Many parliamentarians cutting across party lines were vociferous in highlighting the ramshackle state of juvenile and child care homes and the urgent need to improve them, while debating on the juvenile justice bill in the Rajya Sabha before it was passed on Tuesday.
Now, women and child development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi wants MPs to walk the talk as elected representatives and share some of the government’s burden in improving the condition in these homes. She is writing to all MPs to start visiting juvenile homes in their respective constituencies, see the condition they are in, meet the officials running it, seek explanation why services are deficient and report to the government on possible solutions.
“The MPs are in charge of their constituency. How many of them have ever visited juvenile homes? I am writing to all MPs to visit these homes and see for themselves what the problem is. The letter will be sent on Monday,” she told HT.
“Merely blaming the government won’t do. If they are seriously concerned about improving the condition of these child care homes they will have to be bhagidaar (partner) with the government.”
The WCD ministry has already written to state governments to provide whatever assistance is required to the MPs during their visits. “Repeated visits by elected representatives would keep the officials and staff running these homes on their toes,” Gandhi added. A majority of the 27 speakers who participated in the debate on the juvenile justice bill on Tuesday -- including Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra — had spoken at length on the condition of juvenile homes and how badly they are administered.
Juvenile homes across the country are often run-down facilities where children have unfettered access to drugs and are often sexually abused, a fact that has come to the fore during recent debates on rehabilitation of underage offenders in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape case in 2012. But despite reports — a 2013 report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights titled “India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes” highlighted several cases of sexual assault — little has been done to remedy the situation.