The condition in all the 40 child protection homes across Rajasthan is worse than just gloomy—they are overstuffed, dingy and housing common and juvenile criminals together, according to the latest government inspection report.
About 731 children are virtually cramped into these protection homes despite the fact that the government inspection reports have repeatedly mentioned the need to create more space for children at these homes which are fast turning into a hell with inappropriately smaller rooms, insanitary conditions and insecure ambiance.
In some cases, the walls are too thin to stop children facing trials from escaping, successive inspection reports by judicial magistrates have mentioned.
According to the integrated child protection society, each home should ideally have a counsellor. But, only 15 homes in 16 districts have an ad hoc counsellor each in violation of the law which mandates a full-time employee to counsel children . The rest are going without it, which defeats the very purpose of reforming the inmates, a society official said.
Not as per law
The issue was recently brought to the fore by justice Manish Bhandari while addressing a workshop organised by the department of children welfare and social justice on April 19.
Bhandari said that the situation at juvenile and children homes was not according to the Juvenile Justice Act. He expressed concern that at majority of places the juvenile and children homes were being run under the same roof, there were no vocational guidance and counsellors.
The latest inspection report reveals that there are about 40 protection homes across the state.
Out of them seven are girls’ homes and the rest 33 house both juvenile and children homes under one roof.
Justice Bhandari said this was against the law.
Even the inspection report submitted by the judicial magistrate to the district judge (a copy to child empowerment department) in March 2015 clearly mentions at several places that the protection home authorities haven’t rectified the lacunae pointed out during the previous reports. Judicial magistrates carry out inspection of these homes in their respective areas every six months and submit it to the government for a corrective action.
A senior government official, who was part of an inspection team, said, “It’s a crime to lodge these young kids in such inhuman conditions. Bigger than the one that some of them have committed.”
Social justice and empowerment department minister Arun Chaturvedi said that the campus for juvenile criminals and general children was the same but clarified that they were staying separately.
He, however, admitted that the condition of these homes and the hostels was pathetic.
He said, “We have indentified the issues and will address them rather than constructing new hostels. A plan for the same has been prepared.”
Child empowerment department director Hansa Singh Deo said the issue was being addressed and the money to rebuild the homes as per the Juvenile Justice Act had been released to the Public Works Department.
“But as the PWD is overloaded (that is the reason why) the work on homes has not started yet,” she said, adding that as per the government directives the department was approaching various industrial houses which should mandatorily contribute 2% of their earnings to the juvenile home maintenance.
She said efforts were on to organise a joint meeting with the industrial houses to discuss the issues raised by the inspection agencies time to time. The work to improve the condition of these observation homes would be started by next month, she said.
Officials said a few government initiatives had begun to bear positive results.
One such move is the child helpline (1098), which was started in 2002 across 17 districts of Rajasthan.
Likewise, Minister Online 24x7 (1800-180-65-15) service was also launched recently. The service is the first of its kind in the country. It helps children to have a direct contact with the minister for assistance on various issues.
The officials also highlighted the significance of starting the child right clubs. The clubs have been constituted with the help of NGOs.
There is plan to link over 62,000 children to the child welfare department through these clubs. The children can now directly report he issues directly to the higher authorities.