You may doubt the figures that show large-scale economic development in the state, and even hazard questioning the credibility of awards the state government has won; but when it comes to setting bad examples on the social front, it's rather hard to disagree with that famous slogan perpetuated by radio and TV ads - 'Number One Haryana'.
As if 'honour killings' were not enough, now there's the blot of sexual abuse and sale of children from government-regulated, NGO-run shelter homes for the destitute. What makes it even more shameful is the fact that the most recent incidents took place in Rohtak, the hometown of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and in Gurgaon, the face and driver of the state's economic progress.
LESSON FOR THE MONITOR
The failure of the system at each level ensured that in all the recent cases, abuse went on unchecked for a long time. Both Rohtak and Gurgaon, like the 19 other districts of the state, have a programme officer each for the central scheme Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), besides staff under the women and child development department. One of the main duties of these officials is to monitor these shelters.
The top-heavy department offices at Chandigarh and Panchkula, too, failed to keep a tab.
Ironically enough, there exist dedicated child welfare committees (CWCs) headed by deputy commissioners under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (as amended in 2006). A senior official admitted that these panels are merely on paper.
Data from the women and child development department says there are 3,168 inmates in as many as 91 shelter homes and orphanages for destitute and mentally challenged children in Haryana run by non-government organisations (NGOs) or individual social workers. In the absence of strict regulation, only 17 with 694 inmates are registered, including the one in Rohtak where the latest abuse case surfaced. These 17 are monitored and funded by the government.
Director-general of the department, Sumita Mishra, and the additional director, Shashi Doon, told HT that now all non-government shelter homes would have to be registered. "The deadline is June 30," said Mishra.
There's more to the belatedly learnt lesson.
"We have come out with scientifically standardised methods to inspect and monitor the credentials of the managers of all shelters, and also the mental and physical health of the inmates," Mishra added.
GETTING THE STICK
Condemnation has come from all sides. Several experts in the fields of social work, psychology and women studies express their deep concern over the incidents. Prof CP Singh, chairman, department of social work, Kurukshetra University (KU), said, "It is an irony that there are several people making money in the name of social work, the way several bureaucrats do under the garb of being civil servants, and like politicians who claim to be servants of the people."
Prof Reicha Tanwar, head, department of women studies, KU, added, "Everyone knows about the evil practice of unborn daughters being killed, but these incidents of abuse are no less shocking. The state government needs to be pro-active."