A surprise inspection of children’s observation home on Mohan Road resulted in a haul of drugs, cash, jewellery, gutka and mobile phones on Thursday.
Along with this came written statements by the inmates (all minors) that they were harassed, abused and tortured by the staff.
The Lucknow Juvenile Justice Board, comprising principal magistrate Uday Veer Singh and members Dinesh Pandey and Rashmi Rastogi, entered the ‘Ambedkar room at the home that accommodates children between 12-15 years, at about 4pm on Thursday. Little did they know they were due for a surprise themselves.
Two gold rings and a chain along with two bundles of Rs. 10 notes were recovered from the bags of the children.
Drugs were found hidden under the mattress and in the bags of the juvenile inmates.
When interrogated, the children admitted that boys were allowed to go out of the observation home at night.
They also admitted that the home turned into a gambling den at night.
The board members said two inmates had given it in writing that a staff member of the home had recently won Rs. 11,000 in gambling at the home.
The inmates had full access to gutka and tobacco and the boys admitted that they were supplied gutka for Rs. 50. They also admitted that an inmate had a mobile phone and allowed others to make calls.
He charged Rs. 100 per call.
“The children said that they were physically assaulted by the staff. Many of them even showed the injury marks on their body,” said a board member.
The inmates said that the staff beat them with belts, shoes and other objects and threatened them not to narrate their plight to anyone.
“The recovery of gold and cash proves that the children are involved in crimes. The fact that they are sent out of the home during night hours raises serious questions,” said a board member.
The observation home on Mohan Road accommodates juvenile boys who are in conflict with law.
The home has about 100 inmates from Barabanki, Unnao, Rae Barelly and Lucknow.
There are five rooms to accommodate 100 boys.
The rooms are built in an area of 1200 sq feet that is very small as compared to the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Rules.
The JJ rules state that each juvenile at the observation home should be allowed 40 sq feet of space.
So in order to accommodate strength of 100 boys, the home should ideally be built in an area of 4000 sq feet.
The board in its report mentioned that the children were made to stay in inhuman conditions.
The rooms were compact and dirty. The place was stinking, said the board members.
The board has forwarded a copy of the inspection report to the high court. A copy has also been forwarded to the district judge and the directorate of women and child welfare.
A week ago, Neena Naik, member of the national Commission for protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Delhi had visited the observation home and had raised the issue of poor conditions.
However, the facts that came to light on Thursday were not revealed during Naik’s visit.
Recently, two judges have also visited the observation home but the staff had made adequate arrangements before their visit to hide the real picture.
The children admitted that all official visits were informed beforehand and a massive cleaning drive was carried out before the visits.
The inmates were also terrorised not to speak up.
The children said that the staff members accompanied the authorities and so they were not able to narrate their plight.