will draw a list of girls who will depose as witnesses. Family court judge Swati Chauhan has been appointed to monitor the functioning of rescue homes in Maharashtra and submit a report to the court in four weeks.