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Children of a lesser god?

12 minors die in a govt-run home in past eight months

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2008 11:14 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The Capital’s insensitivity towards its children is reflected in the death of 12 children in a government-run home in west Delhi in the last eight months.

Five of these children were abandoned newborns and majority of others had a physical disorder. Sadly, most of the dead children were girls. They died slow deaths in the home without adequate staff or medical facilities, broken windowpanes and poor facilities for children, inquiries conducted by the Hindustan Times has revealed.

A Right to Information application earlier this year blew the lid off this death trend when the National Human Rights Commission data revealed as many as 16 children have died at the Anukriti Balika on Jail Road, Hari Nagar in 2007-08.

Further, investigations by the Hindustan Times revealed that the actual number was 12 and all deaths had taken place after August 2007.

“Most of the children who were admitted in the home were in extremely poor health,” a government official explained. Raj Mangal Prasad of NGO Pratidhi, however, blamed shortage of staff and poor infrastructure for the deaths. “One caretaker cannot look after 15 under nourished children,” he said.

Data from the home revealed that five newborns from Safdarjung Hospital died within months of their admission at the home. The seven slightly bigger kids (from six months to four years of age) died because of prolonged illness.

The most striking point in their death was that the majority of them (four) were either physically challenged or had a health disorder since birth and were apparently abandoned because of that.

Bharati Sharma, member of Child Welfare Committee of West Delhi, under whose jurisdiction the home comes, said these deaths clearly show that children with poor health, especially girls, are abandoned as they are considered a burden for the future.

“Most of the children are in extremely poor health at the time of admission in the homes,” she said.

The NHRC’s RTI reply also revealed that 21 children had died in another child home at Jail Road in 2006-07. Except one, who died of beating by the caretaker, all the other children died of illnesses, indicating at poor facilities at Delhi government-run children homes.

Prasad said, “Whatever data government has is enough for the government to take action. If the government maintains proper data, the deaths would be higher and a much darker picture would emerge”.

The Delhi Government’s Women and Child Development department has record only till 2006 on deaths of children in homes in Delhi.

While the concrete evidence on number of child deaths in homes have come up now, Women and Child Development minister Renuka Chowdhury had highlighted the poor condition of children homes in Delhi in a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Chowdhury had cited incidents of torture and inhuman treatment of children in Capital’s juvenile homes.