Paro (name changed) is one of the thirty-nine girls languishing in neglect at Karnal's Nari Niketan. Trafficked and traumatised, five such girls are mentally challenged now. They spent most of their day sleeping as the authorities chose to keep them sedated, instead of getting psychiatric assistance.
Crammed in three dingy rooms of the state's only protection home for girls, majors and minors are thrown together, as they wait for another rescue operation. "That place is worse than a jail. The staff misbehaves with us and everyone is mad. Up to four girls sleep on a single bed or they sleep on the cold floor and the bathrooms are filthy," said 13-year-old Deepa, who spent a month in the Nari Niketan, but was lucky enough to be rescued from there and is now in an orphanage.
The protection home does not have cooking staff, cleaners or even counsellors for treatment of post-traumatic disorders, say social activists. "Most of these girls have post traumatic stress and need to feel secure. But in these conditions, they get more harassed. Since the authorities do not have counsellors, they keep mentally challenged children sedated. When these girls are awake, they get into some kind of fights with other girls, so they are mostly on sleeping pills. Until ten days ago, they did not even allow children to go out in the sun. This is a protection home where rescued children are ideally supposed to be rehabilitated," said Rishi Kant, a social activist from NGO Shaktivahini.
After an inspection earlier this month, the Superintendent was suspended and the Chief Judicial Magistrate ordered that mentally challenged girls should be sent to an asylum. "Our attempt is to get those girls to a mental asylum where they can be treated. But it has to be done through proper channels and will take some time. We are trying," said Sub- Divisional Magistrate RK Singh.
"After the recent inspection, the authorities have refused to let activists or media from entering the premises or interacting with the girls. So we have no way of checking if conditions have improved or worsened," added Rishi Kant.